Even to an accomplished cook, preparing Christmas dinner can feel overwhelming. Knowing that every person sitting at your table is secretly hoping that your Christmas dinner will be as good, if not better than their grandmother’s, is intense pressure. My Nanny Chase served up Christmas dinner until she was ninety-one years old.
She lived in a very modest home without a formal dining room. Several tables were set up in her livingroom, with as many chairs as she could fit around them. If the whole clan decided to show up, we ate in shifts! She had one gas oven with a four burner stove top. Over the years, my aunts offers of help were always declined.
At noon on Christmas day, our family would sit down to roast turkey, baked ham, mashed potatoes, homemade stuffing, squash, carrots, yellow waxed beans, peas, corn, cranberry jelly, homemade pickles and the BEST gravy I’ve ever tasted. For dessert, her kitchen counter was jammed full with pineapple squares, apple pie, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, gingerbread men and shortbread cookies.
The memory of my grandfather at the head of the table, with Mom, Dad, my little brother Paul, my aunts, uncles and cousins all gathered to devour the feast my grandmother had prepared is one of the most joyful of my life. Nanny didn’t have Christmas china. There were no Christmas crackers or fancy paper napkins. No one stood on ceremony of any kind. Dinner was served family-style. It was loud, chaotic and to a little girl, magical!
To be able to serve such a large family so many vegetable side dishes, Nanny kept it simple. If that meant using canned vegetables because she didn’t have enough burners or space to cook from scratch, that’s what she did. No one noticed or cared. What mattered was our family laughing and sharing a magical meal together.
I want my Christmas dinner to be delicious but not so much work, for me, that I end up exhausted and unable to enjoy my family. My ROASTED BROCCOLI goes in the oven when you take the turkey out and is finished by the time the turkey is done resting. It’s effortless to prepare and gorgeous to eat! The shredded cheddar is sprinkled on after the broccoli comes out of the oven. The cheese melts on the way to the table. It couldn’t be easier!
I’m the grandmother now. My grandson, Coen arrives in one week to celebrate his first Christmas. Time to make some magic!
Preheat oven 425*F
1 large head of broccoli
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup old cheddar, shredded
- Cut the stem end off of the broccoli
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the tough outer skin of the broccoli stem.
- Slice the stem into ½ inch chunks.
- Separate the florets into mouthfuls.
- Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Bake for 15 minutes, flip each piece over, and bake for 10 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with shredded cheddar.
- Serve immediately.
THE LOVE: You’ll notice that I haven’t washed the broccoli. I feel no germ will survive 20 minutes in a 425*F oven. However, if you’re not comfortable with that, by all means, wash your broccoli. Be sure to dry it thoroughly or this recipe won’t be as good – which is another reason I skip the water!
Thanks for reading.
Photography by Michelle Hooton.
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