On Christmas, the Critic likes, as he puts it, to "push the boat out". To large it. To make Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas morning look like the tight-fisted miserly sad case he is at the beginning of the book. In terms of food, this means buying not only the mandatory turkey, ham, sausages and bacon for our Christmas meal (and the minimum three accompanying vegetables) but also a selection of luxury foods such as salmon, tarama and foie gras. (Let us not mention the liquor bill which is also phenomenally large in December of each year.) This variety of food is wonderful when you have a dozen family members or more coming for dinner. When there are three, however, and one of those three is one year old and unable to appreciate anything too rich, you have way too much food. Large indeed.
So this year I decided to solve the usual problem of what-do-we-eat-on-Christmas-Eve? by making up a platter of snack-like party food. Elegant and luxurious as befits the eve of the big celebration and yet dead easy to prepare and not too heavy on the gut.
A Frenchified Platter of Finger Food
Canapé #1: 4 slices of Scottish smoked salmon, ripped in bite-sized pieces and draped over 16 or so bite-sized lightly toasted and buttered pieces of white bread. I toasted four pieces of bread and then cut them in quarters and buttered them. Drizzle a little fresh lemon juice over them before serving.
Canapé #2: 16 squares toasted white bread (again, four slices cut in quarters after toasting) spread with tarama (also known as taramasalata) and topped with a small spoonful of oeufs de lompe (lumpfish caviar).
Foie gras cigars: Take a couple of sheets of phyllo dough and brush them with melted butter. Cut them in strips about 3 inches/8 cm long. Place a thin stick of foie gras at one end and roll into a cigar. Bake in an oven at 200c/450f for about ten minutes, or until they are golden and crispy. I have had these several times at parties and they are delicious. Mine were thicker than the ones I've had before and next time I'll probably take the time to make them correctly as they are very rich. Optional touch: poke a little of the fish eggs in one end of the cigar or a plump little raisin. Very elegant and very tasty.
Mont d'or cheese: This is a cheese which is only available in the winter months and especially around the holidays. It is the one of the richest and most unctuous of French cheeses and yet relatively mild. Imagine an extremely ripe Pont l'Evêque that is not sharp flavored at all. If your cheese is properly ripe, all you'll need to do is leave it out for several hours in a warm place before serving. The center of it should be gooey and so runny you need a spoon to serve it. If it is not, put it in the oven with the foie gras cigars so that it is warm and runny when you serve it with crackers or a baguettes. It goes particularly well with whole-wheat crackers.
And so there you have it. It took about 15 minutes to prepare the foie gras cigars and while they were baking I put together the rest of the hors d'oeuvres. And so we nibbled away elegantly while we watched Christmas specials and the Best Christmas Moment Countdown on the television. For us, it made a festive little dinner for Christmas eve. I'm posting it now, though, in case anyone is casting about for ideas for the big party on the 31st!