A Christmas Eve Menu, with ideas and tips

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Somewhere along the line, our Christmas feast shifted from Christmas day to Christmas Eve. Our Eve used to be the seven of us, along with Sitto, Aunt Hilda and everyone’s favorite cousin, Alberta. Hilda liked a screwdriver to kick off the evening, something to soften the edges after all of the output from her kitchen—the huge pan of grape leaf rolls, the massive platter of baklawa, each piece cradled in a silver paper cup and the whole thing wrapped up with a bow, and always Alberta’s buttery almond crunch. The shot of the tree is from years and years ago, in the sunroom on Wagon Wheel Lane, just before midnight Mass.

This year we will have the smallest group of us together here in Michigan on record. That won’t stop us from counting our blessings (in the wake of national sorrow, I think we are all that much more mindful. Here everyone is healthy and happy, and a new baby will join our ranks soon—Jesu, yes, but also a baby Abood) or from serving up a feast, one that will go like this:

Appetizers and Bubbly
Spiced nuts, chicken liver pate, grape leaf rolls (rolled thin and small, thumb-sized), classic shrimp cocktail

Baby lettuce salad with fennel, persimmons, and pomegranate seeds; lemon vinaigrette

Popovers, in the old style of the Country Club of Lansing, warm from the oven
The recipe is here.

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Crispy Onions and Maitre D’Hotel Butter
Tips: Bring any meat to room temperature before cooking. Season it liberally with salt and pepper while it sits out coming down to temperature. Pan sear in a bit of butter and olive oil to caramelize the tenderloin’s exterior before roasting in a 400 degree oven to an internal meat temp of 115-120 degrees for medium-rare. The meat keeps cooking after it’s out of the oven, so go easy on the temp if you like your meat pink. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Be sure the butter is also room temperature, so it melts beautifully over the meat. For the onions, slice very thin circles, dredge in seasoned flour (salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne pinch, garlic powder), fry in very hot canola oil until golden, and top the whole tenderloin or each serving with them.

Rice with garlic, sauteed mushrooms, toasted pine nuts, and scallions

Asparagus, roasted, topped with a dusting of parmesan
400 degree oven, good olive oil drizzle, salt and pepper, 25 minutes. Top hot asparagus with parm.

Broccoli, cooked simply in salted water, for little John. Halved grape tomatoes for him too.

Finale of Buche de Noel. Mama has wanted one of these cakes every year and we’ve never done it, so we’re baking one for the first time this Christmas. Wish us luck!

Plus, always: Christmas cookies (many kinds), baklawa, dipped chocolates

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  1. Gregory Jarous, Lawrenceville GA says:

    Wonderful storie about Aunt Hilda, beautiful story Merry Christmas to ya’all.

  2. Jerry Wakeen says:

    Saw an article last night about lightly smoking a beef roast (rib eye or tenderloin I assume too) on the grill. Was a new thought for me, I suspect you have heard that one before. Not sure if it is finished on the grill or if it is finished in the oven after lightly smoking.

    Have a good holiday season, always enjoy you articles.

  3. Tom Wright says:

    Maureen, enjoyed the picture of your tree from years ago. When my folks built our house in 1952 my Mom had the ceiling in the living room raised to 11 feet just so we could have a big Christmas tree. A tree which we never saw until Christmas morning because Santa brought it.

    Denise and I have Christmas Eve at our house with our daughter Sarah and her husband and Denise’s sister Sue’s family. Our food tradition has become spinach stuffed shells with Italian sausage and peppers. Our appetizers are not as fancy as yours but always a big hit. Little wieners wrapped in crescent rolls with a half dozen different mustards.

    Have a great Christmas,

    Tom and Denise

  4. paul zeidan says:

    Maureen, you have a great Christmas, thoroughly enjoyed your blog. thanks to you bought my wife the cook book you wrote the “forward”. cheers

  5. Diane Nassir (My maternal grandmother was an Abowd) says:

    What a lovely menu, and gorgeous tree!!!
    Wishing for peace on this earth and sending you my
    best wishes for a healthy and joyous New Year!

  6. Bill B says:

    I’m good with everything but the Chicken Liver Pate. I can’t even be in the same room with it. Foie Gras, not a problem.
    Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday season. It’s 85 here today and not very Christmasy. Enjoy life and family.


  7. Diane Gallagher says:

    A wonderful Christmas Eve menu. Hello and best wishes for a lovely holiday and good health
    and happiness in the New Year. A hug to your mom.

  8. Roger Toomey says:

    Our Christmas tradition is always to have an angel-food birthday cake. It was always fun when a visitor asked “Who’s birthday is it?”

  9. Marlene Abood Hatton says:

    Sounds like a wonderful menu! Very best to all the Michigan Aboods from the Cleveland Aboods…and wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

  10. Tootsie Panayotou says:

    I can just picture Hilda. You all brought such joy to her, I will always remember the last song you sang for her. Happy Holidays to all your family. Toots

  11. Sara says:

    Hi Maureen!
    The cake your mum wants to make is called “BUCHE de Noel”, meaning Christmas Log in French. It is traditionally French, and very popular in Quebec at this time of year. Every bakery on every street in my city of Montreal has one in the display case, and beautifully extravagant “buches” can even be special ordered for the holidays! Merry Christmas to you and yours!
    PS I made your baklawa last week (to the horror of my deceased Sitto…who would NOT have approved of pouring the butter all over at once) but my Lebanese Dad could not tell the difference and proclaimed it to be “the best I’ve ever had!” (he is still none-the-wiser). If you ever visit Montreal, I would be so pleased to recommend the very best Lebanese restaurants and shops…we have a large community here. All the best, again.

  12. Anne Cashill says:

    Hi Maureen, Our menus sounds very similar. We are hosting Christmas Eve dinner and Tom and Amara will be joining us this year. I hope not to disappoint them! I think that I will make your salad too. XX. Anne