UPDATED: 23:10 GMT, 7 December 2012

Jamie cooks with plums

When it comes to the big Christmas dinner I’m all about the traditional stuff, but I know some people like to mix it up each year.

Actually, even I like to get a bit funky with sides, finding shortcuts to make life easier, or alternative eats for when you’re not feeding a big army.

So if you’re looking for something a bit different, here are my twists on some of our Christmas staples.

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The high cost of ‘Modernist’ living

By , Published: December 4

Modernist cooking — call it “molecular gastronomy” only if you’re willing to suffer the wrath of its pricklier practitioners — is the great Borg of contemporary gastronomy, assimilating more and more chefs who see value in the cuisine’s vacuum sealers, water baths and dehydrators. Home cooks, by contrast, still happily cling to the classic (what’s the opposite of “modernist” — stubbornist?) techniques. Continue reading

These are seriously so yummy, and very pretty. The marriage of the flavors is really perfect, and it is so easy to make. Consider it for your next party. Also, just so you remember, we have a TON of appetizer foods in our recipe index if you’re in the market!

So while you’re assembling these I suggest you take a slice of pear and top it with some cheese and maybe even some of the port reduction. It will be a good snack for you while you wait for these to get out of the oven.

port wine
anise, cinamon, sugar, cream, black pepper,
ripe Asian pear
bleu cheese softened

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Croque madames, toasted French ham and cheese sandwiches topped with béchamel sauce and fried eggs, work just as well as dainty appetizers. Instead of frying each sandwich individually the traditional way, use the oven to toast the bread, heat up the ham and béchamel, and melt the cheese for all of the sandwiches at one time. Cut them into bite-sized portions and top with tiny fried quail eggs for an irresistible appetizer for cocktail parties. Continue reading