Grrlscientist’s Christmas holiday feast

2 January 2013 by GrrlScientist, posted in Food/cooking & baking

SUMMARY: a small photoessay of the holiday feast I prepared as a gift for the one I love. He chose the main dish (goose) and I spent weeks studying recipes and working out what else to include in this meal. Even though nearly all of the recipes were new to me, we both were delighted with the results and I found a few favourites that I plan to prepare throughout the following year. This meal was so successful that I also may use this entire menu for next year's feast! (It will allow me to develop some expertise, especially when preparing a meat-based meal -- difficult since I am vegan.)


GrrlScientist's 2012 Holiday/Christmas feast. Yes, I did finish preparing it all without spilling any blood.
Image: GrrlScientist, 25 December 2012.

Most of you know I am vegan, although as a cheese fiend (with goat and sheep cheeses being particularly irresistible to me), I allow myself brief forays into the world of vegetarianism for one or perhaps two meals per week. Fortunately, eating vegan is healthy as well as more affordable than a meat-based diet, so my many years of poverty have served me well by reinforcing my perception that meat is beyond my means. However, my fortunes have changed in recent years, providing me the opportunity to make deliberate decisions about how I wish to live my life.

I have chosen to retain my dietary habits for my own ethical reasons. But there is one day per year when I prepare a meat dish, and that day is Christmas day. I do this because the person whom I share my life with eats meat every day. Despite the fact that he enjoys eating meat, he's a good sport and eats whatever I cook -- well, unless I spice it up with a handful of jalapenos. For my part, I've introduced him to the wonders of avocados, refried beans, corn bread and dozens of different mushroom species, whilst he often indulges his fondness for baking homemade bread. Needless to say, he's been such a good sport throughout all my culinary experiments that I honour that by preparing whatever sort of feast he wants as my Christmas gift to him. It seems only fitting that I also partake in that meal.

This year, he wanted goose (well, and Brussels sprouts). I spent weeks studying recipes for roast goose and found one that looked especially appealing; roast goose breast fillets stuffed with corn bread and fresh sage. I planned the remainder of our feast around that main dish, and prepared everything from fresh ingredients except the dried bread used in the dressing. I chose dishes that sounded like they would fit well with the main dish, and that also included some of my favourite foods; mushrooms, garlic and shallots and of course, fresh herbs and spices. He also wanted Brussels sprouts (a vegetable I've never eaten before), so I found a recipe that looked appealing. The final holidays (Christmas) feast menu was as follows (and refer to the photograph at top);

fresh green salad: wild rocket with cherry tomatos, avocado and pine nuts (upper left)
fruit relish: cranberry orange relish with Cointreau (orange liqueur) (upper center)
dressing/stuffing: wild rice and mushroom dressing (plate, right)
bread: corn bread (not shown)
meat: roast goose breast fillets with fresh sage and cornbread stuffing (plate, upper)
hot vegetable dish: Brussels sprouts with shallots and wild mushrooms (plate, left)
snack: roasted sweet chestnuts (not shown)
snack: fried goose skin (not shown)
goose bones: goose broth (the next day so obviously, not shown)

Surprisingly, the entire meal was incredibly delicious (and I have never been a fan of my own cooking.) My personal favourite is the wild rice and mushroom dressing recipe, which I plan to prepare throughout the year as a vegetarian casserole-style dish (substituting vegetable stock for goose stock) and of course, corn bread.

Below the jump, I include the recipes I used for this year's Christmas feast, so those of you who are interested can adopt any of them for your own uses. If you do prepare any of these recipes, I'd be most pleased if you would let me know how it turned out, what you changed (or plan to change in the future) and whether you plan to prepare that dish again.

The recipes appear in the order in which I prepared them, starting on Christmas eve (although I did overlap preparation of various ingredients on Christmas day):

Cranberry orange relish with Cointreau

350 grams (12 oz) fresh cranberries, washed and dried
1 large bio (organic) seedless orange (or 2-3 mandarin/satusma) with peel, washed, dried and then chopped
250mL (1 cup) white sugar
65mL (1/4 cup) Cointreau (or alternatively, your favourite orange liqueur)

preparation:

  • combine cranberries, orange chunks and sugar in a blender, food processor or grinder. Blend until evenly chopped into smaller (but not microscopic) pieces.
  • stir in orange liqueur and cover tightly. Store in refrigerator up to eight hours to allow flavours to express themselves.
  • garnish with a thin slice of orange peel
  • serve chilled, as a side dish, or over vanilla ice cream
  • Corn bread

