'Tis the Season—Don't Let Cooking Get You Stressed!

Chef Judi on the merits of a non-traditional holiday.

By Judi Gallagher December 6, 2018

Image: Shutterstock

My husband Paul was the first one to suggest we shake things up each year for the holidays. "Why pressure yourself to make Christmas brunch and dinner, let alone a Christmas Eve meal?" he asked. Paul confidently believes a person can stray from tradition and still feel comfortable, so—while he may miss our usual prime rib and scalloped potatoes—I'm pretty sure our non-traditional holiday is going  to be our best one yet.

On Christmas Eve, my brother and son will take the lead and stop by Piccolo Italian Market and Deli and Paisano's Bakery to pick up Christmas dinner for the next day. We've ordered as non-traditional a selection as possible (well, except maybe the traditional Italian pastries for dessert). We're having stuffed eggplant rollatini, meatball sandwiches and antipasto salads on December 25; all easy to reheat in the oven and serve. That night, we'll also have takeout from Pho Cali. Now, they aren’t always open on Christmas Eve, but as of today, they sure are. I have pre-ordered platters of No. 79s, green papaya salad (a specialty order) and various Pad Thais, curries and stir-fry dishes. Dessert will be fresh strawberry shortcake with biscuits from Buttermilk Handcrafted Food. (Pro tip: if you are ordering from the restaurant, you might want to go in person. Last year I got a call confirming my order a month after I placed it. But it's worth it—homemade whipped cream atop those beautiful berries and warm, pillowy biscuits are the perfect dessert.)

Latkes for Christmas breakfast? Yes please, says Chef Judi.

Image: Shutterstock

On Christmas morning, we will gather at my cousin’s house for homemade gravlax and lots of bagels before hopefully hitting the beach for long power walks. Then it's time to fry the latkes during the pre-game show for the Boston Celtics. Since we were not together on Hanukkah, a nod to our Jewish heritage, with crispy shredded potatoes and onion, fried until golden brown, covers every base for our holiday season. We might even top the latkes with a little leftover smoked brisket.

It seems more and more people these days are opting for movies and Asian food on Christmas, a Jewish tradition I followed until marrying into Christmas. But whatever you decide to do, remember the time you spend with family and friends is most important—and that traditional prime rib can wait.

Happy holidays to all!

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