Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Putting a bow on Christmas feasting

By JANINE GILBERTSON December 19. 2017 6:03PM

Breakfast croissant casserole featuring ham, Gruyere cheese and leeks. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

T’was the week before Christmas and the house was a mess. The gift list kept growing, and the fridge was a wreck. The tree wasn’t up yet, but here come the guests — ah, the holidays can bring plenty of stress.

The week before Christmas can be stressful, especially if you have guests coming. Many people are busy enough running around between work and home when it’s NOT the holiday season, so carving out time to plan a holiday meal or do Christmas shopping can be a challenge. Here in New Hampshire, a couple of good pre-Christmas snowstorms can throw a wrench in the whole operation, messing up plans even further. The to-do list can pile up and leave you feeling like you’ll never get everything done before guests are at your door.

A few quick and easy dishes can make things a bit easier.

I was rummaging around in the refrigerator last week, looking for a quick snack to throw together and came up with a salsa-inspired dip, loaded with fresh tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro. I realized it would make a fabulous holiday appetizer because the red and green colors gave it a Christmas vibe.

Find holiday appetizer for Christmas Eve? Check.

Moving on to Christmas morning food, I put together a casserole with ham, leeks, mushrooms and Gruyere cheese. 

This dish was literally a throw-together: Just tear up some fresh croissants, tuck them into a baking dish, sauté the ham and vegetables and layer them over the croissants. Whisk together some eggs and cream, sprinkle a little shredded Gruyere cheese over the top and bake. The Gruyere and leeks elevate the flavor and the buttery texture of the croissants make this dish taste decadent.

Find food for Christmas morning? Check.

I like to make a special dessert for Christmas, but this year I couldn’t decide what to make. I didn’t want to do anything too elaborate, since I already have enough cooking to do.

Inspiration hit when I was in line at a department store. The cashier was saying he was concerned the grocery store would run out of the peppermint stick ice cream the supermarkets carry this time of year. That’s when it hit me: peppermint and chocolate ice cream cake. In fact, the version I came up with is an assembly-only kind of thing since I bought a chocolate layer cake instead of baking one in an effort to save time and simplify the recipe. The end result was delicious.

Put a bow on a special Christmas menu? Check.

Ham, Gruyere and Leek Croissant Breakfast Casserole

5 large croissants

1 1/2 cups leeks, sliced

1 lb sliced deli ham

1 onion, chopped

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp kosher salt

5 eggs

3/4 cup half and half

1 1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350.

Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Tear the croissants into 2 inch pieces and line the bottom of the dish with them. 

Place a sauté pan on the stovetop over medium high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add the onions, leeks, mushrooms and ham and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and start to brown slightly. 

Spread the ham and vegetables over the croissants in an even layer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half and kosher salt. 

Pour the egg mixture over the croissants and vegetables, then sprinkle the shredded Gruyere cheese over the top.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the eggs have set, the top is starting to brown and the cheese is melted. 
It’s not a giant poinsettia, but a platter of cilantro sour cream salsa with red and green tortilla chips looks as good as it tastes. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Cilantro Sour Cream Salsa

2 cups grape tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup purple onion, diced

3/4 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup sour cream

2 tbsp mayonnaise

2 tbsp fresh lime juice

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

In a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream and salt. Add the tomatoes, onion and cilantro and stir to combine. (You can add more salt or lime juice to adjust the flavor to suit your taste.) Serve with tortilla chips. 

Peppermint chocolate ice cream cake. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Chocolate Peppermint Ice Cream Cake

2 gallons peppermint ice cream

19.9 oz chocolate layer cake, such as Pepperidge Farm

1 1/2 cups chocolate wafer cookies, such as Nabisco, crushed

1 cup heavy cream

9 oz dark chocolate

1/4 cup Magic Chocolate Shell topping

Crushed candy canes for garnish, if desired

Set the ice cream out at room temperature to soften for about 15 to 20 minutes. 

Line a deep bowl or baking dish with plastic wrap and add one gallon of the ice cream, spreading evenly. Spread the crushed cookies over the ice cream.

Cut the chocolate layer cake into chunks about 1 inch thick, then arrange over the crushed cookies, pressing down slightly. Place in the freezer to harden for a few minutes while preparing the next step. 

Add the cream to a saucepan and bring to a boil. Break the dark chocolate into 1 to 2 inch pieces and drop into the cream, then let the cream and chocolate sit for 5 to 7 minutes to allow the chocolate to melt. Use a whisk to combine, stirring until smooth. 

Remove the ice cream cake from the freezer and drizzle the melted chocolate/cream mixture over the cake, then return to the freezer for 10 minutes to allow the chocolate to set. Remove from the freezer and spread the remaining ice cream on top, then return to the freezer to allow cake to harden.

Remove from the freezer and turn the cake over onto a flat platter or plate to remove it from the bowl or baking dish. Remove the plastic wrap and smooth the surface with a spatula. Drizzle chocolate shell topping over the ice cream cake and sprinkle with crushed candy canes if desired before serving.


Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required