    350 mL (1 1/2 cup) cornmeal
    600 mL (2 1/2 cups) milk
    475 mL (2 cups) flour
    15 mL (1T) baking powder
    5 mL (1t) salt
    160 mL (2/3 cup) white sugar
    2 eggs
    120 mL (1/2 cup) corn oil (or other vegetable oil)

    preparation:

  • preheat oven to 200oC (400oF).
  • combine corn meal and milk in a small bowl and let it stand for at least five minutes.
  • grease 3L (9x13") baking pan.
  • in a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add cornmeal/milk mixture, eggs and oil and stir until smooth.
  • pour into greased pan and bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
  • serve hot, making sure to reserve 250 mL (1 cup) (cubed and dried) for the goose breasts (recipe below).
  • NOTES:

  • One idea that I have is to either substitute orange blossom honey for the sugar, or to add a small amount [80 mL (1/3 cup)] in addition to the sugar, mostly because the flavour is wonderful.
  • Wild rice and mushroom dressing

    250 mL (1 cup) wild rice
    75 mL (1/3 cup) butter (vegans: substitute olive oil)
    1L (4 cups) white bread, cubed and dried or toasted
    250 mL (1 cup) Shiitake mushroom caps, washed and dried, then sliced into strips
    250 mL (1 cup) oyster mushrooms, washed and dried, then sliced into strips
    250 mL (1 cup) chanterelle mushrooms, washed and dried, then sliced into strips (note: I substitution cremini mushrooms since chanterelles, one of my favourites, were nowhere to be found this year)
    125 mL (1/2 cup) fresh red Bell pepper, sliced into cubes
    30 mL (2T) fresh sage, chopped with herbs scissors
    2 mL (1/2t) salt
    2 mL (1/2t) freshly ground black pepper corns
    350 mL (1 1/2 cup) poultry stock (I used goose stock)
    2 eggs, beaten

    preparation:

  • in large pot, bring water to a boil and cook rice (covered) until tender and split, about 40 minutes. Drain and place into a large bowl and add dried bread cubes.
  • meanwhile, place the butter into a wok or skillet, over medium-high heat. Saute mushroom strips until their texture changes and they start to brown at the edges, about 7 minutes.
  • add red Bell pepper cubes, mushroom saute and spices to rice and bread mixture and mix well.
  • stir in stock and eggs and mix, then spread in a greased 3L (9x13") baking pan and cover with foil. [Optional: can refrigerate for up to eight hours before baking. in this case, add 10 minutes baking time.]
  • bake 190oC (375oF) 45 minutes. If you wish to have a crunchy top, remove foil for the last ten minutes of baking.
  • serve hot.
  • NOTES:

  • I plan to make this recipe many more times this year. In fact, I've already chosen this as the main dish of my birthday dinner. The next time I make it, I plan to use the entire red Bell pepper, as well as using a yellow and a green Bell pepper (for colour as well as to take advantage of their sweet flavours.)
  • I also plan to prepare this as a vegetarian dish by using vegetable stock instead of goose stock.
  • Another idea: add a carrot, chopped into matchsticks, and two or three celery stalks, chopped small.

  • Wild rice and mushroom dressing, before baking.
    Image: GrrlScientist, 25 December 2012.

    Wild goose breasts with sage cornbread stuffing

    4 average-sized skinless goose breast fillets
    45 mL (3T) olive oil
    salt and freshly ground black pepper corns
    1/2 large red Bell pepper, finely diced
    60 mL (1/4 cup) onion, finely diced
    4 garlic cloves, finely diced
    30 grams (2T) fresh sage leaves, minced with herbs scissors (or substitute 10 mL (2t) dried sage)
    250 mL (1 cup) cornbread, cubed and dried or toasted
    120 mL (1/2 cup) goose broth
    80 mL (1/3 cup) shredded Parmesan cheese
    dash tabasco

    preparation:

  • place goose fillets on a firm surface and slice through the meat lengthwise using a sharp knife. Do not slice all the way through, but instead, leave a "hinge" at the opposite end so the fillet opens up like a book cover (with the hinge in the middle).
  • cover the meat with a sheet of plastic and lightly pound it until the meat is roughly 1 cm thick throughout (roughly the thickness of a piece of corrugated cardboard).
  • rub fillets with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper.
  • heat olive oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add Bell pepper, onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes.
  • combine saute with remaining stuffing ingredients. Toss and allow to cool.
  • place opened fillets on a flat surface and measure out equal amounts of stuffing in the middle of each. Hold corners and roll meat fillet around stuffing like a burrito.
  • place stuffed fillets, seam side down, about 1 cm apart in a lightly greased cooking pan or dish.
  • roast in preheated oven 200oC (400oF) until they are brown on top, about 10 minutes (for medium rare).
  • remove from oven when cooked to your liking and rest 5 minutes before serving.
  • estimate: one-half to one goose breast per average-sized adult.
  • NOTES:

