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dinner setting

Virginia Willis

These red wine-braised short ribs are a perfectly elegant choice for a Christmas dinner entree.

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Throwing a Christmas dinner party? We've got the perfect Southern dinner menu

Christmas is a special time for family and friends to gather, exchange gifts and take in all of the twinkling lights and holiday decorations. Gathering around a table and with your loved ones close is one of the greatest gifts of the season. 

Similar to hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner can seem like a very daunting task. Expectations, traditions and nostalgia can all wreak havoc on an otherwise happy dinner if you're not careful. One of the best ways to approach this dinner is to throw the rule book out and create new memories that will last a lifetime. 

To help you do so, we've gathered a feast's worth of recipes that will help you do just that. Not only are these recipes delicious, but they're also easy to pull off and are certain to have people RSVPing for next year's dinner. 

The mains  
Virginia Willis' Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs with Herbed Grits
Short ribs were once simple country fare, but they have gained popularity because of their rich, succulent flavor. They are the meaty, marbled ends of the beef rib from the chuck, rib and brisket. When preparing this recipe, the short ribs are first browned to render the excess fat and build a strong foundation for the dish. The resulting fond enriches the cooking liquid. Then, the short ribs are gently braised in a combination of wine and stock amped up with a triple dose of umami – tomato paste, miso paste, and dried mushrooms — resulting in tender, but super flavorful meat. To gild the lily, fresh mushrooms are sautéed and added to the sauce at the end, layering the mushroom flavor. If you needed any other reason to make this delicious meal, consider just two simple words: leftover wine. 
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Standing Rib Roast with Horseradish Cream
There is almost nothing more Christmas-y than a rib roast. Tackling this cut of meat isn't for everyone, as it can can get a little tricky to hit a perfect medium-rare. But we're here to help, with a unique method to ensure juicy meat. You'll start it in a very hot oven — 450 degrees for a nice outer crust — then finish cooking with the oven completely turned off. You can calculate the necessary cook time by taking the starting weight of the roast, then multiplying by 5 minutes. For example, if you have a 4-pound roast, 4 x 5 = 20 minutes. For a 6-pound roast, 6 x 5 = 30 minutes. After that time, turn the oven off without opening the door and wait for two hours. At the end of two hours, you’ll have a roast that’s perfectly medium-rare. For most effective results, cook in an oven with a digital display for preheating, or make sure your oven is properly calibrated.
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Spatchcocked Herb Roasted Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
If you just had a big turkey for Thanksgiving I can see how you'd be hesitant to cook another one so soon afterwards. However, this is a recipe that deserves center stage on your dining table. The apple cider vinegar gravy adds a much needed element of brightness while preserving to herby turkey flavor. And, in case you hadn't heard of it yet, spatchcocking is the process of removing the backbone and opening the bird so that it is fairly flat — and it therefore cooks quicker and more evenly. By propping up the flattened bird on onions, no special rack or roasting pan is needed. With a rimmed baking sheet and a sturdy pair of scissors, you’re in business.
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The sides
Green Beans with Almond Brown Butter
Green beans are not only (generally) quick to cook but with this recipe, they're also full of delicious and nutty almond browned butter. The dish gains complexity by toasting the almonds in the same butter in which the green beans are reheated. To make sure your beans stay nice and crisp all the way until you're ready to serve, take the time to properly follow all the steps for blanching green beans. Avoid overcrowding the pot to ensure that the beans maintain their vibrant green color. Also, keep an eye on your butter when it's browning to make sure you don't cross the line to burn territory. 
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Fire-Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
If at all possible, try roasting your sweet potatoes in a fire pit or the smoldering coals of a charcoal grill for a smoky twist on our favorite yam puree. Fire-roasting sweet potatoes before serving them helps to build complexity as well as to amplify the vegetable's natural sweetness without adding any additional sugar. Add in more browned butter (hey, it's the holidays!) for even more depth of flavor. Lastly, any professional baker will tell you that roasting your nuts before putting them in a dish also helps bring out flavors so pop those pecans in the oven (or give them a quick dry roast in a skillet) before serving. 
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Brussels Sprouts with Country Ham
Over the years, Brussels sprouts have kind of gotten a bad rap. In general people either love them, hate them or are afraid of trying them. This recipe is an instant crowd-pleaser no matter where people fall on the spectrum. Slicing these Brussels sprouts thinly and cooking them with butter and salty country ham helps combat some of the sprouts’ natural bitterness. You can use a knife to slice the Brussels sprouts by hand, but a  mandolin makes it easier. Just be sure to discard the core and any of the woody, white ends.
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Desserts
Eggnog Panna Cotta with Bourbon Cherry Sauce
Panna cotta might be my favorite dessert of all time, so it wasn't too hard to convince me to try our holiday version, jazzed up eggnog-style. To make an eggnog you can literally eat with a spoon, we've transformed it into a panna cotta topped with bourbon-spiked cherry sauce for a rich, creamy, pudding-like dessert. It's perfect for holiday entertaining, and because it is made from pantry ingredients, is quite affordable as well. 
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Cream Cheese-Stuffed Monkey Bread
When I was a little girl my family would head to my grandparents house for Christmas Eve dinner. I use to look forward to this event all year because my grandmother would always serve her famous monkey bread. This cream cheese-stuffed recipe harkens back to the days when I would eat sweet gooey bread until my tummy ached. The addition of cream to the caramel sauce gives it a toffee-like richness. We tried this recipe with both homemade and canned biscuit dough, and found that the canned biscuit dough yielded a more successful result. Look for biscuit dough that is not labeled "flaky." Of course, if you're not a fan of cream cheese you can omit it and make it the more traditional way. 
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Interested in holiday cocktails? Try these on for size:
10 festive cocktails for a holly, jolly and still very Southern Christmas

All inset photos: Ramona King


Author image

Ryan Shepard is the editor-in-chief at Southern Kitchen. Though originally from Los Angeles, she has lived in Atlanta since early 2017 and cannot imagine calling any other city home (except maybe New Orleans). Before joining Southern Kitchen's staff, Ryan worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on public policy issues. When she's not at work, she enjoys hunting down the best Mexican food in the city and drinking whiskey, obviously. 

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