Alone together: Christmas dinner for two

by Terry B on December 22, 2010

A menu of Blue Kitchen favorites for friends spending their first Christmas at home as husband and wife.

leah-and-mattOur friends Matt and Leah got married this year. They’re both sweet, funny, caring people. So as a couple, you can just imagine. Of this photo taken in the hotel elevator on their wedding day, Matt says, “Leah looks spectacular.” To which we would add radiant.

Recently, Leah emailed me. It seems she and Matt won’t be going home to Kansas City for the holidays, and she was wondering if I had any ideas about a romantic Christmas dinner for two.

Let me start by saying this is a wonderful way to spend your first married Christmas, Leah and Matt. It reminds me of when our daughter Claire had just turned one. We were supposed to visit Marion’s parents for the holidays, but Claire came down with a terrible cold, and even though she was getting better by our travel date, her doctor said we should keep her home. So we switched our visit to New Year’s weekend, but didn’t tell a soul other than Marion’s family. Everyone else thought we were out of town. Our phone didn’t ring once, and no one expected us to drop by.

For three days, it was just our little family together. One of our fondest memories of that weekend (well, for Marion and me—Claire’s memories of those days are probably sketchy at best) was taking walks in our Rogers Park neighborhood, pushing baby Claire in the stroller. Even the freshly fallen snow conspired to add a hush to our unexpected, treasured time alone.

When Leah first asked me for ideas, I immediately thought of duck. Duck never fails to impress, and if you cook duck breasts only, it’s really very simple. I’ve made duck breasts a few different ways here; all were delicious, but the one that felt the most elegant and romantic was Duck with Raspberries. The raspberry sauce in this dish adds just the right tartness to the duck’s richness—and its gorgeous red color adds a festive visual note to the plate.

duck_with_raspberries

Add something green—quickly steamed fresh asparagus or green beans or a mixed green salad—and you’ve got a lovely main course. A quick note: This recipe and the dessert recipe will need to be adjusted for serving two (or you can make them as is and plan on delicious leftovers).

For a starter, I thought of one of my personal favorite recipes (also one guests always enjoy), Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts (although lately, I’ve been substituting pecans for walnuts and liking that even more).

endive_salad

Besides beautiful presentation and a mix of wonderful flavors, this is salad as finger food. Playing with your food is encouraged. The Maytag Blue Cheese, made in Iowa, is fairly readily available, but any quality blue cheese will work with this dish.

Speaking of playing with your food, there’s dessert. A perennial favorite here, if you believe search engine results, is Mascarpone Cream Desserts. Here, the playing happens in deciding how to top this elegant, creamy Italian dessert.

mascarpone_desserts

In the photo above, one dessert is shown topped with berries, the other with bananas and golden raisins soaked in rum. The recipe includes other variations to play with.

Whatever you decide to do for dinner—even if it’s ordering in pizza from that great little place by the Morse el stop—have a great first Christmas, Matt and Leah. See you in the new year. And to everyone out there, happy, happy holidays.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

The Rowdy Chowgirl December 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm

The whole menu looks incredible! There is something wonderful about a cozy holiday for two. They don’t happen often, which makes them all the more special.

meri December 22, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Great menu. I’m going to have to try that duck:-) one of my favs.

Jane Sauer December 23, 2010 at 6:16 am

I always love your menus and ideas of creativity in the kitchen. The dinner for 2 will not work as our entire family is arriving in Santa Fe to spend the week between Christmas and New Years together. There will be 26 people so elegance is out but flavors are in. After they all leave, I think your “dinner for two” will be splendid.

Terry B December 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Thanks, Rowdy Chowgirl! Yeah, as much as we love family gatherings and getting together with friends (we’ll be enjoying both this year), holidays for two really can be cozy.

I hope you enjoy it, Meri!

Jane, 26 family members for the holidays?!? An elegant dinner for two after they leave can be your reward for surviving! Lay in a nice bottle of bubbly (or three) to accompany the dinner.

altadenahiker December 23, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I loved your story.

Lisa@ButteryBooks December 24, 2010 at 12:15 am

That meal looks delicious…and romantic. I really like that salad. It would also work for a large dinner party with one serving per plate. Great presentation!

Christina December 24, 2010 at 3:12 am

This is the first Christmas in my adult life that I’m not going anywhere for the holiday. And no one is coming here, either. It’s just me and E and we’re thrilled.

Such a nice memory you and Marion have with baby Claire.

