My husband (and Sharon and Maggy’s dad) is an Episcopal minister, so Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are some of the busiest days of the year for him. Over the years we’ve come to realize that our family just can’t celebrate in the same way everyone else does. We don’t feel bad about it. We’ve just figured out other days to celebrate like Boxing Day and what my friend, Terrie, now calls “David’s Christmas.”
She and her husband, Art, and her daughters, Maggie and Shelby, have spent Christmas Eve with our family for nearly a decade. It all started when Maggy and Shelby were young girls in our church choir. Because the choir performs the last two services, their family, like ours, spent all Christmas Eve night in church.
One Christmas Eve church service is lovely, but two services in a row is dedication, and so to keep the evening fun that first year we all met at the rectory for a little party on the fly, returning between services for round two. After the last service, we all came back for dessert.
Terrie took note that while the rest of us were having fun on Christmas Eve, that David, orchestrating four services that day, really couldn’t relax. So a couple of weeks before Christmas that next year, Terrie invited us to their house. Her tree was decorated, our gifts were under it, and the table was beautifully set. It was David’s Christmas.
We’ve kept up the tradition for ten years now—Christmas Eve at the rectory, David’s Christmas at the Brown’s. Since then our girls have gone off to college, come back home, and left again. Some are married, others in different cities. A couple of years I couldn’t be there. It doesn’t matter. Whoever is there, the party goes on.
This year it was just Terrie and Art and David and me for David’s Christmas and Terrie’s meal was inspired. David loved her Fettuccine with Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts so much that when I asked what he wanted for dinner the next night, he asked for it again. I’ll be sharing another of her recipes later in the month.
I’m always open to new traditions, but as long as my husband is a minister, I know we’ll always celebrate David’s Christmas.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ pound Brussels sprouts, separated into leaves
- Ground black pepper
- 12 ounces portabella mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
- 1 medium shallot, finely diced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus extra if necessary.
- ½ cup chicken (or vegetable) broth
- 1 pound fresh fettuccini
- ½ cup Reggiano Parmigiano, plus extra for sprinkling
- Heat a large pot of generously salted water to boil over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts leaves. Without shaking the pan, cook until spotty brown on one side, a couple of minutes. Shaking pan, lightly season Brussels sprouts with salt and pepper and continue to cook until bright green and tender-crisp, a minute or so longer. Turn the Brussels sprouts onto a plate and set aside. (Can be prepared a couple of hours in advance.)
- Return skillet to burner and heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add mushrooms; sauté until liquid evaporates and mushrooms start to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, and thyme; continue to sauté until fragrant, a minute or so longer. Add butter, lemon juice, and broth; simmer until reduced to an emulsified sauce. (Can be made a couple hours in advance.)
- When ready to serve, add pasta to boiling water; return to boil and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Reserving a cup of cooking liquid, drain pasta and return to pot. Add mushroom mixture; toss to coat. Add Brussels sprouts and ½ cup of cheese; toss to coat again Adjust seasonings, including pasta water to moisten, extra lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Serve with an additional sprinkling of cheese.