Ask George: What will you be eating on Christmas Eve? – St. Louis Magazine
Every week, SLM dining editor George Mahe answers a timely culinary query.
by George Mahe
December 24, 2020
What will you be eating or cooking on Christmas Eve? —Tom S., Clayton
A version of this question gets asked just about every year. Previously, I mentioned that there’s no national Christmas Eve dish (or dishes) that equate to the traditional Christmas dinner feasts (turkey, ham, prime rib, a crown roast, goose, duck, pheasant, etc.) but that families develop their own traditions.
Of course, Chinese food is an extremely popular choice, and local dining experts have shared some of their other favorites over the years as well. One year, we heard about dining critic Dave Lowry’s preference of fried codfish and scrambled eggs, Clementine’s owner Tamara Keefe and partner Frank Uible observing the Feast of Seven Fishes with family, and Qui Tran of Mai Lee and Nudo House whipping up multiple 22-pound rib roasts. Another year, we learned about a noteworthy pork roast with cherry sauce made by dining writer Iain Shaw’s mother-in-law, Farmhaus chef Kevin Willmann’s charcuterie, and award-winning restaurateur Gerard Craft’s annual tradition, which didn’t disappoint. “Every year, I make braised lamb shank with white truffle potato purée,” Craft said, “and foie gras and caviar—which is probably the only time of year we eat it—finished with a bûche de noel.”
This year, I’ll be making oyster stew, a family tradition, but I plan to stray from the original recipe by adding bits of sautéed celery and shallots for texture. My mother, from whom I learned that a recipe was « merely a guideline, » would have been pleased.
We also asked the question to a few more local chefs and notables.
Companion Baking founder Josh Allen: « We’ll be making gnocchi with the kids on Christmas Eve. Then, while opening gifts on Christmas morning, we usually drink copious amounts of coffee and fry some dough. To do that, I hold back baguette dough from the day before, and then we fry it up, sprinkle powdered sugar on some and just put butter on others. My wife’s grandmother was Sicilian, and they used to take old bread dough on Christmas and fry it as a treat. We’ve kept that tradition alive ever since we’ve been together. »
Courtesy Natasha Bahrami
Café Natasha’s co-owner Natasha Bahrami: “The Bahrami family tradition on the holidays is a Cornish hen fesenjan stew in a walnut pomegranate sauce that’s rich, tart, and gravy-laden, with all the skin and bones intact. It’s served with buttered barberry saffron rice. It brings us back to our Northern Persian roots, and it’s very much a comfort food. It was one of my dad’s favorite dishes.”
Cobalt Smoke & Sea executive chef Brian Hale: “Every New Year’s Day, my mother would make collards and black eyed peas, as any good Southern person would. Knowing that she wouldn’t see me or my sister on New Year’s Day, she would make the dish on Christmas for us. Since I became a chef, I’ve changed it up; I now do a crispy duck confit blacked eyed pea hash with bacon onion collards, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano.”
Tyler Layton, executive chef at Twisted Tree Steakhouse and the new Twisted Tavern: “Gotta go with the family favorites: roast beef au jus on a dollar roll with Provel and pickles, Straubs chicken salad, and those pizza things on mini rye bread.”
Clara B’s Kitchen Table food truck owner Jodie Ferguson: “This year, we are nixing the traditional ham and going with a smoked pork belly porchetta with dried fruit and nuts. We also made extra of our holiday offerings for Clara B’s, so we will have beef Wellington with bacon and leek mushroom duxelle. Traditionally, in Texas, we had tres leches cake, so I’m making that, too.”
John Carney, host of The John Carney Show on The Big 550 KTRS: “I have always made roast turkey with White Castle stuffing. I also prepare a bourbon-laced cranberry dish. After two helpings, you call an Uber.”
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Mahe is St. Louis Magazine’s dining editor. Like this story? Want to share other feedback? Send Mahe an email at [email protected]
December 24, 2020
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