12 December 2010

If I were Making Christmas Dinner......and Wanted to Break from Tradition

Turban Squash for recipe below

In the past 6 years I have not made a single Christmas dinner.  From a self proclaimed "foodie" that is a rather large statement. Not being the matriarch of my own family, who happen to live over 3,000 kilometers on the other side of the country, has forced me to think more deeply about the importance of family and about my place beyond the stove.  Since the holidays do revolve around food it is sometimes hard to relinquish the main event but the biggest challenge to overcome would be the lack of leftovers!!

Never does food become as important as it is during the holiday season when we are faced with an overwhelming variety of food related events and family get-togethers. For the past several years I have been "farmed out" to friends homes for the "BIG" day. I appreciate, more than our hosts will ever know, being part of each and every one of their families even if it is just for this one day. They have always made L'il Burnt Toast and I feel an integral part of the family unit  from the pomegranate seed spitting grandmother, to the shiny, smiling faces of grandbabies to the heartwarming fires and generous hearts.

The winner of the Tate's Bake Shop 3-cookie trio and the cookbook is Michelle of All Wordy and Junk.
This year will be no different. I will be flying to a city north of here to spend Christmas with L'il Burnt Toast and her future in-laws. Picture twelve of us around the table as a close knit family unit. There will be laughter, a meeting of cultures in food and language from a dear family that I have gotten to know over the past few years.  A family that has embraced my daughter and welcomed her with open arms.

Traditionally turkey dinner consists of tried and true family favourites from traditional roast turkey with grandmothers bread dressing, creamed peas and onions, Boursin mashed potatoes and squash and an endless variety of culinary experiments that have always kicked our kitchens into high gear. That kind of stepped-up home cooking speaks to me, as I have a hard time summoning the effort to make something unless it’s going to taste a little better than we might expect from the dish.

When have you ever known More Than Burnt Toast not to go beyond the ordinary.  In my advanced years I feel I have learned a lot and stepped up to the plate on many culinary occasions. These recipes below perfectly embody my love for the "tweak" even if Christmas dinner will be filled with traditional family favourites.  This is what I might serve if I were breaking from the traditional!! Maybe we can start with a Smashing Pumpkin Martini, or a Sparkling Cranberry Tea Cocktail.

Photo and recipe from Saveur

From there move on to a starter from Alain Chapel.  This innovative "cappuccino" is a rich, earthy soup made with mushrooms. To foam the broth, use the steamer attachment on a cappuccino machine, or froth it in a blender. I have a mini frother for individial cups which would work perfectly.

Recipe and Photo from Martha Stewart

For the main event rubbing the turkey all over with a salt mixture and then letting it stand in the refrigerator for a day -- is simpler than the wet method but is as effective in terms of imparting lots of flavour and ensuring moist meat. Allow 24 hours for dry-brining,

Photo by Joanne of Eats Well With Others

To switch it up a bit, I decided to forgo a stuffing and replace it with a savory bread pudding.  I poked around on the Internet and found a recipe for leek bread pudding from Thomas Keller’s cookbook “ad hoc at home” on Joannes site. Caramelized leeks, layered with toasted bread, cheese and custard that could be breakfast, lunch or dinner. It’s my kind of dish.

Next perhaps I would move on to a dish of Broccoli Sauteed in Wine and Garlic, or Sage Mashed Potatoes for your favourite gravy accompanied by a classic dish of roasted squash with a bit of a twist. No photo here but a recipe from Vancouver chef Nathan Fong.  In this recipe, three varieties are roasted to bring out their natural sugars and then brushed with a spiced honey butter mixture to make them more tantalizing. As a young kid, I detested any squash what so ever (besides spaghetti sqaush of course). This recipe certainly makes it more appealing. Leaving the skins on the squash give this dish its appeal. Hopefully your kids will love this one!Here's the recipe....

**Baked Trio of Squash**

1 small turban squash, cut into 1-inch thick slices and seeds discarded
1 small butternut squash, cut into 1-inch thick slices and seeds discarded
1 acorn squash, cut into 1-inch thick slices and seeds discarded
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
½ teaspoon ground ginger
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350F.

Lightly brush the squash slices with the 2 Tbsp. of melted butter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is tender, about 35 to 40 minutes, turning once and basting with a little more butter.

Melt the 1/3 cup of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat and add the honey, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat until well combined.

Remove the squash from the oven and brush with the honey-butter mixture. Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

and for Dessert......it speaks for itself...

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  1. A perfect meal! Wonderful.



  2. I don't get to make Christmas Dinner either. That awful meal is prepared by my father-in-law. I would MUCH prefer your cookery!

  3. I had mushroom cappuccino at Petroissian in West Hollywood - so good! I also love leeks and savory bread puddings so I will have to check out that recipe. Can I come to the dinner you would have?

  4. What a perfect meal. It's a shame it's just pretend. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Blessings...Mary

  5. This year will be the first time since I cannot remember that I will be making Christmas dinner. As a single person and not being close to family, I usually find myself somewhere else in the world at Christmas time. This year my cousin in Edmonton has asked me to cook for them for a week over Christmas. I am in heaven. I haven't made a turkey for such a long time. I hope it comes out nicely! Lovely menu. I especially like the idea with squashes.

