Recipes for your Christmas Eve feast

Photo by Lara Cerri, Tampa Bay Times

Photo by Lara Cerri, Tampa Bay Times

My family doesn’t get into Christmas meal planning the same way we get into Thanksgiving preparations. But we do go nuts on Christmas Eve, assembling a smorgasbord of different indulgences and eating them throughout the evening.

There must be pigs in a blanket, mini hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury biscuit dough, two things we never eat during the year but without which it would not be Christmas Eve. Also on the dining room table are chips with salsa and some sort of cheese dip, potato skins, meatballs or mini hot dogs simmering in a warm barbecue sauce, some sort of fruit or vegetable, a wheel of Brie melted with nuts and dried fruit, and loads of cookies.

Here are some suggestions for ways to make your Christmas Eve spread an all-out nosh fest.


Pork Meatballs

You can use any kind of meat for these. I am going with ground pork. In a large bowl, combine about 1 pound of pork with some minced scallions and 1 tablespoon each of the following: minced fresh garlic, minced fresh ginger, soy sauce, rice vinegar and Sriracha. Mix thoroughly, then form into a couple dozen balls. Set out 1 cup panko bread crumbs on a plate and roll balls in the crumbs. Heat ½ cup canola oil in a large skillet, then add meatballs and cook in batches, about 5 to 7 minutes, until browned. Remove from heat, place on a plate lined with paper towels, season with salt and pepper and place in serving dish. Set out toothpicks next to meatballs, and a sauce made of ½ cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt and 2 tablespoons Sriracha.


DIY Deviled Eggs

You could get really simple with this one and buy a bunch of plain, prepared deviled eggs, or request that your family member who makes really good deviled eggs bring them to your shindig. If you want to make them yourself, start with 30 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chilled. Cut those in half lengthwise, then transfer the yellow yolks to a medium bowl and place the whites on a serving tray. Mix yolks with ¾ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and 1 teaspoon paprika until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large zip-top bag. Cut the tip off one of the corners, then pipe the yolk mixture into the whites. Refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, assemble these toppings in small bowls: chopped roasted red peppers, chopped capers, diced red onion, crumbled cooked bacon, chives and anything else you’d like.


Baked Brie with Walnuts

So simple, so impossible to stop eating. Buy a round of Brie cheese, then unwrap it and place it on a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with honey, then top with a handful of chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon jelly (whatever flavor you want) and a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary (or thyme, or nothing if you don’t have any herbs). Season lightly with some pepper and cinnamon. Wrap the foil around the cheese and its accoutrements, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Unwrap foil and serve with crackers.


 Cheesy Chicken Dip

1 pound chicken breast

1 cup ranch dressing

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1 cup hot sauce or wing sauce, like Frank’s

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add chicken and boil for 10 to 15 minutes, until cooked through. Remove chicken from pot, place in an oven-safe baking dish and shred.

To a medium saucepan, add ranch dressing, 1 cup cheddar cheese, hot sauce and cream cheese. Cook over medium heat until cheese is melty and mixture is smooth.

Pour cheese sauce into the baking dish and stir to coat the chicken thoroughly. Top with remaining 1 cup cheddar and bake for about 15 minutes, until top cheese has melted and the dish is bubbling.

Source: Amber McDonald