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Christmas Dinner Review

By Friday, December 28, 2012 , , , , , ,



Not only was this my first Christmas as an expat in Germany, but it's my first one away from my parents and the first one married to my husband. Although it was just the two of us, and he doesn't celebrate Christmas normally, it was important to me to have Christmas. Plus, isn't any excuse for a celebration a good excuse?

So we set about planning a good Christmas dinner for two, with two big obsticles: the first, I'm pescitarian (like vegetarian, but I also eat seafood. So crab, shrimp and sushi are OK, chicken, beef and pork are not.) although my husband isn't, and living in Germany a lot of food isn't available (no candy canes, eggnog, or cranberries like we have in the US. No turkey either, but I don't eat it anyway) we also had trouble finding some fresh herbs, like dill, parsley and chives, and the pre-packages ones just weren't as vibrant tasting.

Still, here's the planned menu and recipes:

and here's how it turned out:

The smoked salmon rolls were tasty, although our smoked salmon came in larger, irregular pieces rather than strips. Sometimes they were wide enough to cut into strips, but a lot of the rolls were a little unusual looking. Our dill also came in a cardboard box that got soggy when we took it out of the freezer, and the chives from a plastic pouch were kinda slimy. Still, they tasted good and if you could cut them into strips first they'd look fancy. Recommended? Yes.


We were able to complete the couscous stuffed onion recipe alright, but we couldn't find large onions and as a result it was quite difficult removing the centers from the small ones. Even a teaspoon ripped up the opening, and I ended up using the fish tweezers that came with my sushi set to get the center out. Finished, they lacked flavor despite being cooked in an onion, not one of the subtlest flavors. It took a lot of work to prepare and I found it really bland and boring. Recommend? No.

 I don't really like Sweet Potatoes, there's just something a little off to me about a vegetable being kind of sweet. I don't like tomatoes either, so maybe it's the combination of sweet and veggie flavors that throws me. My husband loves sweet potatoes with a little butter and cinnemon, but I'm just not a fan, even when they have marshmallows on top! So I was pretty surprised to find that I really liked these. The nuts and dried cranberries made the texture more interesting and less squishy, and brought a lot of different festive flavors together. Recommended? Yes.



I'd made the stuffing before and loved it. I ate meat growing up, until my junior year at University, and my mom had always made stuffing with sausage, so that's how it was supposed to taste to me. This recipe uses Thyme, Sage and Rosemary to give it a savory taste and mimic meat without using one of those awful fake-meat substitutes. It also has apple, raisins and nuts in it. How did it turn out? Well, to be honest not as well as past years. We have a tiny oven here, with a single rack big enough for just one pan, so everything was going to be done at different times. That is, until my husband realized our adjustable cookie sheet (this must be a German thing, when we bought it we couldn't find any non-adjustable ones) could fit in the slots and give us another shelf! This worked... sorta. It must have affected the heat circulation because the onions and sweet potatoes on the cookie sheet cooked fine, but the stuffing was just left soggy. We left it in for longer but the consistency was always a little off. Still, it was tasty, and I absolutely recommend it for veggies and non veggies alike.


For the Shrimp I used a recipe I read in a magazine and took a photo of with my ipod, so I couldn't like to anything, but here it is:

2 pounds medium shrimp, deveined
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced,
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon crushed red-chilli-pepper flakes
salt and pepper
 
In a large bowl, combine shrimp with all the ingredients, and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 30 mines.While the shrimp is marinating, place wooden skewers in a bowl of water to soak.
preheat grill or a grill pan to medium heat. Thread a few shrimp onto each skewer. Cook about 3 minutes per side, until shrimp is cooed through. Serve these hot or cold.

We changed the recipe around quite a bit. Although we only had 500g of shrimp, we made all the sauce and added sauteed peppers to it and the shrimp. We cooked it all in a pan and skipped the skewers entirely. It was delicious and reheated well in the pan the next day, too. Definitely recommended.

The Stuffing had to cook longer, so it's missing.

The Yule Log... oh the Yule Log. Every part went wrong.

First, we halved the meringue recipe because my husband doesn't really like meringues. I love them and have made them before so I thought even if I couldn't get the cute little mushroom shape, they'd still be a tasty Christmas cookie. We don't have an electric mixer, but I'd made them by hand before and thought I could handle beating the egg whites into fluffy peaks. Well, since I'd halved the recipe it was the egg whites of a single egg, and i just couldn't get it to cooperate. I think the problem was that to beat a single egg white you have to make such tiny movements that you don't get enough momentum. Stirring and beating become fine motor skills rather than gross ones, and I just couldn't get it. :(

The cake part of the Yule log we made from a chocolate cake mix we'd made before and really liked. It came out of the oven fine but cracked when we tried to roll it. Still, it tasted good so we at least got a few desserts out of it!

And then, finally, the whipping cream filling for the Yule log. After the meringues, I was pretty nervous that we wouldn't be able to beat the heavy cream into whipped cream... but we did! And then kept going for good measure....

... and it turned lumpy. And some liquid started separating. I think it was on it's way to becoming butter. We stopped before is started tasting weird, but it didn't spread quite right (also, there wasn't nearly enough for the cake), and the cake wouldn't roll, and while it still tasted good, I did not feel inclined to take a photo of the mess.

The secrets of the Yule Log have evaded me this year.

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