The Night Before Christmas at Home With the Redzepis
It’s a busy season for Nadine Levy Redzepi, author of the new cookbook 'Downtime,' and her chef husband, René, who is about to reopen his celebrated Copenhagen restaurant, Noma. But on December 24, the couple’s focus is on gathering friends and loved ones to share a soul-warming feast and lots of rollicking yuletide cheer.
“My favorite thing about Christmas has always been the smells that go through the house—I like to have something in the oven all day,” says Nadine Levy Redzepi, whose husband, René, is the chef of Noma, the much-lauded temple of New Nordic cuisine that shuttered temporarily in February and is gearing up for a blockbuster reopening early next year. At home, more often than not it’s Nadine who cooks for the family, which includes three daughters (ages nine, six and three) and Nadine’s mother. Especially on weekends and holidays, meals at the Redzepis’ are about spending time together and with the friends they routinely entertain from places near and far. It’s cherished downtime from the stresses of the restaurant, and they make the most of it.
So it’s no coincidence that Downtime is the name Nadine has given her first cookbook, a collection of favorite home recipes that, as she puts it, are about “blurring the distinction between family food and special occasions.” And few occasions at the Redzepis’ can compare with their annual Christmas Eve celebration, when they host upwards of 20 guests at their home in the city’s Christianshavn neighborhood. A 17th-century former blacksmith’s workshop, the space features lots of rustic timber beams and a forge that’s been repurposed as a kitchen fireplace—perfect for roasting an apple-and-prune–stuffed goose while truffled porchetta cooks in the oven.
By the time guests start arriving mid-afternoon, Champagne has been opened and tables are arrayed with snacks. “We always have lots of smoked fish, cured fish eggs and fresh cheese that has been smoked in hay,” says Nadine, who likes to scoop salmon tartare onto her homemade potato chips (“my biggest weakness,” she admits). The kids get to open a few gifts, and then everyone sits down to enjoy the feast. Accompanying the traditional goose and tradition-twisting porchetta are classic savory-sweet side dishes like caramel potatoes and braised red cabbage—which René spends days making—plus plentiful bottles of red Burgundy and Vin Jaune.
Afterward, the Danish custom of singing and dancing around the tree is usually supplanted by a lively gift-exchanging game involving lots of animated dice rolling that lets everyone work up an appetite for the rice pudding dessert. Not to be forgotten are the walnut crescent cookies— irresistibly crunchy and generously dusted with powdered sugar—a recipe Nadine picked up from an old friend of her mother’s and has been enjoying since childhood. “For me,” she says, sounding more than a little like a kid, “these cookies are Christmas.”
Try the recipes: