Holiday menu time

I am pondering my Christmas menu. I know, y’all probably had yours mapped out weeks ago, but I have lollygagged. I have had the “proteins,” as chefs like to say, set in my mind for a while, but the auxiliary dishes, no.

Christmas Eve will be fried oysters. I roll them in cornmeal because I love the crunch, maybe toss in a little Cajun seasoning if I’m feeling sassy. I think with those, some simple sides like salad, baked sweet potatoes or roasted green beans. Green beans are great tossed with some olive oil and salt, then roasted in a 425-degree oven. I need to remember the horseradish for the oysters’ cocktail sauce (so simple to make your own: ketchup, lemon juice, Worcestershire, horseradish and Tabasco).

For Christmas Day, a huge hunk of meat: Standing rib roast. Once (maybe twice) a year, we deserve it. The main issue is that this beast will take up my oven, at a low temperature, for some time – I use the slow-roast method. Things cooked on top of the stove, like steamed broccoli or sauteed greens, are a good idea. There’s a wild rice casserole recipe that I really like, but requires baking. I may make it the night before and reheat. The recipe is from “Simply in Season” by Mary Beth Lind and Cathleen Hockman-Wert (Herald Press, 2005). I use butternut squash, which is really convenient now that you can purchase chunks in most supermarket produce sections.

Wild Rice Vegetable Bake

1 cup wild rice

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup pearl barley

6 cups sweet potatoes, winter squash and/or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound mushrooms

1 cup cider or apple juice

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the wild rice gently in 4 cups water for 10 minutes, then drain and place in 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan. Saute the onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, then add to the rice. Add the barley and stir. spread the vegetables on top of the grains and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour on the juice or cider and broth. Cover tightly with aluminum foil or a lid. Bake for 1 hour.

Serves 6 to 8.

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