Neo-classic Holiday Dinner

Think “classic holiday dinner” and what comes to mind? For us, fusty and unattainable—Dickensian, even. We wanted to renovate tradition—to present classic holiday elements with a fresh take, impressive and elegant, but straightforward and unstuffy. We asked an expert with an extraordinary talent for creating accessible yet captivating menus: Roy Finamore, cookbook author, editor, and holiday entertaining ace. Roy invented our “Neo-classic Holiday Dinner,” a thoroughly modern meal worthy of becoming a yearly tradition.


The menu starts with a simple, elegant seafood hors d’oeuvre. For these oysters, the classic mignonette sauce is made modern by freezing it into an icy raspberry-spiked granité.

A light first course out of an Edith Wharton novel might have been consommé or aspic, but for us it’s Roasted Chicken Broth with Scallops and Chives: rich, nuanced flavors simply presented.

For the showpiece, a classic standing beef rib roast, Roy simplified the cooking and carving by removing the meat from the bones before roasting; so as not to lose flavor, we use the whole bone piece as a rack.

We wanted simple vegetable sides, but we’re tired of the usual suspects. Roy replaced mashed potatoes with an earthy-sweet Turnip and Pear Purée. And our Brussels sprouts are sliced thinly and crisped up in a pretty sauté, dotted with briny, crunchy fried capers.

A retro steamed pudding requires midmeal kitchen time for the host. For our special and unexpected dessert, Roy chose a classic Monte Bianco, a purée of sweetened chestnuts and chocolate that can be made a day ahead, then riced onto a platter right before serving and topped with whipped cream to resemble the eponymous snow-capped mountain.

While it’s a modern menu, it is somewhat ambitious. Key to success: Make a game plan and stick to it. Order your roast well in advance, and start the chicken broth at least two days prior to the big night. Tradition, after all, takes a little work.

Roy Finamore has worked as a cookbook editor for 30 years, most recently at Clarkson Potter. Among the authors he has published are Martha Stewart, Ina Garten, Tom Colicchio, Diana Kennedy, Anne Willan, Gale Gand, and Lee Bailey. A cooking teacher as well as a sought-after cookbook collaborator and food and prop stylist, he is the author of Tasty: Get Great Food on the Table Every Day (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) and coauthor of One Potato, Two Potato (Houghton Mifflin, 2001).

Photography by Laurie Frankel

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