Christmas Eve dinner can vary depending on the way you celebrate, but the meal should always be satisfying and enjoyable. Whether you’re abstaining from meat and dairy, feasting on seven fish or roast pork to get in the Christmas spirit, New York Times Cooking has plenty of recipes to help you usher in the holiday.
On the coldest Christmas evening, nothing warms body and soul quite like a bowl of borsch. A vegan version, like this one from David Tanis, is perfect for those celebrating the holiday with a meat-free meal. If your celebrations allow for dairy, be sure to scatter a few platters of cheese and potato pierogie, or variniki, across the table, and top it all off with sour cream.
Inspired by an American-Italian feast enjoyed on Christmas Eve, this seafood pie from Melissa Clark ensures that all seven fish of any feast you’ve planned are covered in one recipe. Anchovies! Shrimp! Scallops! salmon roe! Clam juice! Two types of moderate white fish! You can of course adjust the amount and texture of the seafood to get an even presentation dish, but the richness of this recipe as written is part of the fun.
Recipe: Seven Fish Pie Feast
You may have heard of Coca-Cola pork; Now meet sassafra’s cousin, pig root beer. Eric Kim’s recipe for festive, bone-in glazed pork half requires more than a few cans of soda, some aromatics and a touch of acidity from Dijon mustard and rice vinegar. The cooking liquid doubles as the final varnish, and any sauce residue should be served in a stock pot on the side.
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Recipe: Pork root beer
Holiday meals are often the best group projects, with family members forming a kind of makeshift assembly line around the table. On Christmas Eve, that means tamales, with regional variations stretching from Mexico and Guatemala to Venezuela and Puerto Rico. They eagerly enjoy in the wake of all that stuffing and steaming, or are saved for Christmas Day snacks. Prepared by Alicia Villanueva’s Tegal Roo, these tamales are filled with tinga de pollo from Guadalupe Moreno, and are a great way to use up whatever chicken you have left on.
Vegetarian on the classic Wellington beef, this recipe from Alexa Weibel is an achievement in itself. Your efforts can be spread out over two days: fry the mushrooms and onions in advance, but keep the assembly and baking for the next day. No matter how the work is divided, it is a meal worth your time and attention. Take it from a New York Times Cooking reader: “It was a wonderful dish in terms of both taste and presentation.”
Recipe: Mushroom Wellington
Thirty-five minutes to cook a fancy six-piece dinner party? It’s possible with this recipe for kelp-wrapped grilled fish from Kay Chun. Delicious halibut is served alongside salty mussels, which bring the flavors of the sea to a saffron-infused butter sauce as it steams. The leek-streaked sauce adds a vibrant finish to the dish, but for even more color, cut up the fish coated with salty salmon roe.
Recipe: Roasted halibut with mussel butter sauce
Imagine walking to the holiday table with a plate of perfectly cooked and carved duck. All your guests look at you in amazement: Did you make a duck?! Yes, I did it with the help of this recipe from Melissa Clark. The time required for dry fermentation and roasting adds up to the better part of the day, but the preparation itself is minimal, and the reaction the final product elicits makes it worth the investment. A side of roasted potatoes seasoned with porchetta or simply grilled vegetables would complement this dish well.
Recipe: Crispy roast duck
Few things say “It’s a party!” Just like a thick pork shoulder with its crispy crackle of skin. Served on Christmas, New Year’s, birthdays, and other special occasions, Von Diaz’s pernil is a great way to serve the crowd. Set aside enough time for the acidic adobo to permeate the pork—preferably overnight—and then roast it for a few hours before fighting your cousins for the best piece of chicharrón.
Recipe: pork meat
This warm, luscious stew from Yewande Komolafe serves up a seven-fish feast with only two sea creatures: prawns and cod. The Christmas holiday is the perfect occasion to enjoy the finest seafood you can find, which will ensure that your mokika is rich, juicy, and sea-tasting. A creamy broth, prepared not with dairy but with full-fat coconut milk, gently embraces the boiled seafood.
Recipe: Mokica (Brazilian seafood stew)
A Thanksgiving turkey can easily become a Christmas Eve turkey. The flavors that accompany the slow-roasting Padma Lakshmi – fresh bay leaf, ginger, apple and citrus – fit the two holidays very well. For a smaller celebration, this recipe goes great with chicken.
Recipe: Slow Roasted Turkey With Apple Gravy
For a main dish without meat that seems to take a lot more work than it is, Kay Chun’s delicious spin on apple tart is an excellent choice. Brittle, bitter, and sweet dandelions soften and sweeten when cooked with a little butter, lemon, and a little sugar, making them unexpected but delicious on the flaky store-bought pancake batter. A piece of creamy, cold burrata with every slice balances it all.