I have special menus for the dinners that I like to cook during the holiday season. This post is one of them and in the weeks to come, I will share some of my other holiday menus.

Beef Tenderloin

What size tenderloin should you cook? I always figure a half-pound of boneless meat per person. If any of it is leftover, that is just fine but like a good Italian, we have to make sure we have enough food for everyone. For the recipe below, I used a 3 lb. beef tenderloin. I usually buy them when they are on sale and save them for special occasions. It is my favorite cut of beef. Recently, I bought 2 and cut each in half and froze each half separately. The cooking directions are the same no matter what size tenderloin you cook because the width of the meat determines the cooking time. Since a tenderloin is very lean, it benefits from having a sauce served with it.

Ingredients

6 servings

Beef

3 lb beef tenderloin (size will depend on how many people you are serving)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse black pepper
Olive oil

Wine Sauce

6 tablespoons butter
½ cup shallots (3 medium)
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup beef broth

Mushroom Caps

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spray a metal roasting pan with olive oil cooking spray.

I use a metal pan for this dish so that it can go on the top of the stove to make a sauce after the beef is finished roasting.

Tie the beef with kitchen string and place the roasting pan.

Coat with olive oil. Sprinkle coarse salt and cracked pepper evenly all over the meat. Add the mushroom caps to the pan.

Roast the beef for 30 minutes for medium-rare (25 minutes for rare and 35 minutes for medium).

Remove the pan from the oven, place the meat and mushrooms on a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Allow the beef to rest for 10 minutes.

To make the wine sauce:

Place the empty pan on the stove top over low heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the pan and add the shallots; cook about 1 minute, stirring frequently.

Add wine; cook about 4 minutes until reduced slightly. Stir in the  broth. Heat to boiling.

Reduce heat to medium-low; cook about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup.

Whisk in remaining 4 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, with wire. Pour into a serving bowl.

Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.

Potato Gnocchi

6 servings

Ingredients

2 medium baking potatoes, cooked and peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 cups 00 (Italian) flour or all-purpose flour

Butter Sage Sauce

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 large fresh sage leaves, cut into slivers
Salt
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Dice the cooked potatoes and place them in an electric mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment mash the potatoes. Add the salt and pepper.

Mix the egg and ricotta together in a small mixing bowl. Add to the potatoes in the mixer along with the flour.

Mix until thoroughly combined and the dough comes together.

Place the dough on a floured board and knead a few minutes until smooth. Divide in half. This recipe usually comes out to weigh about 2 lbs.

Wrap one half in plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is time to cut the gnocchi.

Wrap the other half in plastic and place in a freezer zip-lock bag. Freeze the dough for another time. This dough freezes well.

Defrost overnight in the refrigerator when you want to use it.

To shape the gnocchi:

Divide the dough into golf ball sized pieces, and roll each piece into a log about the thickness of your thumb on a lightly floured surface.

Cut into 1 inch pieces.

Take a fork and place it against one side of each gnocchi to make a fork design on each and continue with the remaining pieces.

Place the prepared gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Place the butter in a large microwave glass mixing bowl and heat in the microwave until melted.

To cook:

Carefully drop the gnocchi into salted boiling water and remove them with a wide spider or a slotted spoon immediately as they float to the surface.

Allow the water to drain back into the pot. Place the gnocchi in the bowl with the melted butter. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Add the cheese and sage. Mix carefully and serve.

Creamed Spinach

6  servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
2 ounces (4 tablespoons) cream cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper

Directions

In a saucepan, melt the butter and saute the garlic and onion for a few minutes, until the onion softens.

Add the cream cheese, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. Cook over medium heat until the cream cheese is melted.

Whisk until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Squeeze all the water from the defrosted spinach and add to the cheese sauce.

Simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Serve immediately.

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