Spanish Christmas Menu
In Spanish, Christmas Eve is called La Noche Buena or The Good Night and in
Spain it is celebrated with a large family feast that is eaten late in the
evening and lasts a couple hours. Some families attend midnight mass before or
after, although many families are still finishing dinner around the table at
midnight! Christmas Eve is a time for celebrating in neighborhood bars and
taverns and around the table with family and friends, not a time for gift
exchanges or Santa Claus. That must wait until January 6th, which is Epiphany, a
We have put together a menu for Christmas Eve dinner, Spanish-style. It has
several courses and includes tapas or appetizers, as well as dessert and coffee
or after-dinner drinks. None of the recipes are terribly difficult to prepare
and you certainly do not have to use all of them.
Pick and choose what you like and add some Spanish flavor to your Christmas
Tapas or Appetizers
- Artichokes with clams Artichokes are
a popular vegetable in Spain, especially fresh from the market. They are
often served sauteed with ham or stuffed with white sauce and ham or meat,
etc. Sometimes served cold, they combine well with anchovies and piquillo
peppers, or with salmon and capers, or tuna fish with a good olive oil.
- Gambas a la Plancha Spaniards love to
eat grilled shrimp at the counter of a good tapas bar while sipping a glass
of chilled fino sherry or cold beer. The bars are often crowded, leaving
little or no space for proper eating, and I find it fascinating to watch the
locals skillfully manage to eat shrimp with one hand while holding a drink
in the other.
al ajillo Few tapas taste more Spanish than champiñones al ajillo (ajillo
mushrooms), dripping with olive oil, garlic and dry Spanish Sherry.
and Bacon Brochettes: The Spanish love bacon, which we cure and air-dry
in the same way as our famous jamon. This combination of prawns and bacon is
inspired and very popular, and can be found at most Tapas bar, as well as in
many banquets and receptions. It is an ideal treat for your guests when
having a party at home!
Smoked Fish and Fruit Pintxos: Smoked fish and fresh fruit make a
perfect match when combined in this recipe and served as an appetizer.
Smoked salmon is now ubiquitous in Spain, particularly in the cities. Less
evidence is traditional bacalao (salt cod), for which smoked mackerel is a
If you're looking for more ideas, don't forget to check our
Escudella means "bowl," and in Catalonia it is the name of a big
stew-soup, escudella i carn d'olla, usually made for Christmas. The
rustic taste of this stew is evident in the bones and feet, whose
gelatin give such an unctuousness to the dish, and in the rough
vegetables such as cabbage and turnips that were so common in the
mountains and hills. This recipe consists of a soup and the
meat used to prepare it, and both make a complete meal, with the
soup as the first course, and the boiled meat the main course.
Madrileño: As happens with Escudella (see above), this recipe
can make a whole meal by its own, you can eat the soup as a starter,
and then the meat, or save the meat for the following day!
Bread and garlic soups are eaten for supper by the poor all
over the country. This garlic soup is fortified with eggs and canned
tuna, which I suspect has come to replace the traditional salt cod.
- Cordero Asado - Roast Lamb:
Roast lamb will not disappoint you or your guests at Christmas dinner. It is
less work than roasting a turkey or duck and is much tastier. Havent you
had turkey already this holiday season? Why not try
Cordero Asado - Roast Lamb this
Merluza en Salsa Verde: This recipe is one of the front-runners of
traditional Basque cooking. Salsa verde appears in many dishes: with clams
alone, with monkfish or fresh cod, or with a combination of clams and hake,
as in this recipe.
- Marmitako: Marmita translates as 'pot' or
'casserole' in Basque, while the suffix ko is the genitive case, so that
marmitako literally means 'from the pot'. Of course, just about everything
in Basque cooking comes 'from the pot', but only this venerable dish goes by
Pollo Campurriano: A dish from farming country inland from
Santander. Well-powdered with paprika, the chicken is fried, then
cooked with ham and peppers, and served with rice.
Grouper a la Mallorquina: When a fish is prepared a la
mallorquina you know that it will be cooked with a variety of
vegetables piled on top. Ideally, the fish is a whole and weighs at
least five pounds. Grouper is a good choice, but so is red snapper,
striped bass, John Dory, or any other lean, white fleshed fish. The
crown of colorful vegetables not only looks pretty but also infuses
the fish with sensational flavor.
Caldereta de Langosta (Lobster Stew): An exceptional Lobster
stew, typical from the Balearic Islands, and celebrated all over
After a brief pause to catch your breath and clear the table, dinner
continues with dessert or postre. At Christmas time that means plates of
- Turrón, Spanish almond candy.
- Polvorones or almond cookies.
- Mantecados or Spanish crumble cakes.
Read this article to learn about the most common
Spanish Christmas Sweets.
No Spanish Christmas would be complete without a hot cup of espresso coffee
and/or a small glass of Spanish brandy like Cardenal Mendoza brand or anise
liqueur. Besides, you need something to wash all those cookies down!