The best gift that Scott and I gave each other this Christmas was a day off.
We had visited Scott’s parents a few weekends ago for an early Christmas. And on Christmas Eve, my parents, sister, Scott and I met halfway between Virginia and Cleveland for our fourth annual Christmas Eve lunch. So that meant we had a full day off on Sunday to stay at home, relax, and not worry about work.
Honestly, this was the first day in over four months where we had an entire day completely to ourselves.
So after the most nerd-tastic Christmas morning we’ve ever had, it was time to cook!
I’ve said countless times here that I don’t like cooking. But one of the things I’ve realized this year from exploring more of Cleveland’s restaurants is the importance of eating local at home, in addition to when we’re out.
Over the last few months, I’ve been trying to cook more and working in more local ingredients. I haven’t been 100% successful at this, but our little steps here and there have started to make a difference.
Because of this, Scott and I wanted to make a Christmas dinner that was inspired by some of the delicious food we’ve had this year.
We started with one of my favorite things I learned at this Fall’s Fabulous Food Show: cured salmon. We added lemon zest to the lime and grapefruit zest we tried last time. And I’m happy to say the Ruhlman’s Twenty recipe still held up the second time around!
For one of our sides, I then took inspiration from a dish I love at Deagan’s in Lakewood. Scott’s always claimed to not be a fan of brussel sprouts. But after I had Deagan’s amazing pork belly brussel sprouts at an Ohio Blogging meetup, I knew that if Scott mixed bacon with the vegetable, he’d be won over.
Deagan’s does it much, much better than I could ever dream of doing, but I used a bacon and brown sugar brussel sprouts recipe I found online for our Christmas dinner. Scott admitted when I came home from work yesterday that he enjoyed it so much at Christmas dinner, he had brussel sprout leftovers for lunch.
Scott having vegetables for lunch? That’s unheard of!
Our main course was courtesy of Geauga Family Farms. I wanted to try out a CSA for meat (we don’t eat enough vegetables for a vegetable-share) so through our friend’s subscription we ordered a small box of their grass-fed beef. For $63, we got:
- 5 pounds ground beef (at least 90% lean)
- 4 steaks (2 sirloin and 2 T-bone, Porter or Strip)
- 1 roast (approx. 2.5 pounds)
The roast was the perfect size for our 2-person Christmas dinner. Scott cooked it up with some mushrooms, bacon and the fresh spices leftover from the other dishes. It was so juicy and delicious that I can’t wait to try the rest of beef that came in our “Box o’ Beef.”
The salmon, brussel sprouts and roast – along with the salad, homemade vinaigrette and sausage stuffing – were perfectly complemented by the Spann Chardonnay Viognier blend I picked up at Miss WineOH’s Market Ave tasting and bottle of Amador Foothill’s Late Harvest Semillon Scott and I picked up at Light Bistro. I’m a huge fan of the blend’s rich flavor, and the strong honey notes in the Semillon were a welcome addition.
Handmade sweets from Chef Kimberly McCune’s Hungry Bee topped our dessert, ensuring our dinner was just as deliciously sweet, as it was savory.
I will fully admit there was some highly stressful moments as Scott and I cooked dinner together and maybe a couple instances of me yelling my head off about something. Cooking still causes completely irrational stress in me. However, the more I do it, the more comfortable I’m becoming with certain things. And I’m seeing how you can make something work, even if you’ve messed something up in a recipe.
The valuable lessons I learned, coupled with the accomplishment I felt at cooking Christmas dinner made our relaxing day at home so much better.
Next up? New Year’s Day dinner with pork, lentils and more brussel sprouts. In fact, I need to go draft up our West Side Market shopping list right now!
If you’re really curious what we cooked, here are the recipes Scott and I used with some modifications where noted:
- Appetizer: Michael Ruhlman’s Citrus-Cured Salmon (I love salmon and really like how much you can experiment with this recipe by using different kinds of sugar, herbs or zests, and even honey.)
- Salad: Baby Blue Salad with Fresh Pears (We used blackberries instead of strawberries and used plain pecans instead of spicy. The vinaigrette recipe can be found here.)
- Side 1: Bacon and Brown Sugar Brussel Sprouts
- Side 2: Corn Bread and Sausage Stuffing (We’re not terribly health-conscious so we opted for regular Italian sausage instead of turkey and regular chicken broth)
- Entree: The roast was something Scott threw together with bacon, mushrooms and other spices we had in the house