Boxing Day Dinner

Like many folks, the Christmas holidays includes several gatherings of the various parts of the clan. Two days after Christmas, my brother, son, daughter, and their nuclear families joined us for dinner. We were confronted by the need to plan a holiday dinner that would be acceptable to a variety of tastes- a vegetarian, a rabid carnivore, several people that do not eat seafood, a person with disdain for fat, and a person who could not eat onions or dairy. A clever chef would have crafted a single menu that met all of the dietary needs. Not being clever, we elected to prepare several different dishes and let everyone select what they were most comfortable eating. The cooking task was shouldered primarily by Luke while I played host to the group.

The Food:


Shrimp bisque (seafood and dairy)

Potato leek soup (vegetarian but with onions and diary)

Turkey soup (poultry but no onions or diary)

Wine: Paul Thomas Sancerre Chavignol les Comtesses 2012 (Sauvignon blanc)


Endive with baby greens, toasted walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and poached red pear


Roast beef tenderloin with green pepper corn sauce

Mock chicken in apricot sauce

Ginger carrots

Zinfandel and Parmesan cheese risotto

Wine: Ravenswood Belloni vineyard Zinfandel 2011

 The Process:

With a die-heart carnivore and a picky beef-eater, we elected to prepare a beef tenderloin despite having the same cut a few days before (see the Christmas dinner post). The herb-crusted tenderloin is a perennial favorite but we are always looking for something even better. We found a recipe for the green pepper sauce for steaks and served it with a simple salt/pepper roasted beef tenderloin. The 5 pound roast took about 45 minutes to reach medium and was allowed to rest for about 30 minutes during which the sauce was made. Although, good, the herb-crusted recipes remains our favorite.

A favorite chicken recipe from a recipe book bought from the milkman when we were living in London 30 years ago was modified by using a vegetarian mock chicken (Worthington’s Fri-Chix).

The ginger glazed carrots are surprisingly simple to make and once the carrots were sliced on the mandolin, took only a few minutes to finish.

The risotto was a riff on the recipe we devised when playing around with recipes that incorporated Zinfandel as a preparation for our ZAP Iron Chef event (see). Although straightforward, any risotto requires a fair amount of time and constant attention.

 The Analysis:

Given the selection of soups, everyone had a dietary compatible dish and seemed to be well received. The shrimp bisque was excellent but somewhat spicy- too hot for some, perfect for others. The potato leek soup was very silky. The Sancerre was herbaceous with some nice melon overtones. It matched very well with the potato leek soup and did reasonably well with the bisque but was somewhat overpowered by the spiciness.

The green peppercorn sauce was disappointing on its own but matched well with the beef which was perfectly cooked for me. The Zinfandel went extremely well with the beef itself (surprise, surprise) but less well with sauce. The 2011 Belloni vineyard is drinking very well with a dark red fruit aroma (plum, blackberry, and black cherry), nice tannins and a hint of smoke on the finish. As expected, this vintage is much more fruit forward than the more mature vintages sampled a few days earlier. Still very food friendly but somewhat more assertive than its older siblings. This wine also paired surprising well with the very sweet mock chicken.

The chicken was surprising popular despite its non-poultry ingredients. Needless to say, the Zinfandel risotto went well with the Zinfandel. We added a substantial amount of Parmesan cheese (about 1.5 cups rather than the more typical 1/2 cup). The addition of so much cheese made the risotto delicious but very thick- not the creamy side expected. The ginger glazed carrots disappeared despite their simplistic preparation but was the least successful pairing with the wine- not bad but not stellar.

