Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Holiday seafood dinners

The highlight of our holiday feasts was creamy baked crab cannelloni on Christmas Eve—a Giada recipe. Wow wow wow, it exceeded my expectations. On the side, broccoli roasted with red onion and garlic.

For Christmas dinner, we had shrimp fra diavolo with linguine. I was inspired by this Serious Eats recipe, except I made a broth with the shells (to use in lieu of clam juice) instead of pan-roasting them. I added bacon and onion to the sauce, and made a panko topping inspired by this Ina recipe.

On New Year’s Eve, we had linguine with calamari, another keeper. On the side, chard sautéed with red onion, garlic and dried cranberries.

As you can see, my holiday feasts always include Italian seafood dishes. What else would an Irish-Lithuanian do?

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

My favorite garlic bread

I made garlic bread to go with the shrimp and calamari dinners. You don’t really need a recipe for garlic bread but ever since I saw this NY Times version, I haven’t looked back. I adapt it by softening the butter instead of melting it, using whatever fresh or dried herbs I have on hand (parsley, basil and/or oregano). The mozzarella cheese (fresh or regular) is a must, not optional.

Danish for breakfast

On Christmas morning, I made a cheese danish. Not from scratch, heavens no, those days are long gone, at least for now. This recipe calls for frozen puff pastry. I prepped the filling the previous afternoon, so it was super easy to put together in the morning. We loved it and quickly scarfed down half the danish before I had to put it away.

Holiday desserts

I made the most swooningly delicious dessert in the slow cooker: sticky toffee pudding. I’ve always loved sticky toffee pudding but rarely see it anywhere. I think the last time I had it was in the early ‘00’s at St. John in London. Now I can make it for myself. This recipe is out-of-this-world good—especially with vanilla ice cream—and will be my new Christmas tradition.

I made three kinds of Christmas cookies this year: two of my regulars—coconut macaroons and dark fruitcake cookies—and a new recipe, pfeffernusse, which were just how I remember them at Pastries by Randolph in Arlington VA.

Menu ideas and recipes for crab, shrimp, calamari, garlic bread, corned beef, cheese danish, Christmas cookies, sticky toffee pudding, amberjack, snapper and burgers

Birthday tradition: corned beef

Every New Year’s Day, I make corned beef for Jim because it’s his birthday. I top my corned beef with an odd mix of ground spices—allspice, mustard, coriander, clove, black pepper, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, Aleppo pepper flakes and pieces of bay leaves—and then roast it for several hours in a low oven.

On the side, we enjoyed this extremely cheesy potato gratin and a cabbage sauté with bacon, onion, carrot, red bell, poblano and jalapeño pepper, and garlic.

Weekday dinners

Other meals we had during the break:

See you next week!


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