Friday, September 6, 2013

Unconventional Christmas

Christmas is a time of tradition.
From choosing the perfect tree to leaving cookies and milk for Santa; stockings hung by the fireplace and wrapping gifts.
Of course one of the biggest pieces of the holiday tradition is the meal- The turkey, the stuffing… and of course an absolutely mammoth bowl of Mashed Potatoes (my favorite)!  Yesterday, I went around asking my co-workers what was so important about the traditional Turkey spread, and most people ended up giving me the same answer. It all has to do with childhood. For some, it was the fact that their mothers had cooked this same meal. Some want to make sure their children know their family traditions, and some have children who expect it, so will not deviate from the traditional.
It is so interesting that we have such a concrete idea of what a Christmas dinner needs to be.
This year, I have decided that I am going to change it up. We are doing our big family dinner on Christmas Eve. There will be about 12 of us, and I will likely be cooking for 3 days (I wouldn’t have it any other way.)
I don’t see my deviation of the traditional feast as a bad thing. Cooking for family is an act of love. I want to present my family with something that I put a lot of time, effort and creativity into. It is so seldom that we all get together; I want to treat them to something new and exciting.
I have put a lot of thought into the colour and texture, and of course flavours that tie nicely into the season.  I have managed to keep the menu a little bit of a secret from everyone. I am not sure how they are going to react, so I’ve tried to avoid the topic as best I can.
To nibble on as the final preparations are being made, Pissaladiere Nicoise. A crust filled with caramelized onions, olives and anchovies. I realize that anchovies are not really a beloved food item, but the salty little fillets pack a serious flavour punch. Why do you think Caesar Salad dressing is so delicious!  The rich flavourful onions in this savoury dish are just amazing. It could probably be a meal in itself.
Instead of the turkey, I will be cooking a fresh ham. Which is what a ham is before it is cured, smoked and what have you- so basically plain pork.  When cooked slowly with fresh herbs, the meat becomes tender, juicy and flavourful.  I cooked this last year, and it was absolutely fantastic!!
Instead of typical mashed spuds, we will have sweet potatoes, topped with a lovely crust of pecans, maple syrup and bourbon!
A roasted beet salad. Beets roasted and tossed in a light apple cider vinaigrette and topped with crumbled goat cheese.
Cauliflower sage risotto. I am SO into herbed risotto right now. I was always apprehensive to try it because risotto seems like it should be subtly flavoured and delicate. But the fresh flavours of rosemary and sage really shine in this dish! 
And for dessert, French Canadian sugar pie with mascarpone whipped cream!
This is definitely not a traditional Christmas feast. We will see how it goes over. We can go back to the turkey next year if it is not well received. Maybe I’ll even let someone else in the kitchen ?

Originally Published 12/22/2011 on

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