10 festive dinner ideas for Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve dinner can vary depending on how you celebrate, but the meal should always satisfy and delight. Whether you’re abstaining from meat and dairy, feasting on seven fish, or roasting pork to get in the Christmas spirit, New York Times Cooking has plenty of recipes to help you kick off the holidays.
On the coldest of Christmas Eve, nothing warms body and soul like a bowl of borscht. A vegetarian version, like David Tanis’s, is ideal for those commemorating the holidays with a meatless meal. If your celebrations allow for dairy, be sure to spread a few plates of cheese and potato pierogi, or varenyky, on the table and cover anything in sight with sour cream.
This Melissa Clark seafood pie, inspired by an Italian-American treat enjoyed on Christmas Eve, ensures that all seven feast fish you’ve been planning are covered in just one recipe. Anchovy! Shrimp! Cutlets! Salmon eggs! Clam juice! Two kinds of sweet white fish! You can, of course, adjust the amount and combination of seafood for an equally impressive dish, but the opulence of this recipe as written is part of the fun.
Recipe: Seven Fishes Festival Pie
You may have heard of Coca-Cola pork; now meet its cousin in sassafras, the ham with root beer. Eric Kim’s recipe for a festive bone-in glazed ham half-ham calls for little more than a few cans of soda, a few herbs and a touch of sourness from Dijon mustard and rice vinegar. The braising liquid also serves as a finishing lacquer, and any leftover sauce should be served in a gravy boat on the side.
Recipe: Root Beer Ham
Holiday meals can often be the best group projects, with family members forming a sort of makeshift assembly line around the table. On Christmas Eve, it means tamales, with regional variations stretching from Mexico and Guatemala to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. They are eagerly enjoyed after all that stuffing and steaming, or kept for a snack on Christmas Day. These tamales, adapted by Alicia Villanueva’s Tejal Rao, are filled with Guadalupe Moreno’s tinga de pollo, which is a great way to use up whatever leftover chicken you have on hand.
A vegetarian version of the classic Beef Wellington, this recipe from Alexa Weibel is a feat in itself. Your efforts can be spread over a few days: sauté the mushrooms and onions in advance, but save the assembly and cooking for the same day. No matter how you divide the work up, it’s a meal worth your time and attention. Take it from a New York Times Cooking reader: “It was a spectacular dish both in taste and presentation.”
Recipe: Wellington Mushroom Vegetarian
Thirty-five minutes to cook a luxurious dinner centerpiece for six? You can with this kelp-coated roast fish recipe from Kay Chun. The meaty halibut is served alongside brackish mussels, which bring flavors of the sea to a butter sauce tinged with steamed saffron. The shallot-speckled sauce adds a vibrant marigold finish to the dish, but for even more color, sprinkle the fish clad with salted salmon roe.
Recipe: Roasted Halibut with Mussel Butter Sauce
Imagine walking to the holiday table with a perfectly cooked and carved duck platter. All your guests are looking at you in disbelief: Did you duck ?! Yes you did, with the help of this recipe from Melissa Clark. The time required for dry brining and roasting is a good chunk of the day, but the prep itself is minimal and the reaction to the end product is well worth the investment. A side dish of roasted potatoes with porchetta spices or simply roasted vegetables would complement this dish well.
Recipe: Crispy Roast Duck
Few things say “It’s party time!” Much like a juicy pork shoulder with a crisp, crispy skin. Served for Christmas, New Years Eve, birthdays, and other special occasions, Von Diaz’s pernil is a great way to serve a crowd. Allow plenty of time for the citrus adobo to permeate the pork – preferably overnight – then roast it for a few hours before fighting your cousins for the best piece of chicharrón.
This hot and tangy stew from Yewande Komolafe offers a feasting vibe of seven fish with just two sea creatures: shrimp and cod. The Christmas holidays are the perfect time to splurge on the freshest seafood you can find, which will ensure your moqueca is rich, hearty, and tastes like the sea. A creamy broth, obtained no not with dairy products but with whole coconut milk, rock gently simmered seafood.
Recipe: Moqueca (Brazilian seafood stew)
A Thanksgiving turkey can just as easily become a Christmas Eve turkey. The flavors that accompany Padma Lakshmi’s slow roasted bird – fresh bay leaves, ginger, apples and citrus – go incredibly well on both holidays. For a small party, this recipe can be reduced wonderfully for a chicken.
Recipe: Slow Roasted Turkey With Apple Sauce
For a meatless main course that seems like a lot more work than it does, Kay Chun’s savory version on an apple pie is a great option. Crisp, bitter endive softens and sweetens when cooked with a little butter, lemon, and just a touch of sugar, making it an unexpected but delicious garnish on store-bought puff pastry. A dollop of fresh, creamy burrata with each slice balances it all out.