  6. I love how you did this. Plus, the perspective of thinking about how others celebrate an important holiday is always important. I love leeks in stuffing and we had them in our Thanksgiving dinner this year. I hope your holidays are lovely, and if you are in your Advanced years," I'll eat my hat :)

  7. The Leek Bread Pudding looks wonderful. So nice to be doing something a little different. I work with Better Recipes and am always looking for different dishes. Presently, I am focusing on Christmas dinner. For more suggestions and recipes, such as Stuffed Pumpkin or Baked Onions with Sour Cream Raisin Sauce, check these out Christmas Dinner Recipes

  8. Oooh, A perfect virtual feast ~ Val, you KNOW how to put a menu together, that is for certain.

    It's always a pleasure to come visit your beautiful place on the internet. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I'd love to be at your table for "real"! Enjoy the time with the future in-laws, however, There's something very special about having one's children welcomed into another family.


  10. This is definitely outside the box and off the hook! Great roundup!

  11. Wonderful recipes. Joanne's leek pudding is a winner.

  12. This sounds like a perfect holiday meal! The trio of squashes sounds excellent and I have to check out that leek pudding.

  13. It's so nice that you and your daughter's in-laws are getting to be so close! Even though I am deeply sorry that you won't get to cook a holiday meal! I know you would do some really good things to a roasted turkey. Thanks for including me in this roundup/meal! Now what I really need to do is make that squash recipe. Yum.

  14. excellent selections! and what's this turban squash? that's a new one for me.

  15. You are so truly creative. Your soul sparkles through your blog posts. Being the "one" who cooks every holiday dinner and all the birthday dinners for a zillion people, I must say I could trade you for Christmas. This year I announced that Christmas Eve would be at my mother's house, breaking tradition because honestly, I like my food better, but I didn't want to do dishes at midnight. I then announced that Christmas dinner would be at my house, but it was homemade pizza. I feel so good about this break in tradition.

    I hope you have the best time wherever you go. You are a joy to read and follow.

    P.S. I am going to make that mushroom soup. I have the good cap machine and this opens all sorts of possibilities.

  16. That meal would usher the yuletide spirit into the home! And you could make it...for grins! I'd try it all. In fact ... I just might.

  17. Happy Holidays to you and your family.


  18. Dear Vall al these meals look lovely and delicious!Hope you have a lovely Christmas! gloria

  19. What an interesting post. I was just wondering about what people usually make for Christmas dinner. Growing up, we never had a formal dinner on Christmas and this is the first year that I am going to be celebrating with just my immediate family. Thanks for some great ideas!

  20. This is a really lovely post, Val. If you ever decide to actually cook that menu, I want an invite! Oh, and thanks for the tip about using the cappuccino frother for the soup. I have one still in its box!

  21. Mushroom Cap at Petrossian-New York City...delicious. A meal fit for a king.

    For the first time in 20 years that I did not make Thanksgiving ot Christmas...my beautiful daughter-in-law decided to do for firsttime and ahe won a foodie award from me.

  22. What a feast and a truly thoughtful, heartwarming, and lovely read. I would rather see your photos replace these once you have made each dish. Interestingly, I saw the savoury bread pudding by Keller on her post, too - and thought... that is on my list! And, I see you felt the same way.
    Lovely, lovely, Val.
    Your family will be embraced with the spirit of the season. There is no doubt.

  23. I think your non-traditional Christmas dinner sounds perfect, Val. I saw the leek bread pudding too....I am now debating whether I should make that rather that the Baked Leek dish I was going to make...but think my kids might prefer the baked leeks. Perhaps I'll save it for next year.
    And that dessert....oh my. If I hadn't already made mine and frozen it, I wouldn't have been able to resist.

    Loved this post and as a single mother with grown kids, understand where you are coming from. Life is different, but always interesting!

  24. Um...in your "advanced years"!? ha! I hope your holiday dinner w/ future family members is perfect...this meal certainly would be :D

  25. I'm SO glad your daughter has been so welcomed and loved by this family. That must be such a comfort to you. :-) So happy you get to join them for much feasting and jollity. :-)

  26. We usually end up doing a Christmas brunch instead of dinner. I always look forward to getting together with loved ones. I love the look of this panna cotta. My mother-in-law brined her turkey this year, it was fantastic!

  27. I am cooking at home this year, but I haven't figured out what to cook yet. I'm running out of time! Sage mashed potatoes sounds delicious and so does the baked trio of squash!

  28. A great post and round up of yummy food!

  29. This year my kids are coming for Christmas Eve. We are doing fondue. On Christmas day we are driving to Montreal. My sister is doing Christmas Dinner this year.

  30. I have never made a Christmas dinner, either. But one day, I dream of having a fabulous spread like this one!!

  31. Happy holidays dear Val...what a great great spread you've got on your mind. Excellent. Thrilled to see the dark choc panna cotta ... one of my fave desserts! Have a wonderful time with Lil Burnt Toast ... xo

  32. Great menu Val! Maybe I will steal it! LOL! Have a wonderful holiday with your daughter and future in=laws!

  33. Because I write a food column and things need to be done in advance, my Christmas dinner is usually made around September/October and it's done one dish at a time so I rarely get it all at once.

    Have a great holiday Val and your pretend menu is bang-on delicious.

  34. So now at least you feel like you made Christmas dinner, so you are free to relax and enjoy the holiday. GREG

  35. I'd invite any one of you over for dinner; and just think Greg for this virtual dinner there would be no washing up:D

  36. I think it's great that you have friends who care so much about you.
    You can never have enough love. I do understand that holidays without all your family members is difficult...I've gone through it on more occasions than I can count.
    I've always managed to feel the joy no matter what.

    Great festive menu roundup Val...Buon appetito ;o)

    Have a great weekend,


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