Pros: Elegant, delicious recipes; gorgeous photos
Cons: None that I’ve found!
Rating: 5 out of 5
First published 12/10/2002
My husband and I aren’t particularly into celebrating holidays. We do, however, love an excuse to cook wonderful food and spend time with family and friends. Because of this we have a good handful of holiday cookbooks, including Bon Appetit’s “The Christmas Season.”
This is a gorgeous book with glossy pages and tons of color photographs. It includes menus and recipes for parties and dinners, most of which are quite elegant. We love to pick and choose recipes to add to our own menus, and these recipes have, so far, universally impressed us!
Party sections include a holiday tea party, a Christmas cocktail party, a Yuletide dessert party, a tree-trimming buffet, a family Christmas Eve dinner and an elegant Christmas Eve dinner, a Christmas breakfast, and several New Year’s Eve and Day events (dinner, brunch, and an open house).
Most of these titles conjure images of elegance. Frankly, I don’t know anyone who does cocktail parties any more, so they also seem a bit dated. But that doesn’t really matter. This isn’t about carrying off these parties, although you certainly can – there’s plenty of information to help you do so, including number of people each menu can handle, recipes for all the dishes, lovely photos, garnishment notes, additional tips (such as tea hints for the tea party), and so on. What this is really about is giving you a little “holiday magic” to fantasize about, and a bunch of wonderful recipes to help you taste that magic in the ordinary realm of your home.
Now, if that doesn’t sound like enough menus for you, that’s okay. The next part of the book is all about Christmas dinner, and it starts off with a page of menus including three menus for six people, three menus for eight, three menus for ten, and two menus for twelve, followed by a lot of recipes organized by course. The menus even include the page numbers for all of the recipes.
Normally I don’t go on at length about individual recipes, although I do try to mention a few that we actually made and how they came out (so you’ll know whether the recipes taste as good as they look and sound). This time, I have to gush just a little about some of the recipes. I’m an eggnog fiend, but I’m very particular about my eggnog. While the recipe in here was a bit too rich for my current diet, it was very easy to adapt into a lighter, still-rich, custardy flavorful eggnog that beats out pretty much every other eggnog recipe we’ve come across.
Unfortunately we haven’t yet tried the beautiful-looking Chocolate-Orange Buche de Noel, but we do plan to make it eventually. The Mulled Cider with Winter Spices is warming and comfy. The Sweet Potato Soup with Lobster and Orange Creme Fraiche is another one of those “we just have to make this someday!” recipes, and yes, it does include directions for making the creme fraiche. This cookbook doesn’t assume that you know everything.
There’s a Candy Cane White Hot Chocolate recipe that bowled us over. It’s a mixture of milk, white chocolate, crushed peppermint candies, whipped cream, peppermint schnapps, and such. I thought it sounded good, but I had no idea it would be amazing! Even my husband, who is less crazy about mint than I am, wants to make it again and again and again.
Just wait till we get around to making Herb-Stuffed Leg of Lamb with Parsnips, Potatoes, and Pumpkin – I fully expect to be able to report that it was delightfully delicious (and oh, the photo looks heavenly). Need a more traditional poultry dish? How about Honey-brined Turkey with Cream Gravy, Roast Goose with Caramelized Apples, or Orange- and Balsamic-glazed Roast Duck?
But wait – I haven’t yet told you about the Cheddar Cheese Tartlets. You make them with a delectable cheddar cheese pastry cut into rounds and tucked into mini muffin tins, then filled with a thick, creamy mix of various types of dairy (and more cheddar!). These even include directions for making them in advance, freezing them, and reheating them when you need them. And oh, we couldn’t stop eating them! They were so delicious we practically ate ourselves sick on them. (By the way, they’re particularly good made with Cabot’s “seriously sharp cheddar.”)
As If That Weren’t Enough…
There’s a chapter of food gifts – things like chocolate-almond sauce, coffee-caramel sauce, sweet and spicy candied nuts, winter fruit chutney, red pepper and corn relish, and more. The chapter includes some hints for wrapping these gifts.
Then there’s a chapter on Christmas cookies, and one on Christmas candies. Not to mention a chapter of Christmas projects to play with (caramel-dipped apples!). Some of these projects require crafts items that you aren’t likely to have around the house, but they don’t get too outrageous, and the projects are often accompanied by suggestions for where you might find some of the odder bits. There’s even a very long and thorough index to top things off.
If you like jazzing up your food a bit for the holidays, “The Christmas Season” is the perfect place to start. The recipes are clearly laid out and easy to read. They’re simple to follow and we haven’t yet found a single mistake or missing instruction in the lot of them. The pictures are mouth-watering, the tips and hints are quite handy, and the results – oh, the results! Food like this really can bring magic to the holiday season.