Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Jewish Christmas Dinner

When I was growing up, my family usually had two big dinners for Christmas, one at my parents' house on Christmas Eve, and one at my aunt's house on Christmas Day.  My mom and my aunt are both great cooks, but despite my aunt's fantastic shrimp cocktail appetizer and chocolate mousse dessert, by the time the evening of the 25th rolled around I felt like Christmas was over.  Santa had come and gone, the presents had all been unwrapped, and everyone was a bit tired.

Christmas Eve was always the big event for me.  Even as a child, I think I loved Christmas Eve as much as I loved Christmas morning.  Christmas Eve is when we sang Christmas carols and felt the magical anticipation of what was to come the next morning.  Christmas Eve is when the kids would plot how we would stay up late enough to catch our parents playing Santa Claus, while the adults got toasted and argued about politics, God, and football.

So as an adult, I decided Christmas dinner would always be on Christmas Eve in my house.  And a few years ago, I stumbled upon the idea of cooking traditional Jewish food for Christmas dinner.  I think I had the itch to make a beef brisket and the idea just blossomed from there.  That year I made brisket, potato latkes, a buttery noodle dish called kugel, and a fruit dish I've forgotten the name of, although I do remember it had Manischewitz wine in it.  That mostly-full bottle of wine sat in our pantry for over a year, mocking Adam by bringing back all of those painful Passover memories.

Anyway, I fell in love with the idea of making Jewish Christmas Dinner a tradition in the Mossoff home.  I was looking for some kind of food-theme that would carry over from year to year, and I'm not really crazy about turkey or any of the other traditional foods.  I also love the humorous dig at the supposed religious nature of the holiday!

That was in 2005.  Now, finally, in 2009, we are having Christmas at home again and I'm getting my second chance to cook Jewish Christmas Dinner.  I spent 3 days planning the menu and making my shopping list.  Today, I do the grocery shopping, and tomorrow, I start cooking.  I had to create a written schedule for the cooking because so much requires advance preparation (brisket is much better after sitting in the fridge for a day).  Here is the menu:

  • Matzo ball soup (appetizer)

  • Beef brisket

  • Broccoli soufflé

  • Potato latkes

  • Jewish apple cake (dessert)

And check out the cooking schedule:


  • Noon – 1pm:  Prepare and brown beef brisket

  • 1pm:  Get brisket into crockpot on high

  • 2pm:  Turn crockpot to low

  • 4 – 5pm:  Make chicken soup and refrigerate

  • 7 – 7:30pm:  Remove brisket from crockpot, separate meat and veggies, and refrigerate


  • 10am – noon:  Make apple cake

  • Noon – 12:30pm:  Prepare matzo balls (don’t forget the schmaltz from soup) and refrigerate (for at least a half hour)

  • 1 – 2pm:  Prepare latkes batter and refrigerate

  • 2:15 – 2:30pm:  Take 6 eggs out of fridge and separate.  Keep whites at room temperature.

  • 2:30 – 3:30pm:  Boil matzo balls and reheat soup; add matzo balls to soup and cook for a few minutes

  • 3:30pm:  Serve matzo ball soup

  • 4 – 5pm:  Prepare broccoli soufflé

  • 5pm: Put soufflé in oven

  • 5 – 5:30pm:  Prepare brisket and veggies in 9X13 pan for oven

  • 5:30pm:  Put meat in oven with soufflé

  • 5:30 – 6pm:  Fry latkes

  • 6 – 6:15pm:  Make thicker sauce for meat if necessary

  • 6:15:  Dinner is served!

I am so excited to cook all of this good food!  And now there are 3 of us to eat it instead of just 2.


  1. Impressive schedule! And it's making me hungry.

    It reminds me of the time I lived in Brooklyn above a nice middle-aged Jewish couple, who ended up being sort of surrogate aunt and uncle for me and my ex. They were never obtrusive, but always friendly, landlords. In addition to many other kindnesses, we were once invited to a Seder, which we enjoyed for the education, the food and the company. An interesting experience for a gentile couple from the Midwest.

  2. Christmas Eve dinner was always one of my favorites too. I think we have a mostly traditional Polish Chrismas Eve dinner, typically consisting of Ham, fried fish & perogies. It's one of the few get togethers from my side of the family that exist and that I would insist on attending. My wife's family on the other hand seems to have traditional get togethers twice a month, surprisingly to me, I've grown to enjoy most of them as well.

    Can't wait for some of that ham. Merry Christmas!

  3. That's really interesting!

    We are Jewish and we don't really "do" Christmas--not the tree, not Santa and certainly not the creche--but we do a Christmas Eve Dinner!

    We live in New Mexico, and when we lived in Albuquerque, we used to go to Old Town every year to eat the traditional New Mexican Christmas fare--posole, tamales, enchiladas made "Christmas" that is with both red and green chile sauce, hot sangria--and then walk around old town viewing the luminarias--candles burning inside sand-filled brown-paper lunch bags--drinking hot cider and listening to the Mariachi and the San Felipe Choir. It was a wonderful way to drop into a party that does not belong to us, but that we appreciate visiting.

    Now that we live in the mountains, we do not often drive down to old town, so I make the traditional New Mexican food--though I buy the vegetarian tamales from Albuquerque Tortilla Company. So we are Jews who have a New Mexican Christmas Eve dinner. Sans pork of course!

  4. [...] or tomorrow, I swear, I’m going to start planning my Jewish Christmas dinner.  We’re having one or two guests, and it will be simple in every way except that I’ll [...]