Not that tailgate enthusiasts need another reason to fire up the grill, but this holiday season brings an added big one: the safest way to feed and entertain guests, even close family members, during peak COVID season is to cook outdoors. And we have the Christmas recipes you need to get started.
Thanksgiving was like a trial run, seeing how even in small groups, spacing out and spending a majority of gatherings outside is in everybody’s best interests. So why not dust off all the tailgating gear, knock that cover off the grill, and make Christmas dinner 2020 your most memorable homegate of the year?
Let Inside Tailgating plan the meal for you, or at least get you brainstorming for how to pull it together. Keeping it simple but delicious will allow you the time and energy to focus on what the holidays – and tailgating – are all about, enjoying time with family and friends.
Our meal plan includes an appetizer, main course and dessert that combine the best of holiday traditions with the practicality and ease of tailgate entertaining: cheese fondue for the appetizer, beef tenderloin on the grill for the main course, and pecan tassies for dessert.
And for ideas on how to keep your gathering warm and cozy despite the elements, check out our Tailgating Party Tips: 9 Cold-weather Essential.
Holiday Homegating Christmas Recipes: Your Three-Course Meal
Appetizer: Cheese Fondue
Cheese fondue is a tradition many families enjoy over the holidays, and it’s served hot. A true win-win Christmas recipe for a winter outdoor gathering! While it’s not the best time to be sharing a fondue pot, a gloves-wearing host or hostess could do the dipping and serve various cheesy items on individual plates, or you could divide the fondue into individual bowls. (Prepworks by Progressive makes ceramic 5 oz fondue sets with bowls, stands and candles, available at Target.)
We found a great and simple recipe for Cheese Fondue at www.aprettylifeinthesuburbs.com.
- clove garlic cut in half lengthwise
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup Gruyere and/or Emmentaler cheese. Shredded should make about 5 cups.
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 1 lemon
Dippers for Cheese Fondue
- Chunks of fresh bread
- Fresh Veggies, like grape tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms
- Charcuterie meat
- You can make this fondue one of two ways. One is to make it right in a fondue pot, or the other is to make the cheese in a saucepan and transfer it to a pot with a candle to keep the cheese melted.
- To whichever method/pot you decide to use, rub the inside of the empty dish thoroughly with the cut garlic halves, then thrown them out.
- Pour wine into the fondue pot or saucepan and place over medium-low heat.
- Add the cheese by the handful when the wine starts to bubble, a stirring until melted and combined.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with lemon juice until the cornstarch dissolves, then stir the mixture into the cheese mixture.
- Continue whisking the cheese mixture until it is smooth and bubbling slightly.
- Serve immediately with all your favourite fondue dippers!
Main Course: Grilled Beef Tenderloin
Hands down my favorite Christmas meal is beef tenderloin, and my late stepmother Betty made the absolute best I’ve ever had. I’ll honor her memory by not attempting it in my oven this year – that got me a smoky kitchen the last time I did – but even I’m not afraid of this grilled version from Weekend at the Cottage. Grilling has got to be the best way to cook beef tenderloin anyway, so in my mind it’s a must for a Christmas homegate.
The grill searing takes about 15 minutes. The rub isn’t all the intimidating and he’s posted a video to show step-by-step instructions. Check it out:
Grilled Beef Tenderloin
- Small mixing bowl
- Sharp knife
- 1 2 lb. beef tenderloin, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Serve on the side:
- chimichurri sauce
- Remove the tenderloin from the refrigerator, place it onto a plate or platter, cover and bring to room temperature for 45-60 minutes.
- Place all of the ingredients for the rub into a small bowl, stir them together and set aside.
- Remove all moisture from the utside of the tenderloin with a paper towel. Rub the outside of the tenderloin with the spice mix, using it all to cover the entire surface, including the two ends of the cut.
- Preheat your grill to 500°F.
- Place the tenderloin onto the grill, close the lid and cook undisturbed for 5 minutes. Turn the tenderloin over and cook with the lid down for an additional 5 minutes. Turn the tenderloin to one of the smaller sides and cook for 3 minutes with the lid up. Cook the final smaller side in the same manner for 3 minutes.
- Transfer the tenderloin to the stainless platter and test the temperature in the center of the cut. If the thermometer reads 40°C / 110°F the tenderloin is cooked perfectly, medium-rare. If you prefer a more well-done tenderloin, place it back onto the grill and retest it every minute until desired doneness is achieved.
- Remove the tenderloin from the grill and cover it loosely with foil. Return it to your work surface and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- To serve, slice the tenderloin into ½-inch portions using a meat fork and sharp knife. Transfer to service platter or directly onto dinner plates and serve immediately with suggested side dishes, and chimichurri and salt at table.
Dessert: Pecan Tassies
A finger food for dessert is a bonus in this setting, but who doesn’t want a delicious slice of pecan pie with a big Christmas meal? Pecan Tassies are the perfect compromise. Southern Living chose them among its 35 Vintage Christmas Recipes and calls them a cross between shortbread cookies and a bite of pecan pie.
- 1/2 cup pecans
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp bourbon, optional
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
- Place 1/2 cup pecans in a food processor and blitz until finely ground. Set aside.
- In a bowl, beat together butter and cream cheese until fully incorporated.
- Add flour and ground pecans and mix until a shaggy dough forms.
- Use your hands to press the dough into a solid mass. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Scoop 1 tablespoon of dough into each muffin cup. Use your fingers to evenly press dough into the bottom and up the sides of each muffin cup. Transfer muffin tin to freezer while making the Filling.
- Whisk together egg, brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and bourbon until sugar is dissolved and mixture is consistent.
- Remove muffin tray from freezer. Place 1 teaspoon of chopped pecans in each of the muffin cups.
- Pour the filling over the pecans until it almost completely fills the pastry cups.
- Bake until the filling has puffed and the pastry has lightly browned, 20 to 24 minutes. Allow to cool before removing pecan tassies from muffin pan with an offset spatula.
Sports on TV: What to watch at your holiday homegate
So you’ve got the menu planned out now, but are you still wondering how to make guests feel comfortable with the idea of homegating for the holidays? Turn the game on. What tailgate is complete without an array of games to watch, especially football, as you catch up with friends and family – or try to ignore that crazy relative!
Christmas Day is normally exclusively NBA territory. And even with COVID, the NBA makes it back just in the nick of time. The NBA opens its season on Dec. 22 and will feature five games on Christmas Day, including Stephen Curry and the Warriors, LeBron James and the Lakers and Zion Williamson and the Pelicans.
NBA Christmas Day schedule:
- New Orleans Pelicans at Miami Heat, 12 p.m. ET
- Golden State Warriors at Milwaukee Bucks, 2:30 p.m. ET
- Brooklyn Nets at Boston Celtics, 5 p.m. ET
- Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Lakers, 8 p.m. ET
- Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets, 10:30 p.m. ET
As a bonus, the NFL is playing a game Christmas Day too, something that normally happens if Christmas falls on a Saturday, Sunday or Monday. But when the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints, it’ll be only the second time in history the NFL has featured a game when Christmas fell on a Friday. So 2020 was good for something!
Planning your family get-together for earlier in the week? The College Bowl season, which kicks off Dec. 21, has got you covered. Granted, a lot of the matchups are still in flux because of COVID, but hey, when the pandemic started we weren’t even sure we’d get football this year. We’ll take TBA vs. TBA! For the latest info, go directly to the source, or check out the full bowl schedule here.