What was served for Christmas dinner?

IMG_6017People assume that our Christmas table is laden with an assortment of complex dishes. Fortunately for me, that is just an assumption! My credo for Christmas has always been to serve a warm-hearted dinner of familiar dishes, with one or two new ones. This gives me time to be out of the kitchen, gathered in the living room by the fire, being with our family and friends. This year the menu included goose, and a roasted mushroom dish. Neither was complicated, or took too long to prepare and cook. Here’s what our table held last night:
Roast Goose stuffed with dried and fresh fruits & herbs
Luscious goose gravy (because how could it not be?)
Oyster stuffing
Our family’s recipe of Garlic Crumbed Mashed Potatoes (which my sister brought. This dish was also served in the Brand home in Saskatoon, where our daughter is staying)
Roasted Assorted Mushrooms with Parmesan Herb Topping
Carrots
Brussels Sprouts
Tiramifle: a very simple trifle built on the tiramisu method – extremely yummy!
We served a lovely Gewürztraminer, along with Pomegranate Italian Soda, and sparkling water.
I’ll post a couple of these recipes in the near future.
And now, for Boxing Day, I’m heading forward with a Thai Vegetable Stew and Lemon Roasted Spicy Prawns! More on these later.

Wedge Salad Appetizers

IMG_5938Appetizers are a mainstay of holiday parties, lots of cheese, phyllo, puff pastry, tarts, crackers and meats.  If we’re lucky there are bowls of olives & pickles, and some raw veg to balance things out.  I think that adding a cold crisp salad is a perfect foil for the rest of the menu.

Recently I was invited to a party that was to embrace the 50’s & 60’s. Most of my time in those periods, was toddling around in nappies, skinning my knees while learning to ride a bike, watching my mom go crazy for the Beatles, and my sister becoming a hippy.

My only true memory of foods of that time was when mom & dad would have Bridge night.  A group of 8 or 12 neighbours would play once a month, rotating houses.  I well remember getting up early the next day and scavenging through the living room, eating leftover AD mints, black olives, gherkins, and the ultimate, broiled spam & cheese on open dinner rolls.  Mom would grate spam, and cheddar (not even Velveeta), mix with mayonnaise (never Miracle Whip) and then spread this on top of dinner rolls.  Broiled just until the cheese melted and the spam sputtered, they were absolutely decadent.

Okay, so my tastes have changed somewhat from when I was eight.

The Wedge Salad was an ever-present menu item for the 50’s & 60’s.  It lost favour when Romaine started edging it out in the 70’s, and open leaf lettuces with vinaigrette started to take over.  The lowly iceberg lettuce has always remained on the produce shelves because it has some amazing qualities.  First off, no other lettuce can replace its crispness.  It holds up well to tossing, and works well with other lettuces to give your salad some lift.  It also seems that the iceberg lettuce of today, is more open and green than the ones of even 20 years ago, which is great.

The lettuce is what makes this appetizer fresh & crispy, and a wonderful addition to an appetizer buffet.  The recipe is followed with notes on plating a basic Wedge Salad, if you want to go traditional. Continue reading

Chicken Marbella

IMG_5880 The Silver Palate Cookbook offers the most well known version of Chicken Marbella.  Regardless of this dish’s roots from Spain’s south coast, it is their recipe that has made the dish well known in North America.  I have always used the proportion of ingredients exactly as written, allowing for a change of amounts depending on how many I’m serving.  It creates a succulent, slightly sweet, fruity chicken that is an amazing addition to a buffet, and works equally well when individually plated.

The cooked prunes & olives complement the chicken wonderfully.  It’s a good thing to serve a dish that surprises your guests.  I’m sure this recipe has converted more than a few non-prune eaters!

Don’t feel the need to add more, as the amounts of capers, dried prunes, and olives are perfect as written.  It is essential to allow at least 24 hours of marinating time.  From the first time I used this recipe, it has always stayed in my top ten ways of preparing chicken.  Continue reading

Butternut Cottage Pie

IMG_5614The feeling of sitting down to a meal of “comfort food” is exactly that, comfort.  The senses drag up old, comfy memories, of different times and places, but all of them bring us comfort.  In our childhood home, if we ever had a roast beef or pot roast for dinner, the next day one of us kids would be sitting at the kitchen table, grinding up the leftovers, along with onions and carrots so Mom could make her Shepherd’s Pie (truly a Cottage Pie).

Move ahead 50 years, and I still love the mashed potato crust, leading through to a rich filling.   So, even though I enjoy a meat version, thought that maybe I could use my leading lady, Butternut Squash, to take on the role.  BBC Good Food suggested shallots & pecans for her supporting actors.

I invited my sister to opening night.  We swooned over the performance.  Hope you enjoy it.  I’m ready for an encore. Continue reading