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Tired of turkey? Try these holiday dinners

In my family there are some who eat meat and others who don't. Some love turkey, others aren't so keen. My solution for the holidays is to make an alternative main course so that there is something for everyone. Here are two mains that are perfect for a Christmas feast or a spectacular dinner party any time of the year.

SLOW-COOKED SALMON WITH CHESTNUT STUFFING

You can buy cooked chestnuts in vacuum-packed bags at gourmet shops. Ask the fishmonger to butterfly the salmon for you, which means removing the bones and opening up the fish like a book. Serving the dish can be tricky: Let the fish cool for 10 minutes and use a sharp thin-bladed knife to slice. (If the top falls off just plop it back on.)

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Ingredients

1 4-pound (2-kilogram) salmon, boned and butterflied

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 teaspoons cracked fennel seeds

2 teaspoons herbes de Provence

1 tablespoon grated lime rind

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

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Stuffing:

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups thinly sliced leeks (white and light green part only)

3 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage

1 cup coarsely chopped cooked chestnuts

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

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1 teaspoon cracked fennel seeds

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ cup whipping cream

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Sauce:

½ cup clementine juice

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup chopped shallots

2 cups chicken or fish stock

1 cup whipping cream

Method

Place salmon in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. Combine fennel seeds, herbes de Provence and grated lime rind with oil and brush or spoon marinade all over inside and outside of salmon. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and napa cabbage and sauté for 6 minutes or until everything is soft. Add chestnuts, tarragon, fennel seeds and lime juice, and cook for 2 minutes or until flavours are combined. Stir in cream and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in bread crumbs. Season well with salt and pepper.

Season inside of salmon with salt and pepper and spread a thin layer of stuffing inside. Place remaining stuffing in a small oiled baking dish and bake alongside salmon.

Place salmon on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 F and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until salmon is just cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.

Combine clementine juice, lime juice and shallots in a skillet over medium heat and boil for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly thickened. Add stock and boil until reduced by half. Add cream and boil until thickened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer salmon to a serving platter and remove top layer of skin to make the fish easier to slice. Use a sharp carving knife to cut into portions.

Drizzle sauce over fish. Serves 8 to 10.

PASTA WITH ROASTED VEGETABLES

I love the cheesiness and rich taste of this dish - it's the perfect comfort food for the holiday season. You could serve this with the salmon or by itself as a vegetarian main. Vary the cheeses to your own taste.

Ingredients

2 medium red onions

4½ cups small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

2 red peppers, cut into 1-inch chunks

2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 eggplant, cut into 1-inch chunks

4 plum tomatoes, quartered and seeded

1 banana pepper, sliced on diagonal into thin strips

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried

¼ cup olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound (500 grams) penne

¼ cup butter

¼ cup flour

2 cups milk

½ cup whipping cream

1 cup grated Fontina

1 8-ounce (250-gram) ball fresh mozzarella , grated

1 cup grated Parmesan

Method

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Cut onions in half and cut each half into 4 wedges. Remove root end and separate onion pieces. Combine onion, butternut squash, red peppers, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and banana pepper in a large bowl.

Combine thyme, rosemary, olive oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss with vegetables until well coated. Divide all vegetables between 2 large rimmed baking sheets and roast for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes and switching tray positions in oven halfway through, until vegetables are cooked through and browned. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 350 F.

Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions until slightly undercooked. Drain. Return to pot.

Heat butter in another pot over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together until smooth. Combine milk and cream and slowly add to pot, whisking constantly, until combined. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and add Fontina, mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Add sauce to pasta and toss to combine. Stir in vegetables. Transfer to an oiled 9 x 13-inch baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until sauce bubbles and mixture is hot. Sprinkle with remaining ½ cup Parmesan and lots of black pepper. Serves 8.

PORK ROAST

The best pork roast, in my opinion, is a rack and it looks splendid for the holiday table. If you buy 2 racks you can stand them up together for an impressive crown roast.

Ingredients

Pork:

1 rack of pork (6 chops)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon cracked peppercorns

1 teaspoon grated orange rind

2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce:

½ cup pomegranate juice

½ cup red wine

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1½ cups chicken stock

2 tablespoons cold butter, diced

Method

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Place pork on a rack in a roasting pan. Combine rosemary, peppercorns, orange rind and olive oil and rub all over meat.

Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 325 F and roast 1 hour, or until a thermometer reads 150 F for a pink roast or 165 F for medium (the time will vary depending on the thickness of the rack). Transfer pork to a carving board and let rest for 15 minutes.

Combine pomegranate juice, red wine and balsamic vinegar in a skillet over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let it continue to boil until syrupy. Add stock, stir and boil until reduced by half. Whisk in butter piece by piece. Drizzle a bit of the sauce over the pork and serve the rest alongside. Serves 6.

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