Wylie Dufresne isn’t big on tradition. At WD-50, his Lower East Side restaurant–slash–culinary laboratory, he’s been known to fry mayonnaise and serve it in little cubes, offer “instant” yogurt noodles that diners make themselves at the table, and create powders out of peanut butter, olive oil, and butter that reconstitute in the mouth. “Neat stuff!” says Dufresne. His wildly experimental approach is ideally suited, in a twisted way, to reinventing that most traditional of meals—Christmas dinner.
Dufresne turned the Yuletide meal on its head from the start. Eggnog is a favorite holiday aperitif; here, he turns it into ice cream, then adds briny caviar for a salty contrast. Roasted lamb is familiar enough, but topped with candy canes? “Lamb and mint sauce are old friends,” says Dufresne, and candy canes have a fun Christmas association. For the gravy, “I wanted to turn mincemeat into a sauce rather than a pie filling,” Dufresne says. So he took the same mix of fresh fruits and spices and substituted beef stock for the beef. Smoked mashed potatoes are a novel-enough side; cider-spiked lentils tossed with nori are flat-out unique. The goat-cheese panna cotta with bacon-infused maple syrup and arugula bridges the gap between a cheese course and dessert, Dufresne says. “And,” he notes, “it tastes good.”
Menu for 8
Eggnog ice cream topped with caviar and pumpernickel croutons
Rack of lamb with candy-cane crust
Smoked mashed potatoes
Lentils in cider with nori
Goat-cheese panna cotta with bacon syrup and cashews
Wine pairings from WD-50’s wine director and Wylie Dufresne’s father, Dewey Dufresne.
With the eggnog ice cream
Hanahato “Kijoshu” Sake, nonvintage ($45)
Aged in wood for eight years, this amber-colored dessert sake has aromas of nuts, dried fruits, and spices that complement the salty-sweet appetizer.
With the lamb
2003 Kongsgaard Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($75)
Traditionalists would serve a red—maybe a Côte du Rhône—with lamb, but this Chardonnay, with its crisp minerality, juicy fruit, power, and elegance, is complex enough to handle this course.
With the panna cotta
Cava Avinyó Rosado, nonvintage, Spain ($25)
This Pinot Noir Cava, a sparkling rosé, has a ripe berry nose and an opulent taste that complements the savory goat cheese and sweet maple syrup.