When I think of my own Christmas Pasts, these images float before my eyes…
My older brother and I sit in front of the Christmas tree. He’s smiling and exclaiming while clutching the perfect gift: Atari. I’m mirroring his excitement as I gaze in wonder at the pink box of an Easy Bake Oven.
I’m a few years older now and wearing a bright color-blocked skirt layered over puffy black tulle. My feet are clad in the sweetest pair of Sam and Libby’s as they make their way down the cold Boston streets to see The Nutcracker. The theater is magical, the music is breathtaking, and my brothers giggle and rename this particular ballet, The BUTTcracker.
I’m a bit older, but still young enough to entice my mother to unwrap each and every one of her presents before the Big Day. We carefully pull apart the tape, peek inside the boxes, and re-wrap in hopes my father won’t know our secret. We are the best kind of partners in crime.
As a teenager, living in a Southern state, away from my New England home, I felt out of place and out of sync. But I met a new friend. She has large copper-gold eyes, matching hair, a melodious cackle of a laugh, and a heart full of life. We exchange gifts at a school party: she buys me sunglasses with purple lenses and I buy her Florida State boxer shorts because that’s where she’s from. Twenty years later she’s still my best friend (despite my lack of gift giving skills).
Moving on to adulthood, tonight I’m wrapping presents with my one true love. He’s wearing the plaid moose pants I bought him in Maine and laughing secretly over the funny names he’s writing on the gift tags. I’m assuming this year I’ll receive a present from either Walter White or Raylan Givens, since we are watching Breaking Bad and Justified on Netflix.
For the past two years, I’ve made Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce for my family’s Christmas dinner. The tenderloin is so lean it requires some kind of richness, which the sauce provides spectacularly. You can make the sauce a day in advance, so on Christmas Day all you have to do is let it sit on the stove, leaving you more time to tuck away memories for the next year.
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Sauce
(Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine. I usually double this recipe for a crowd of 10 to 12.)
For the red wine sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups vidalia onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 6-ounce package cremini or baby bella mushrooms
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 750-ml bottle Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
1 14-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 14-ounce can beef broth
2 fresh thyme sprigs
1 1/2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
For the tenderloin:
1 2-pound beef tenderloin roast
1 tablespoon olive oil
Make the sauce: Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and mushrooms; sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle sugar and a couple pinches of salt over mushroom and onion mixture; sauté until mixture is browned, about 4 minutes longer. Add red wine vinegar; stir until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Add wine; boil until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Add both broths, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer uncovered 35 minutes to blend flavors, stirring occasionally. The sauce will reduce significantly.
Strain sauce through strainer into small saucepan. Get rid of the solids. Mix butter and flour in small bowl. Bring sauce to simmer over medium-high heat and whisk in flour mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt if needed. Cook until sauce is reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 5 minutes.
(Sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm over medium heat.)
Make the tenderloin: Preheat oven to 350°F. Sprinkle beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add beef to skillet and cook until brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Transfer beef to a baking sheet. Roast in oven until thermometer inserted into center reads 120°F for medium-rare, about 35 minutes. Transfer beef to cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Slice the tenderloin and serve on a platter with the red wine sauce on the side.
So tell me, what are some of your favorite memories from Christmas Past?