My dad's not much of a music lover. He doesn't have a beloved album collection or a list of favorite singers and, to the dismay of all passengers, prefers to drive in silence. But there's one day of the year when all that changes: Christmas Eve. When my sister and I were little, he started a tradition: After Christmas Eve dinner, he'd pop us both in the back seat of his Pontiac, crank up Elvis' Christmas Album, and drive us from neighborhood to neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. As Elvis crooned and we cruised down winding country roads, around cul-de-sacs, and by the town common, we'd all give commentary on the quality and quantity of decorations (I always marveled at the houses that went for all blue lights). Eventually the serpentine roads and my dad's enthusiastic right foot would get the better of me and I'd feel carsick. Time to head home? Certainly not. My dad would open the windows and sunroof to allow fresh air in and then blast the heat to keep us all just left of hypothermia. On those nights everything was blue—Blue Christmas,” blue lights, blue lips.
Popular religious and cultural traditions tend to get all the attention around the holidays. But it's the small, idiosyncratic family rituals—the blue Christmas Eve Pontiac cruises—that really stick with us. I think that's also true for the food we choose for our holiday tables. Ever since I started cooking in earnest, I've insisted on experimenting with dishes around the holidays—sometimes successfully, sometimes not. In fact, the act of adding something different to our Christmas dinner spread has become a tradition in itself. I'll be (successfully) adding a lot of new dishes to the menu this year, all thanks to the issue you are now reading.
To kick off the meal, I'm making a Goat Cheese Log with Hazelnut-Nigella Dukkah and Black Olive Tapenade from Elizabeth Bomze's guide to top-notch no-fuss party appetizers. I might need to add savory Garlic and Parmesan Cheese Coins—the perfect marriage of cheese and crackers—to the appetizer spread because I can't stop making Annie Petito's quick, silky Garlic Confit. Instead of turkey, I'll be following Lan Lam's advice and innovative recipe for roasting two rich, dark, succulent ducks—a move sure to please my family of dark meat lovers. But if the ducks don't steal the show, I know what will: Andrea Geary's easy-to-roll, stunning Caramel-Espresso Yule Log, complete with a chocolate-pistachio forest floor crumble and meringue bracket mushrooms for the most realistic (and delicious) effect. I might even consider something new for Christmas Eve dinner, but whatever I decide to cook, it'll need to be quick—everyone just wants to get in the car, drop the windows, and turn up the King.
Editor in Chief