We celebrate Christmas Eve at my sister-in-law’s home for dinner. Brandon’s family always has Swedish meatballs, creamed spinach, garlic mashed potatoes, fresh bread, and a jicama salad. It’s their tradition, it’s delicious, and everyone looks forward to it. Earlier in the day, my dad’s side of the family comes over for brunch and we serve coffee and pastries. We alternate between Brandon’s family and mine each year for Thanksgiving, but both families prepare a turkey and the standard Thanksgiving sides: sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and so on. My mom bakes an ham for Easter and we have colorful hard-boiled eggs, but we also have Polish sausage and pierogies. And for Christmas dinner with my mom’s side, we would gather at my uncle’s house and he’d always make sloppy joes. Not a typical holiday menu, but everyone loved them and so that was tradition for as long as I can remember.
Last year, Christmas dinner moved from our uncle’s house to ours… and we had no idea what to make. Our 100-year-old stove is charming, but limiting. We can’t cook anything too delicate because the burners are incapable of properly simmering, the oven doesn’t maintain a steady or predictable heat, and we can’t fit anything larger than a lasagna pan in it.
We served tacos and tamales to my family last year, mostly because we didn’t feel confident enough with our stove to experiment with something more ambitious! We make them all the time so we knew we could make enough to feed everyone successfully, but because we make them so often, the meal didn’t feel special enough for a holiday. This year, we’d love to try something new. Something that may hopefully lead to a new family tradition, and a meal that we can look forward to each year. I’ve been paging through our cookbooks, looking for ideas and I think roast beef would be great for the main dish, but I’m not all that confident in our oven. I was talking to a couple of people at a party over the weekend and they suggested a roaster oven. I didn’t realize such a thing existed! Do any of you have experience with these things? Could it be a good solution for us?
Brandon and I do cook regularly, but meal planning is not a strength of ours. I’m trying to figure out what we can serve to feed twelve people that can be made on our antique stove, and that won’t drive us insane when we’ve got two little kids running around and a newborn to take care of. Maybe we should just make a pot roast in our slow cooker and save the fancier roast idea (say, beef tenderloin) for a time when we have a more functional kitchen? I was talking to my mom about all of this, and her advice was to find something that takes enough effort to feel special, but not so much that we’re setting ourselves up to dread the work involved each year.