Carey December 24, 2010 at 4:36 am

Terry,
I love the presentation… I just added a little bit of diced apple to the salad and used a roasted walnut, lemon juice & zest with a dash of honey dressing. This is my first year to have a cozy-for-two Christmas and after many many years of big family gatherings, I’m finding great pleasure in the calm and easy weekend ahead.
Merry Christmas to my favorite foodie blog Blue Kitchen and its many fans. And may 2011 bring us all joy, and nourishment for the body and soul.

Terry B December 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Thanks, Altadenahiker! I hope you’re staying safe and dry in Southern California, my friend.

You know, Lisa, that’s a great idea! I could see a single endive leaf loaded with the cheese/nut/endive mix on a small plate as an amuse bouche to kick off an elegant dinner.

Christina, just from reading about your life and adventures together in your blog, I know you and E will have a lovely, memorable Christmas for two.

Thank you so much, Carey! I can see the apple adding a nice, crisp sweetness to the salad. And I second your wish for a great 2011 for everyone.

madame fromage December 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Gorgeous! I love the idea of duck with raspberries, then a little marscapone parfait for dessert. Happy holidays, Terry.

Nishta December 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm

look how cute those two are! congratulations, Matt & Leah–hope you had a cozy Christmas.

PerennialPlate December 30, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Duck and endives are two of my favorite ingredients. The dishes look delicious.

meri January 3, 2011 at 12:03 am

hey terry, i finally cooked the duck:-) i kind of went in my own direction but your recipe was great and gave me great inspiration. thanks again!

meri January 3, 2011 at 12:05 am

oh, i knew i commend for a reason. how do you save the duck fat? fridge?

Terry B January 3, 2011 at 12:28 am

I’m glad my recipe inspired you, Meri! Yes, refrigerate the duck fat; it keeps nicely. And if you’re looking for a couple of things to try with it, duck fat adds a nice richness to this easy, elegant pâté or these roasted fingerling potatoes with rosemary.

meri January 3, 2011 at 12:35 am

oh i used some tonight. i sauteed some jerusalem artichokes with shallots, garlic, a little salt and pepper and duck fat :-)

Terry B January 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

That sounds delicious, Meri! Not even ten in the morning, and you’ve got me hungry.

blakeArt January 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Mr. Blue Kitchen -

Status report on your great suggestions for our Christmas Eve dinner – We passed on the duck and appetizer. I have never cooked Duck, and we were having another couple over for New Years Eve – so we decided to maybe make those for our friends and try it then. I am such a fan of Blue Cheese as well, and I’m sure we’ll prepare that in the not-to-distant future – but Leah and I had our hearts set on a Drawn Butter Delivery Device(s), so we cooked King Crab Legs instead. (heh!)
It was my first time making them, and I was very surprised by how easy it was to do… buying that Shrimp and Crab boil and that’s that – very quick and simple. We had Baked Potato and another favorite recipe from your site – the Sauteed Leeks with Dijon, Parsley and more butter. I’ve made that like 5 times, and it’s better every time I make it, so yummy.
Now the Mascarpone Cream Desserts – we made that for Xmas dinner, AND again for our NYE guests – Holy Cow that is so good – a bit labor intensive but again so easy. (I had enough to make 2 batches from what I bought at the store.)
I also added heavy whipping cream to the recipe not only to stretch it a bit, and also just for more calorie ‘umph’ – plus since we didn’t have any almond flavoring, I used 1/4 tsp. of vanilla flavor instead – and served it with fresh blueberries, raspberries, pink grapefruit and /or Mango – you could put what you want in it – Incredible.
Thanks so much for all the awesome suggestions – we truly appreciate it, and our Xmas dinner was so much fun, very special – we had a great time preparing everything together – it was a blast!

Terry B January 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Blakeart (aka Matt)—It sounds like you and Leah had a wonderful Christmas dinner! I can just see you two cooking in the kitchen together, and crab legs have that nice eat-with-your-hands element that can be fun. And that the mascarpone desserts made two appearances over the holidays is very cool. I like the build-your-own approach you used—I’ll have to borrow that sometime.

Jamie February 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

This duck was our Valentine’s day dinner and was it ever delicious!! I saw this recipe around Christmas and have kept it in the back of my mind ever since. We had Strawberry balsamic so we substituted that for the Raspberry and it ended up working out well. I’ve never cooked duck on my own (but I eat it a lot in restaurants), and I was amazed at how fast and easy it was! Thanks for such a delicious, rich, and special recipe for our Valentine’s dinner!!!

Terry B February 16, 2011 at 3:19 am

Jamie, I’m delighted you made this dish for for Valentine’s Day! And I’m glad you cooked duck—it really is quite easy when you’re just cooking the breasts.

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