Christmas with Ricardo and his family: it’s all in the planning

By Anne Desjardins, Le Soleil

December 4, 2009

(Quebec) Very trendy with its shades of red and turquoise, the 2009 Christmas edition of Ricardo magazine (in French) offers five foods for thought: an elegant cocktail in glasses with images of the Ice Hotel, a tapas aperitif with friends that renews the genre, carrots with a twist, the sweetness of cream recipes and the enjoyment of making gifts for the sweet tooth. But it's the 20-page feature titled "Noël entre tradition et modernité" ("A Christmas with traditional and modern touches") that proves to be the highlight of this magazine. "Unlike celebrations like birthdays, you can take the time to prepare at Christmas because you're on holiday and don't have bath time or homework to deal with," says Ricardo.

The magazine's editor-in-chief Brigitte Coutu and her team found the ideal theme in this period of economic recession when belt-tightening and family time is more important than ever. "In this edition, we took a look at the tastes of Christmas we love rediscovering year after year: turkey, ragout, pie. It is the classic and comforting side of the season," she says. "But, at the same time, we worked on the presentation to give these favourites an innovative twist." Mashed potatoes were shaped like delightful snowmen, a Christmas turkey was stuffed with ragout balls, turkey stuffing was served as a single crust pie, and preparing the turkey itself became a whole lot easier when it was cooked like a roast. "Even though the focus is on well-known and well-loved tastes, by turning these recipes upside down you are guaranteed to get the conversation rolling with your guests who will talk about this Christmas for a long time!", promises Ricardo, laughing.

Organization for more fun!

How do they celebrate Christmas in the Coutu-Larrivée household? "On December 24, we invite friends over and make a huge slide in the yard with a big fire and torches everywhere, Christmas carols," reveals 11-year old Béatrice, the couple's oldest daughter. Some favourite music is songs by crooner Harry Connick Jr. On the menu: hot chocolate with marshmallows, no-crust sandwiches and macaroni salad, homemade cookies.

Santa Claus always makes an appearance and delivers presents that will be handed out by grandparents the next morning. "We spend the 25th in our new pyjamas, unwrapping presents and then it's a family meal in the evening," sums up Ricardo. "Traditional Christmas foods are always on the menu. The table also gets some bright touches from dishes like beet carpaccio with goat cheese or a green salad with bright red pomegranate seeds. We light tree-shaped candles and decorate even the simplest of cakes with colours of the season. We act like our own, in-house catering service and make sure to organize and plan ahead of time so that the celebration goes off without a hitch."

Ricardo offers some suggestions

  • It all starts with a detailed list. Menu (with dishes prepared in advance), purchases (including alcohol), meat order at the butcher. Don't forget the trimmings (vegetables, salads, herbs, decorations). "It is the perfect time to encourage our local producers," says the popular host. He is also the honourary chair of La Tablée des chefs, an organization that encourages families in need and underprivileged youth to develop food and cooking autonomy with the involvement of Quebec chefs.
  • Plan a buffet. A buffet makes more sense than a gourmet meal if you are hosting more than eight people. Choose only one dish that requires work during the meal. "A potato dish like gratin dauphinois or ragout balls can be made in advance. Stuffed turkey roast is easier to prepare and serve than an entire turkey," says Ricardo.
  • It is important to manage the alcohol being served. Keep a handle on alcohol consumption by always offering your guests something to eat when you serve alcohol: three mouthfuls of a creatively arranged cold appetizer or raw vegetables with a store-bought dip will suffice. Don't forget glasses labelled with the names of your guests, ice and a corner bar where everyone can get their own refills.

For plenty of tips by Ricardo and Brigitte that are guaranteed to succeed, take a look at the article «20 astuces pour recevoir» or "20 tips for the host with the most" on

Learn more: Ricardo Magazine, Christmas 2009, Vol. 8, #1. (available in French only)