Jewish holidays demand traditional menus. Every time I see a fancy and non-traditional menu for a holiday in a gourmet magazine, I laugh. I don't know about their other readers families, but mine would institute a rebellion.
Tonight is the second night of Channukah. This meal was actually planned for the first night, but the weather outsmarted us. The menu is super traditional: Brisket in an onion gravy (okay, the wine in the gravy might be a little untraditional), potato latkes (the whole point of the meal, glazed carrots (known as Julia's carrots in our house because we use a recipe from Julia Child's first cookbook), a salad/relish of chopped cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, and dill, followed by a dessert. Normally that would be an apple or pear crisp, but it's someone's birthday tonight, so it will be a birthday cake instead.
In our house where multiple traditions merrily mingle, this will be followed by Christmas Dinner (Christmas Eve will be at my daughter's house and I hear rumors about what will be served, replacing the oyster stew tradition of years past, but it's still in flux.).
Here, I have a bit more leeway. The main course is pre-ordained. It must be beef and lots of it. I usually serve a Delmonico Roast (that's what it's called in Pennsylvania -- if you live elsewhere, it's a boneless rib roast), although I have sometimes served a filet mignon roast with a sauce, usually chasseur (a tomato and wine based sauce with mushrooms). I am allowed to pick the vegetables. This year that will be a big pan of roasted root vegetables -- fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsnips, quartered red onions, and whole cloves of garlic, all annointed with olive oil and salt and pepper with sprigs of rosemary and thyme. We'll also have asparagus. All this will be preceded by a salad, serving as an appetizer. I'm still deciding between Caesar and baby greens and herbs with goat cheese and fruit (probably Granny Smith apples and dried cranberries). Then the pear crisp we didn't have for Channukah for dessert.
I love tradition. It makes things easy. And I have lots of time to be creative.