Everyday Gourmet (12/17/09)

Cook’s happy holiday

Dec. 17, 2009

By Kim Dannies

Imagine every family’s holiday cook calmly seated by the fire before dinnertime, relaxing, perhaps with a celebratory glass of bubbly — that’s my wish for Christmas. To achieve this lofty goal, plan a “do ahead meal,” starting with a big baked ham. Easy to prepare, ham satisfies a lot of hungry people and the leftovers jumpstart breakfast beautifully.

For do-ahead sides, whip up a spicy applesauce. A festive salad of reds and greens will help to make things bright. And don’t skimp on the decadent holiday potatoes — there is nothing finer than a nice bubbling potato casserole right out of the oven. This family treasure, compliments of Sally and Emma Mead of Hinesburg, has been a family tradition for decades. So cooks everywhere, please make my wish come true and enjoy a do-ahead holiday meal!

Mead Family Holiday Potatoes

One day ahead: Chop a large onion; sauté in 2 ounces of butter for 15 minutes. Peel and quarter-cut 4 pounds of red potatoes; boil for 25 minutes, then drain. Mash the potatoes with a hand masher. Add 1 can cream of celery soup, 2 cups lite sour cream, 8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 5 minced garlic cloves and the sautéed onions. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour potato mixture into a 10-by-12-inch baking dish, cover and chill.

To serve: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle 3 cups of crushed corn flakes then drizzle all over with 1/3 cup of melted butter. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 20 minutes more. Serves 12 to 14.

Festive Salad

One day ahead: Clean, dry and de-stem 2 large bunches of Italian parsley leaves. Place in a festive serving bowl. Shave-slice 2 heads of radicchio lettuce into fine ribbons; shave-slice 2 medium bulbs of fennel (white part); slice 1 pint of grape tomatoes in half; ribbon-cut 2 large bunches of fresh basil. Gently add to bowl, cover and chill. In a jar, mix 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar with 1/2 cup of olive oil. To serve, shake up dressing; lightly toss small portions with the salad until mixed. Top with 1 cup crumbled blue cheese, 1 cup of pine nuts and freshly ground pepper. Serves 12 to 14.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.