Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup with Pink Peppercorns and Chive Garnish
Crispy Crown Roast of Pork
Delmonico Golden Potatoes Gratin
Ginger Sautéed Red Cabbage
Seasonal Salad of Arugula, Endive, Pear, Hazelnut, Pomegranate with Pomegranate-Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Egg Nog Ice Cream Baked Alaska
The cauliflower and apple soup is my adaptation of a Daniel Boulud classic and possibly my favorite winter starter. Super rich and creamy, it actually contains no cream at all. I've thickened the soup and made it more flavorful by replacing Boulud's cream with extra cauliflower puree. Spicy curry and the tart sweetness of green apples complete the dish. And it's even better made a couple of days ahead. Check it off the list and just reheat when ready to serve.
The salad is a toss of arugula, endive, pear, hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds, the mix enhanced with a tangy vinaigrette incorporating both hazelnut oil and an optional splash of pomegranate molasses (a divine and easy-to-find Middle Eastern ingredient you should know absolutely know about if you don't already).
Crown Roast of Pork is succulent and delicious and an elegant, unexpected, inexpensive and welcome occasional change from traditional Christmas beef. A majestic crown loin—combining the inexpensive scrumptiousness of pork chops with rack of lamb chic--is my tip-top pick for gala dinner parties in the cold months. Optionally, chop ends can be “Frenched” (meat scraped away to reveal the bone tips) and gussied up with white paper frills just before serving to provide the dish with extra festivity. Whether served on New Year’s Eve or to replace Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas goose, luscious chops cut from the show-stopping crown will unfailingly wow even the most reluctant reveler.
As the pork crown is nothing more than two rib racks cracked at the bone, bent into a circle, tied together with kitchen twine (the butcher will do all of this for you at no charge) and roasted, preparation is a snap. Aiming to please and great for a crowd, each 12-14-rib roast generously serves an equal number of people. As a rule of thumb, each rib equals one very large or two average servings of meat. And to scale up for a larger group—provided you have a second oven—it is no harder to cook two roasts than one.
I often serve this menu’s classic Potatoes Gratin—named for Delmonico’s, the legendary New York City eatery where Chef Charles Ranhofer invented it in the 1860s—with a green salad and some good bread and call it dinner. But whether presented as a side dish or as the main event, layers of tender, nutmeg-spiked spuds interspersed with Gruyère and garlic-thickened cream, all under a crispy, golden gratin, are irresistible. And what host can ignore the practicality of something you can assemble days in advance and bake off when needed?
And like potatoes and cream, the combination of pork and cabbage is a match made in heaven. This easy cabbage sauté enlivened with orange and fresh ginger is divine while its defining taste of sweet and sour plays well against the richness of the meat and dairy-laden potatoes.
The salad mix of arugula, endive, pear, hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds enhanced with a tangy vinaigrette incorporating both hazelnut oil and an optional splash of pomegranate molasses (a divine and easy-to-find Middle Eastern ingredient you should know absolutely know about if you don't already) is beautiful as well as delicious. Lettuces in all shades of green are set off by pomegranate seeds glistening like rubies Toasted hazelnuts, ripe pears, and a tangy vinaigrette guarantee more than just good looks. It enhances almost any main course but is also the best kind of holiday starter, satisfying but leaving an appetite for the feast to follow. And it's super versatile. Add bite-sized pieces of poultry or shrimp for a more substantial starter or a lunch main course. In any case, the salad is a winner and—with seasonal adaptations—useful all year long.
A spectacular chewily luscious hot and cold baked Alaska sells itself so all I'll say here is that this rich, creamy dark-rum-cum-bourbon-and- nutmeg- laced version is one of the best ever.