Food

Easy Entertaining: A Festive Fireside Dinner for 2

TIMEDecember 12, 2021

Amid the hullabaloo that is the Christmas season, a lovely idea is to have a respite—in other words, a pause in the grand celebrations—by planning an intimate, elegant dinner for two at home.

I adore the idea of moveable feasts and have been known to set up the dinner table in very unexpected places, such as the driveway and entryway when the number of guests threatened to overflow the dining room; or in the bedroom with children and adults; or beside a bay window on an early spring day.

But my favorite place of all has always been in the library by the fireplace. As the mantel is decorated, the tree is dressed up, and the house is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, sitting by the fireplace, soaking it all in, creates a cozy, relaxed moment to delight in the season.

A practical square card table, a round side table, or even one of those folding tables will do the trick for this dinner. If you’re using an unsightly table, first cover it with a thick felt tablecloth. This felt layer will help round the edges, letting the main tablecloth drape better, and also helps keep the tablecloth in place and the plates and glasses secure. (When I haven’t been able to find the felt, I have used a pale-colored bed blanket.)

Once the table feels secure, I place plates, glasses, and accessories to decorate. To fit the season, pinecones and red berries play with white hellebores. Mixing silver and gold adds a bit of glimmer and glow, and white linens add an understated elegance.

Epoch Times Photo
On the table: Pinecones and red berries play with white hellebores, silver and gold add a bit of glimmer and glow, and white linens add an understated elegance. (Victoria de la Maza)

The menu is festive and elegant. Sautéed scallops in a creamy champagne sauce are both delicate and decadent, a luscious dish fit for this celebration. I serve them over fresh fettuccine with brown butter and fried sage—a super simple yet sophisticated combination, and one of those genius recipes that will help you create instant, flavorful meals and feel like a kitchen goddess.

Epoch Times Photo
The combination of nutty brown butter and fragrant sage makes a super simple yet sophisticated sauce, wonderful on fresh pasta and beyond. (Victoria de la Maza)

After the scallops, I am serving a small green salad made with tender bibb lettuce, crunchy toasted almonds, and creamy pine nuts in a light lemon and champagne vinegar vinaigrette, as a way to clean the palate. Add a scattering of red sun-dried tomato and voila! A red, white, and green Christmas salad!

Epoch Times Photo
A scattering of sun-dried tomatoes completes this salad’s festive color scheme. (Victoria de la Maza)

Dessert, then, can be as simple as chocolate ice cream with hot chocolate sauce.

The timing? Make your salad dressing ahead of time, and have the components ready. Cook the scallops first and make the champagne sauce, then cook the pasta and make the brown butter sauce. Dress and mix your pasta, bring the champagne sauce to a simmer, add the scallops to gently reheat, and serve. When it’s time to serve the salad, simply toss everything together.

Do get dressed up; it’s part of the fun. Then after the meal, lingering at the table is part of the plan, so take your time, sip the champagne, and tell yet another story. These are the moments that make the holiday season memorable. Merry Christmas!

RECIPE: Scallops in Champagne Sauce
RECIPE: Fettuccine With Brown Butter and Sage
RECIPE: Bibb Salad With Champagne Vinaigrette

Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter, "Diary of a Serial Hostess,” at VictoriaDeLaMaza.substack.com