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Christmas Feasts : The last thing anyone embroiled in normal Christmas Day festivities needs is to be responsible for getting a huge holiday dinner on the table. That's why it's wise to choose a menu built around foods that require only a modicum of attention while they cook.

December 21, 1989|BETSY BALSLEY | TIMES FOOD EDITOR

If ever a celebration meal was served under duress, it is Christmas dinner. By the time it is ready to serve, the initial excitement of opening gifts and playing with new toys and games has wound down and hunger pangs are rife. But in all likelihood, the family cook has had to somehow get it all together with children, family and guests all happily underfoot or teeming in and out of the kitchen.

Whether one does all the cooking and planning or settles for a family potluck, there's a lot of work behind every successful Christmas dinner. But the fun of having family and friends together to celebrate the occasion is worth it.

With turkey so much in the limelight at Thanksgiving, and since it appears so often on our tables during the year these days, why not choose something very different for your Christmas menu this year? A rack of lamb, separated into double chops and served on a bed of barley mixed with pine nuts, raisins, an orange and mint leaves will make a welcome change.

Or, you might like to consider serving a juicy Christmas goose stuffed with a dried fruit and chestnut-flavored bread dressing. If you want a large goose, one big enough to serve a crowd, you may need to ask your butcher to order it for you. For the photo appearing with this story, however, we had little trouble finding a 15-pound goose. A couple of telephone calls quickly located the large goose in the frozen foods section at one of the major markets.

Another elegant centerpiece to consider for a wonderful celebration dinner is a boned and stuffed leg of lamb. Fresh spinach leaves, onion, garlic and oyster mushrooms are used in the delicate stuffing for this aromatic holiday roast.

A more traditional Christmas menu might feature a standing beef rib roast. Serve this one with old-fashioned Yorkshire pudding and a rich mushroom-laden brown gravy.

Still other suggestions for an easy holiday menu include a succulent ham served with Quick-Glazed Sweet Potatoes or possibly a lean and flavorful pork roast served with baked apples.

Whatever you choose to serve for your holiday meal, we hope it's a happy one for you and yours.

ROAST GOOSE WITH CHESTNUT-FIG STUFFING

1 (12 to 15-pound) goose

1 cut lemon

Salt, pepper

Chestnut-Fig Stuffing

Thaw bird if frozen. Remove neck and giblets from body cavity. Remove excess fat from body cavity and neck skin. Rub inside and out with cut lemon. Season with salt and pepper. With sharp-tined fork, pierce goose all over at 2-inch intervals. Wings may be removed at second joint or tucked akimbo against body.

Fill neck and body cavities loosely with stuffing. Fasten neck skin to back with skewer. Tie legs together, or tuck under skin at tail, if present (no need to truss.)

Place goose, breast side up, on rack in large roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer deep into thigh muscle. Roast uncovered at 400 degrees 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on size of bird. Do not baste.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and roast until thermometer in thigh registers 180 degrees, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. During roasting spoon or siphon off accumulated fat about every hour to prevent excessing browning of fat. To serve, place on platter and surround with medley of fresh or dried fruits, if desired. Makes 12 to 15 servings.

Chestnut-Fig Stuffing

3/4 cup butter or margarine

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound cooked chestnuts

1/2 pound dried figs, quartered

2 red unpeeled apples, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Few drops lemon juice

1 cup chopped celery

3 tablespoons apricot brandy

3/4 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 pound white bread, toasted and cubed (or use corn bread)

Sugar, optional

Melt butter in skillet. Saute onion until tender. Add chestnuts, figs, apples, bread, salt, pepper, lemon juice, celery, apricot brandy, apricots. Mix well. Gently mix in bread cubes. Add sugar to taste. Makes 12 servings.

ROAST LEG OF LAMB WITH MUSHROOM MOUSSE STUFFING

1 (3 1/-2 to 4-pound) rolled boneless leg of lamb

2 teaspoons minced garlic

Salt, pepper

Olive oil

1/2 bunch spinach, cleaned and trimmed

4 ounces chicken breast

1 egg

2 tablespoons whipping cream

1 tablespoon butter

Garlic

1/2 cup chopped onion

4 ounces oyster mushrooms, chopped

1/3 cup chopped fennel

Olive oil

Unroll lamb and rub leg of lamb all over with 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste and olive oil.

Blanch or steam spinach leaves, drain and squeeze well. Spread spinach leaves on inner side of lamb. Grind chicken breast, egg and cream in food processor. Set aside.

Melt butter in skillet. Saute remaining 1 teaspoon minced garlic and onion in butter. Add and saute chopped mushrooms. Add to chicken mousse and season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread chicken-mushroom stuffing over spinach on meat. Roll back meat and tie securely in several places with kitchen twine. Cover any areas where stuffing is visible with foil to hold it inside.

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