A Glorious Potato and Mushroom Gratin for Christmas Dinner


It’s eight days and counting until Christmas and my son, Mike, and I who are the holiday cooks for our family, still haven’t decided on the menu! Since he is traveling quite a bit before the 25th, I’ve begun to make some choices and am starting by anchoring our meal with a superb potato and mushroom gratin. It is layered with thinly sliced Yukon Golds and earthy porcini mushrooms, covered with crème fraîche, and finished with a sprinkle of white cheddar and toasted bread crumbs.

This gratin would pair harmoniously with almost any traditional holiday main course. You could make it the star accompaniment to golden roasted turkey, a glistening glazed ham, succulent leg of lamb, or a regal standing rib roast or beef tenderloin.

The dried porcini mushrooms (or a combo of both porcini and chanterelles) can be reconstituted ahead, the cheese grated, and the bread crumbs toasted up to two days in advance. Peeling and slicing the spuds and an assembly is all that is necessary on serving day. You can even bake the casserole several hours ahead and then reheat it when Continue reading

Last-Minute Gifts from the Kitchen

If you are not one of those organized cooks (and I am certainly not this year!) who already has all their holiday baking and cooking completed, here are three easy recipes for homemade gifts of food that you can prepare at the last minute.

None call for hard-to-find ingredients and each requires 15 minutes or less of prep plus a few minutes more to bake or extra time to chill. Chocolate Glazed Toffee, Orange Spiced Pecans, or Chocolate Honey Sauce with Fleur de Sel would each make a thoughtful present for a host or hostess, or for teachers, neighbors, friends, or others whom you’d like to remember during the season of giving.

The nuts and toffee can be packaged in cellophane bags, tins, or coffee mugs, while the chocolate sauce is best in a glass container. Wrap in ribbons and add a personal note and that’s it. Homemade with love—the best kind of holiday gift!


A Great Roast for Christmas Dinner!

photo by Susie Cushner

photo by Susie Cushner

Last week my son, Mike, who hosts our family’s Christmas dinner, asked what we should make for this special meal. It took me only a second to answer, “Let’s do those racks of pork from my Sunday Roasts.” He wasn’t convinced so I continued to push my choice, enthusiastically listing the recipe’s merits. Racks of pork are inexpensive, but they look stately and impressive. They cook in far less time that a turkey, and pair well with countless vegetables and sides, I explained. Finally, I got his attention.

This recipe for racks of pork is one of my favorites and is simplicity itself to prepare. The Cranberry Apple Chutney 1 a 3084x2583 2969x2446racks are brushed with curry oil (made by whisking curry powder into olive oil) and baked with red onion wedges. I suggest using two racks of five ribs each to serve ten generously, but you won’t find these racks displayed in your grocery’s meat department. You’ll need to call the butcher, and order them ahead. In the original version I served the pork with a fall apple chutney, but for this holiday variation I reworked that condiment adding cranberries for color and replacing cider vinegar with balsamic. Continue reading

A Stunning Roast Beef Tenderloin for Christmas Dinner!

Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Tomatoes,  Goat Cheese, and Watercress 3 If you’re like me and have waited until the last minute to decide on what to serve for Christmas, worry no more. A glorious beef tenderloin roasted with plum tomatoes and garnished with a sprinkle of creamy goat cheese might just be the answer. For the past few years my son and I have planned and cooked together our family’s holiday meals. But, this year we are behind and still haven’t chosen our menu for 2013. Since our clan clamors for beef on the 25th, I culled my files, and found a favorite recipe for beef tenderloin roasted with plum tomatoes garnished with creamy crumbles of goat cheese.

I created this dish several years ago for my syndicated column, and am still amazed that it is so deceptively uncomplicated to assemble, and calls for such readily available ingredients. Continue reading