The Recipes:

Shrimp bisque: delicious recipe modified with a little extra cayenne and onion

Potato leek soup: This recipe from Emeril Lagasse is reasonably good. Tweaks included using bacon rather than pancetta, using a little more homemade chicken and homemade beef stock than called for, and skipping the garnishes

Turkey soup: Made up what was available:


2 cups homemade turkey stock (see below)

¾ cup diced cooked turkey

¼ cup diced carrots

¼ cup diced celery

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

¼ teaspoon dried sage

2 tablespoons of butter

¼ cup white wine



  1. Over medium high heat melt the butter and cook the vegetables until soften
  2. Add the wine and allow to simmer until almost dry
  3. Add the diced turkey and cook for a few minutes
  4. Add the stock and sage and simmer for 10-15 minutes
  5. Season with salt, pepper, ancho chile powder
  6. Normally would garnish with a little sour cream and or grated cheese but for lactose reasons served without dairy


Endive with baby greens, toasted walnuts, and crumbled blue cheese: Recipes for salads are often like sandwiches for me- you just add what you want. Here is what we ended up with:


2 cups baby greens

3 heads endive

1 cup walnuts

1 cup Danish blue cheese, crumbled

1 Red Pear diced and poached in Port


1 cup cherry balsamic vinegar

½ cup good quality olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Toast the walnuts in a dry frying pan over moderately hot heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant and just turning golden, 3-5 minutes; cool and chop.
  2. Place a small handful of baby greens on each salad plate.
  3. Remove the leaves from the endive head and place 3-5 (depending on size) cartwheeling on top of the bed of lettuce.
  4. Sprinkle the roasted, chopped walnuts and crumbled blue cheese in the endive along with the poached pear
  5. Drizzle the dressing over the plate and serve

Roast beef tenderloin with green pepper corn sauce

Mock chicken in apricot sauce: This recipe comes from the Dairy Book of Family Cookery Ebury Press, 1983, a cookbook we bought from the milkman while living in London during the 1980’s. The book appears to be out of press but is surprisingly good and I would recommend picking up a copy if you ever come across a copy. The major changes are the replacement of the chicken and bacon with mock versions and no toasted bread base.


4 oz dried apricots

1 42 oz can of FriChix® (or 4-6 skin-on chicken breasts)

3 tablespoons flour

4 oz butter

4 tablespoons dry white wine

1-2 tablespoons brandy

4 oz Worthington Stripples® (or 4 oz bacon)

4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms

4 oz onion chopped

1 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock or broth

3 juniper berries

1 bay leaf

5 oz cream

4-6 thick slices of bread

Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Soak the apricots in water/wine for 2-8 hours
  2. If using chicken/bacon:
    1. Dust the breasts with flour.
    2. Melt 1-2 oz butter in a heavy frying pan and gently brown the chicken on all sides. Remove to a large casserole.
    3. Add the wine and brandy to the pan and deglaze adding the liquid to the chicken.
    4. Melt the rest of the butter to the pan and slowly fry the bacon, mushrooms and onion until the onion is soft and beginning to brown.
    5. Blend in the flour, stirring until well mixed and then add the stock gradually.
    6. Season and add the juniper berries, drained apricots and bay leaf.
    7. Pour mixture over the chicken in the casserole,
  3. If using vegetable chicken/bacon:
    1. Melt the 1-2 oz of the butter to the pan and slowly fry the mushrooms and onion until the onion is soft and beginning to brown.
    2. Blend in the flour, stirring until well mixed and then add the vegetable stock gradually. Pour the mixture to a large casserole.
    3. Add the wine and brandy to the pan and deglaze adding the liquid to the casserole.
    4. Heat the FriChix and Stripples in the microwave and add to the casserole.
    5. Season and add the juniper berries, drained apricots and bay leaf.
  4. Cover the casserole and cook in the oven at 325º F for about 1½ hours.
  5. Remove the chicken, discard the juniper berries and bay leaf, and puree the sauce in a blender or immersion blender.
  6. Add the cream and seasoning.
  7. Add the chicken back and keep warm on the stove.
  8. Fry the bread in 2 oz of butter in a skillet until both sides are golden brown.
  9. Arrange the fried bread on a platter and place 1-2 FriChix or one breast on each round and spoon the sauce over each. Pass any remaining sauce.
  10. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Ginger carrots: Alton Brown’s recipe that is quick, simple and good!


Zinfandel and Parmesan cheese risotto:


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