All Photos: Wendy Goodfriend
When I was in my late 20s (longer ago than I care to remember) it suddenly dawned on me that Christmas dinner didn’t need to be a re-hash of Thanksgiving dinner. For as long as I remember growing up, we’d always have turkey for T-day and for Christmas day. But I’m not a big turkey fan (unless it’s deconstructed), and the two holidays are so close together that it always meant turkey overload.
Suddenly, my decision was freeing. I could make anything I wanted! Well, sort of, because I typically spend Christmas with my family, and they seem to have opinions. Thus began the tradition of the Feast to End All Feasts. The planning usually starts in September between my brother and me (we seem to have the strongest, loudest opinions) and negotiations can take a month. Or two. I mean, you need to allow time to come up with an elaborate meal.
At the heart of the meal is always a cut of meat that is typically pricey and that we wouldn’t normally eat any other time of the year. All other elements of the meal, the starters, side dishes, and dessert, follow from and are influenced by that decision. Over the years we’ve made prime rib, chateaubriand, roast of veal, breast of veal, beef tenderloin, osso buco, bacon-wrapped filet mignon, and the list goes on. Always we choose the best quality, free-range/pasture-raised, organic meat from local producers that we can find (shout-outs to Marin Sun Farms, Prather Ranch, and Avedano’s!).
Of course, once upon a time, before I was the mother of a very active 2-year-old, I had the time and energy to do that. Nowadays, I still want our Christmas Day dinner to be elaborate and special, something we don’t do any other time of year, but I don’t want to spend the entire day sweating over the oven.