  • be sure that the corn bread is very dry. I recommend toasting it to make sure it is dry enough, or the stuffing will be too wet. of course, this doesn't harm the flavour, but it makes it difficult to keep the stuffing inside the goose breast-burrito!
  • It's not a problem if you "accidentally" use more fresh sage than the recipe calls for (as I did).
  • Do not be shy with the salt and pepper; it's really difficult to over-season goose breast.
  • I've read that cooking goose breast until it's darker than medium-rare destroys the flavour and makes the meat tough. Although medium-rare is lovely according to my palate, not everyone will agree with this assessment (not naming any names).

  • Brussels sprouts with shallots and wild mushrooms during preparation.
    Image: GrrlScientist, 25 December 2012.

    Brussels sprouts with shallots and wild mushrooms

    Brussels sprouts:
    6.5K (3lb) Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
    60 mL (1/4 cup) olive oil
    15 mL (1/2T) garlic, minced
    2 mL (1t) salt

    Shallots:
    250 mL (1 cup) vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
    approximately 6 large shallots, cut crosswise into 0.5mL thick slices and then separated into individual rings (±2 1/2 cup (600 mL) total)

    Wild mushrooms:
    (6T) unsalted butter
    600 gm (1 1/4 lb) fresh wild mushrooms, trimmed and, if large, cut into either strips or quarters (I used 300 gm oyster mushrooms and 300 gm cremini mushrooms)
    60 mL (1/4 cup) dry white wine
    30 gm (1T) fresh thyme, chopped
    1 mL (1/2t) salt
    1 mL (1/2t) freshly ground black pepper corns
    120 mL (1/2 cup) water

    preparation:

    Roast Brussels sprouts

  • preheat oven to 230oC (450oF).
  • toss sprouts in oil, garlic, salt and pepper until well-covered then spread in a shallow baking pan.
  • roast, stirring occasionally, 25-30 minutes.
  • the sprouts will get dark and crispy on the outside but will be tender and flavourful inside.
  • Fry shallots whilst Brussels sprouts roast

  • heat oil in small wok or skillet over medium heat.
  • add shallots in several small batches and fry until golden brown (3-5 minutes). CAUTION: shallots burn easily!
  • transfer shallots to paper towel to drain.
  • pour off oil from wok/skillet but do not clean it (yet).
  • Saute mushrooms and assemble dish

  • heat 150 gm (5T) butter to wok or skillet until foaming subsides.
  • add mushrooms and saute until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
  • add wine, thyme, salt and pepper and boil uncovered until liquid is reduced to a glaze, about 2 minutes.
  • add water and remaining butter and simmer, swirling until butter is melted.
  • transfer to a serving dish and stir in roasted Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle top with the fried shallots.
  • serve hot.
  • NOTES:

  • The shallots (which are basically deep fat fried in vegetable oil) should be crispy.
  • You may want to prepare more -- probably a LOT more -- fried shallots since this recipe does not yield enough (in my opinion, but I do love shallots).
  • This recipe has inspired me to begin experimenting with "shallot rings", so I'll be experimenting with breading recipes to see what works well with shallots.

  • Shallots, before I fried them.
    Image: GrrlScientist, 25 December 2012.

    Wild Rocket with cherry tomatoes, avocado and pine nuts

    30 mL (2T) olive oil
    15mL (1T) white vinegar (or rice vinegar)
    salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    1L (4 cups) wild rocket leaves (rocket is more commonly known as arugula in the US), washed and dried
    250 grams cherry tomatoes, washed and halved
    40 grams pine nuts
    30 grams (1/4 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
    1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced thin

    preparation:

  • place olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper into a jar with a tightly fitting lid. shake to mix.
  • place all other ingredients in large bowl (holding back some avocado slices), pour oil mixture over it and toss. Arrange avocado slices on top before serving.
  • serve as soon as possible.
  • NOTES:

  • rocket stays fresh in refrigerator no longer than 24 hours, and sliced avocado begins to brown after only a few hours, so it's best to prepare this immediately before serving, and try not to have any left-overs.

  • 2 Responses to “Grrlscientist’s Christmas holiday feast”

    1. Jim Reply | Permalink

      Brilliant effort it looks fantastic, and thanks for the recipes (with notes!)

    2. GrrlScientist Reply | Permalink

      thank you for reading! i took as long to write this as it took to prepare the meal.

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