All About Christmas Eve Traditions & Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce

My family has always enjoyed a bit of pandemonium on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think we thrive on it. From one generation to the next, the one constant has been overexcited children. For little kids, the day always seems to move at glacial speed. I generally started the day by jumping up and down and dancing in front of the tree. It didn’t take long for Mom to toss me into my snowsuit and outside. Her message was clear – time to build a snowman or take my sled over to the neighborhood hill. That was fine; I had lots of company. Most of kids on the street had received similar instructions.

My grandparents would arrive in the late afternoon and whisk us into the back of their car for church. My sister Brenda and I never missed the opportunity to ride in Grandpa’s Lincoln with the fancy electric windows. Those rides might have been Grandpa’s greatest gift to his only daughter. With my baby brother snoozing in his car seat and Dad behind the wheel, Mom could sink into the passenger seat of the family station wagon, close her eyes and enjoy a few blessed minutes of peace.

After church, excitement rose to a fevered pitch. Nana and Grandpa would stay for a quick visit but usually begged off dinner and headed home. They knew what was coming. For some unknown reason, or at least unknown to me, about half way through dinner, Santa stopped by. It was a neighborhood tradition. Each child received a small present and Santa’s promise that he’d be back with more if we cleaned our plates and went right to bed. The visit did nothing to slow down the dancing and prancing of the Nye sisters. After swallowing one or two more mouthfuls, Mom gave up and urged us into our jammies. Dad read the Night Before Christmas and we were off to bed.

My family is now in one of those in-between periods. In fact, we’ve been here for a while. There are no small children or babies to dance and prance with unbridled excitement and anticipation. That said, even without small children around, we do find ways to keep things hopping. Last year, it was a trip to the emergency room. Dad, I hope you’re listening when I suggest we skip the ER this year.

(By the way – the white haired gent is my dad … he had no interest in helping but couldn’t stay away from the fun.)

I think it was three maybe four years ago that we began a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition. My twenty-something nieces come over to help me cook. I’m guessing Kaela’s move from the dorm to an apartment might have been the initial instigator. Her sister Emily did not want to be left out and joined the party. It is wonderful fun and, with two sous-chefs, the dinner is extra special. 

I love the idea of bonding in the kitchen – of passing recipes and stories from one generation to the next. The girls arrive around four, still a bit jet-lagged but filled with enthusiasm. We agree tasks and claim work spaces. There is a lot of laughter and more than a few questions. Music fills the air and, in keeping with the occasion, there is a little dancing and prancing plus a glass of wine or two.

When we started, Kaela described our time together as a cooking lesson. However, in just a few short years, both nieces have become quite accomplished. More than a lesson, it is a special time for us to share news and retell old stories.

Until the rest of the family arrives. Then we all we go into host mode. Kaela and Emily pass fresh-from-the-oven hors d’oeuvres and pour glasses of wine while I take care of any last minute dinner details. There is more laughter and lots of chatter. While there is no rush, dinner is served with plenty of time for everyone to get home and into bed before Santa arrives.

Have a wonderful holiday and bon appétit!

After dinner – Gramps and the Girlies

Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
Although I fall far short of seven fishes, I like seafood on Christmas Eve. I usually start with gravlax or smoked salmon and then serve shrimp for the main course. It’s time to switch it up! Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 (about 3 pounds) salmon fillet
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Tarragon Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Melt the butter and whisk in the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and brush with lemon-butter. Arrange the remaining lemon wedges around the salmon, season everything with salt and pepper and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover for 10 minutes. The fish will continue cooking while it rests.

Return the lemons to the oven and continue roasting while the salmon rests.

Serve the salmon with roasted lemon wedges and Tarragon Sauce.

Tarragon Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the tarragon, shallot, garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

Print-friendly version of this recipe.

One Year Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
Two Years Ago – Sticky Buns
Three Years Ago –
Cranberry Coffee Cake

Four Years Ago –
Fish Stew Provençal

Five Years Ago –
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago –
Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta

Eight Years Ago –
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Nine Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Ten Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you serving this Christmas Eve? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

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