If you would like to see the complete Christmas Eve Menu click here
If I was dining I would be tempted by the "Bling" Blini--cold smoked salmon on red pepper buckwheat blini, served with fresh American "sevruga" caviar & horseradish crème fraîche.
Then I would definitely have the Christmas Tangerine Salad with black olives & white balsamic tangerine vinaigrette.
The hard choice would be between the Main Courses—would it be the more traditional roast Prime Rib with Yorkshire pudding? Or the Lamb loin with Aaron’s delicious celery root gratin?
As a child growing up in an Italian family full of good cooks (yes my Mother’s parents both immigrated from Sweden so we suffered with lutefisk on the table also) but we all really most identified with the Italian side of the family.
When Christmas drew near Dad always brought home the wooden box of those delicious tangerines with their exotic spicy perfume. When I was really young the tangerines all had seeds but soon this other variety --Satsumas--appeared with the seeds somehow mysteriously gone. Stranger still-- they were so easy to peel—my brother Steve & I would try and see who could best peel their tangerine-- and try and keep the peel in one piece. I am sure I always won—but I am equally sure Steve would dispute this solid fact. Satsuma tangerines or mandarin oranges have been cultivated in Japan and China since ancient times. Their arrival coincides with the holidays and as soon as I taste the first tangerine of the season I start thinking about those Christmases long ago…
Our Christmas Tangerine Salad is based on the cooking principal of contrasting tastes: Since the tongue only has four tastes: salt, sweet, sour and bitter [and a 5th if you count “savory” or umami] food always tastes more “involving” in the mouth if you can activate all these taste sensations in one dish.
I think that is why the Asian cuisines always seem so delicious to me—they contrast sweet & sour, hot & sour, and vary the textures like soft scallops against crunchy snow peas.
Our salad attempts to do the same: something sweet & sour –that the Satsuma’s provide; something salty—from the pungent black olives; and the buttery sweet Reggiano cheese from Italy with its beguiling crunchy/salty granular texture. Put this on top of a bed of peppery baby arugula leaves, and you have a very delicious salad. We make a vinaigrette from white balsamic vinegar [another sweet & sour component] and blend it with some freshly squeezed tangerine juice. Dee-lish!
You can find our Christmas Tangerine Salad on our Menu Supplement for the next couple of weeks while tangerines are at their peak.