10 Festive Dishes for the Merriest of Christmas Eve Dinners

Christmas Eve dinner can vary depending on how you celebrate, but the meal should always satisfy and delight. Whether you abstain from meat and dairy, feast on seven fishes or roast pork to get in the Christmas spirit, New York Times Cooking has plenty of recipes to help you usher in the holiday.

1. Vegetarian Red Borscht

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

On the coldest of Christmas Eves, nothing warms the body and soul quite like a bowl of borscht. A vegetarian version, like this one from David Tanis, is ideal for those who commemorate the holiday with a meatless meal. If your celebrations allow for dairy, be sure to scatter a few platters of cheese-and-potato pierogi, or varenyky, across the table, and dollop everything in sight with sour cream.

Recipes: Vegetarian Red Borscht | Pierogi Ruskie (Potato and Cheese Pierogi)

2. Feast of the Seven Fishes Pie

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

This seafood pie from Melissa Clark, inspired by an Italian American feast enjoyed on Christmas Eve, ensures that all seven fishes for whatever feast you have planned are covered by a single recipe. Anchovies! Shrimp! Scallops! Salmon roe! Clam juice! Two kinds of mild white fish! You can, of course, adjust the quantity and combination of seafood for an equally showstopping dish, but the opulence of this recipe as written is part of the fun.

Recipe: Feast of the Seven Fishes Pie

3. Root Beer Ham

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Sophie Leng.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Coca-Cola pork; now meet its sassafras-spiked cousin, root beer ham. Eric Kim’s recipe for festive, glazed bone-in half ham calls for little more than a couple of cans of soda, some aromatics and a touch of acidity from the Dijon mustard and rice vinegar. The braising liquid doubles as the finishing lacquer, and any leftover sauce should be served in a gravy boat on the side.

Recipe: Root Beer Ham

4. Vegetarian Mushroom Wellington

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

A vegetarian take on classic beef Wellington, this recipe from Alexa Weibel is a feat in its own right. Your efforts can be spread over a couple of days: Sauté the mushrooms and onions in advance, but save assembly and baking for the day of. Regardless of how you break up the work, it’s a meal deserving of your time and attention. Take it from one New York Times Cooking reader: “This was a spectacular dish both in taste and presentation.”

Recipe: Vegetarian Mushroom Wellington

5. Roasted Halibut With Mussel Butter Sauce

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Thirty-five minutes to cook a luxurious dinner party centerpiece for six? It’s possible with this recipe for kelp-wrapped roasted fish from Kay Chun. Meaty halibut is served alongside briny mussels, which bring the flavors of the sea to a saffron-tinged butter sauce as they steam. The shallot-flecked sauce adds a vibrant marigold finish to the dish, but for even more color, dot the plated fish with salty salmon roe.

Recipe: Roasted Halibut With Mussel Butter Sauce

6. Crisp Roast Duck

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Imagine walking out to the holiday table with a platter of perfectly cooked and carved duck. All of your guests look at you, incredulously: You made duck?! Yeah, you did, with the help of this recipe from Melissa Clark. The time required for dry brining and roasting adds up to the better part of a day, but the preparation itself is minimal, and the reaction the final product elicits makes it worth the investment. A side of porchetta-spiced roasted potatoes or simply roasted vegetables would complement this dish nicely.

Recipe: Crisp Roast Duck

7. Pernil

Credit…Christopher Simpson for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews. Prop Stylist: Paige Hicks.

Few things say “It’s a party!” quite like a juicy pork shoulder with crackling, crispy skin. Served for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, birthdays and other special occasions, Von Diaz’s pernil is a great way to serve a crowd. Budget enough time for the citrusy adobo to permeate the pork — preferably overnight — then roast it for a few hours before fighting off your cousins for the best piece of chicharrón.

Recipe: Pernil

8. Moqueca (Brazilian Seafood Stew)

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Chris Lanier.

This warming, piquant stew from Yewande Komolafe delivers feast-of-seven-fishes vibes with just two sea creatures: prawns and cod. The Christmas holiday is the perfect occasion to splurge on the freshest seafood you can find, which will ensure your moqueca is rich, hearty and tastes of the sea. A creamy broth, achieved not with dairy but with full-fat coconut milk, cradles the gently simmered seafood.

Recipe: Moqueca (Brazilian Seafood Stew)

9. Slow-Roasted Turkey With Apple Gravy

Credit…Christopher Testani for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne. Prop Stylist: Christina Lane.

A Thanksgiving turkey can just as easily become a Christmas Eve turkey. The flavors that accompany Padma Lakshmi’s slow-roasted bird — fresh bay leaves, ginger, apples and citrus — suit both holidays incredibly well. For a smaller celebration, this recipe scales down wonderfully for a chicken.

Recipe: Slow-Roasted Turkey With Apple Gravy

10. Endive Tarte Tatin With Burrata

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Roscoe Betsill. Prop Stylist: Vanessa Vazquez.

For a meatless main that looks like it’s a lot more work than it is, Kay Chun’s savory spin on an apple tart is a stellar option. Crisp and bitter endives soften and sweeten when they’re cooked with a bit of butter, lemon and just a touch of sugar, making for an unexpected but delicious topping on flaky store-bought puff pastry. A dollop of cool and creamy burrata with each slice balances it all out.

Recipe: Endive Tarte Tatin With Burrata

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