We've been spending Christmas Eve with my Mom's brothers and sisters for as long as I can remember. It's a long-standing tradition that I really look forward to and enjoy. It's usually held at either my aunt Gayle's or aunt Cindy's house. Since Cindy and Gayle worked so hard hosting the Sant Christmas Party (a party that my Mom has been hosting since the 80's), I offered to host Christmas Eve with my Dad at his house.
It's a pretty laid-back party. A nice dinner is served and we have a gift exchange and just hang out and visit into the night. I decided to serve a roasted pork loin with my Mom's Swiss cheese potatoes, homemade rolls, and a raspberry cheesecake. Gayle brought artichoke dip and her famous creamed corn. Cindy brought one of her fabulous salads. (She really makes the greatest salads.) And my Dad made his signature Christmas dessert, rice pudding, which he whipped together in record time as the party was starting. It all came together nicely and my sister Annie and I had a fun time getting everything ready together. She basically cleaned the whole house for the party while I cooked. Here's some pictures of the food.
I was really happy with the cheesecake. Cheesecakes often give me trouble. I always end up with huge unsightly cracks in the top from baking too long- which is why I always serve it with this raspberry topping. This time I made sure that the top still jiggled just a little bit in the middle when I took it out. Worked like a charm.
Here's some more pics from Christmas Eve.
Here I am with my aunt Gayle and aunt Cindy. I love both these women so much.
Here's Julia dipping into the rice pudding. Oh yeah.
And here's the kids table. My Uncle Lauren has four small kids all very close in age and Franny was in heaven! She can't stop talking about them even now.
Roast Loin of Pork with Fennel
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 3 lb boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied
3 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
10 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced diagonally
10 small potatoes, quartered
2 onions, thickly sliced
4 Tbs good olive oil
4 Tbs butter, melted
salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
With a mortar and pestle or in the bowl of the food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind together the garlic, salt, and thyme leaves. Add the mustard and combine. Spread the mixture over the loin of pork and allow it to sit at room temp for at least 30 minutes.
MEanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs into thick wedges, slicing through the core. Toss the fennel, carrots, potatoes, and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper.
Tranfer the vegetables to a large roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the pork loin to the pan and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in to the middle of the pork reads exactly 138 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and return the vegetables to the oven to keep cooking. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thickly. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
(I didn't take the time to tie up the roast and I thought it was great. I also left all the vegetables out this time.)
This is my FAVORITE cheesecake recipe. Any flavored cheesecake I make is a variation on this. It tastes delicious and I wouldn't think about trying any other recipe! I took 1 1/2 baskets of fresh raspberries and tossed it with about 1 cup of heated raspberry preserves. I also made a raspberry coulis to go with it.
5 Tbs butter, melted, plus 1 Tbs melted butter for the pan
8 whole graham crackers (4 oz), broken into rough pieces and processed in a food processor to fine, even crumbs
1 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 lbs (5 8oz packages) cream cheese, cut into rough 1 inch chunks, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp juice from 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, plus 6 lare eggs, at room temp
1. For the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the lower middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9 inch spring form pan with 1/2 Tbs of melted butter. Combine the graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a medium bowl; add 5 Tbs of the melted butter and toss with a fork until evenly moistened. Empty the crumbs into the springform pan and press evenly into the pan bottom. Bake until fragrant and beginning to brown around the edges, about 13 minutes. Cool on a wire rack while making the filling.
2. For the filling: Increase the oven temp to 500 degrees. In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese at medium-low speed to break up and soften it slightly, about 1 minute. Scrape the beater and the bottom and sides of the bowl well with a rubber spatula; add the salt and about half the sugarand beat at medium low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; beat in the remaning sugar until combined; about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the sour cream, lemon juice, and vainlla, and beat at low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the egg yoks and beat at medium-low speed until throughly combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl; add the remaining eggs, two at a time, beating until thoroughly combined, about 1 minute, scraping the bowl between additions.
3. Brush the sides of the springform pan with the remaing 1/2 Tbs of melted butter. Set the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake 10 minutes; without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temp to 200 degrees and continue to bake until the cheesecake registers about 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center, about 1 1/2 hours. (Might take longer) Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool until barely warm, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Run a paring knife between the cake and the pan sides. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 3 hours.
4. To unmold the cheesecake, remove the sides of the pan. Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen, then slide the cake onto a serving plate. Let the cheesecake stand at room teperature about 30 minutes, then cut into wedges.
Swiss Cheese Potatoes
This is my Mom's favorite potato recipe for Christmas dinners. I totally blame this dish alone for the eighteen pounds I gained in one month when I was pregnant with Franny. I was home for Christmas and there was plentiful amounts of this leftover in the fridge. It's good stuff.
2 c. milk
1/2 c butter
salt and pepper
3 lbs. baking potatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 c heavy cream
1 c grated Swiss cheese
Combine first four ingredients in large pan and bring to a boil. Peel potatoes and slice them really thin. Drop into hot milk. Blend in garlic and cream. Return to boil, simmer for 15 minutes. Potatoes should be 1/2 done. Pour liquid and potatoes into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.