Sunday, November 08, 2020

Festive Main Courses For Your Holiday at Home

Here's some fancy foods to prepare for yourself at home this holiday season-they're much too nice to waste on, "Company." I didn't include traditional things like turkey or goose because these offerings are something out of the ordinary, for an out of the ordinary year. Most years, for Thanksgiving I make either a "Massachusetts Turkey"(baked, stuffed cod), or individual cod pot pies. It is a throw-back to the decade we spent living in Boston, and much easier than roasting a giant bird. Christmas at ours is generally leftover paella from Christmas Eve when we do the Feast of the Seven Fishes. Another throwback to our years in Boston when we lived in an Italian neighbourhood. You can get a wide assortment of fish into a giant paella. Except for lutefisk. Don't put Viking food in a paella. Even after 12 years living in a 99% Swedish town in rural Nebraska, my husband refuses to touch the stuff. I don't mind lutefisk, and the smell does go away if you open a window or light a candle. New Years is always a smorgasbord with open sandwiches and other food everyone can help themselves to. This year? Who knows? I have a well stocked freezer and larder, so I might just improvise Thanksgiving to avoid the supermarket at the height of our pandemic. That's typically the day Dan puts up our artificial tree. When he was small it was a way to keep him out of my hair when I was preparing the meal. These days he doesn't need his dad's help putting it together. We've been back and forth whether to do it at all this year. Dan is obviously a lot less excited about it as a teenager, and taking up half the living room is a nuisance. I don't know-I'd be fine with scaling it all back but kids don't always communicate what they're feeling and in a year like this, maybe the tree is needed more than ever? We'll see. My husband despises all the holiday stuff (and birthdays, and mother's day, anniversaries, Halloween, Easter,  etc.) and lets everyone know it until it all comes down on 6 January, so maybe skipping it will spare us his tiresome grumbling about things normal people enjoy. He sees a speck of tinsel and turns into Karl Marx😏

Wow, that got off topic pretty quickly. How about some food? 

1). Fish Pate Guillaume Tirel-Raymond Oliver-La Cuisine 
I did not use bacon, but instead wrapped it in a vegetarian bacon to cook, which imparted a bit of flavour. 

1 pound raw fish (hake, John Dory, sole, or pike)
4 egg whites (I used large)
Cayenne pepper
2 cups heavy cream (yeah, but the natural fish oils are "heart healthy" so you're cool)
4 cups fresh, white breadcrumbs
2 whole eggs
2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
4 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
White pepper
4 raw, 1/3 pound fillets of John Dory or gray sole (I used cod)
Fennel fronds
Large thin slices of fresh pork fatback to line mould (or, fakin' bacon if you don't mind being kind of vulgar)
8 asparagus tips

Ready? OK, deep breath. Ready, set, GO!

Grind the pound of fish using the fine blade of a meat grinder. Work in two of the egg whites and season lightly with salt and cayenne. Force the mixture through a very fine sieve into a bowl. Set the bowl in another one filled with cracked ice to keep it very cold. Gradually beat in the 2 cups of heavy cream, reserving 2 tablespoons for later. When the mousseline is ready, make the second filling.

Put the bread crumbs into a bowl and blend them into a smooth paste with the whole eggs, tarragon, parsley, chives, and a little salt and pepper. Whip the reserved cream and stir into the mixture.

Beat remaining two egg whites lightly and reserve them.

Season the fillets with salt and pepper.

Line a large 10 cup loaf pan or pate mould first with the fennel fronds, then with the slices of fatback letting the fat overlap the long sides of the mould. Spread half of the fish mousse over the pork fat. Brush two fillets with egg whites and lay them on the mousseline. Spread half of the breadcrumb stuffing over the fillets and top it with the asparagus dipped in egg whites. Now spread the remaining half of the breadcrumb stuffing over the asparagus tips and coat it with more egg whites. Lay the two remaining fillets on top, brush them with egg whites. Spread remaining mousseline over fillets and fold the fatback over it making sure the pate is well covered with the fat.

Set the mould in a baking dish filled with 2 inches of hot water and cook in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for 1 hour 30 minutes, or until mousse is set.

Serve hot or cold.

2) Baccala 
Salt cod is difficult to find in Nebraska (there was a shop that carried it in Omaha but it went away years ago) so unless I think ahead, I can't just pop out to the store and find it. It IS worth tracking down though, as there's nothing quite like it. You will need to soak it well and change the water several times over a few days before using it. While it isn't necessary to preserve fish this way anymore, it still tastes good-much like people still enjoy beef jerky long after the need to preserve meat by drying went away. 
DO NOT ADD SALT when cooking with salt cod. I promise, it won't need it. 

You Will Need:

1 1/2 pounds (about) salt cod, soaked two days (with water changed 2-3 times each day)
1 finely chopped carrot
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, finely minced
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup marinated red pepper cut into slices
8 oil cured olives
8 large green olives
1/4 cup capers, rinsed well
olive oil for frying
flour for dredging
1 cup chopped parsley
2 cups hot water
pepper to taste

Roasted potatoes or rice to serve with

In a pot of boiling water, cook the baccala for about eight minutes. Drain. Dry well on a towel. Cut into chunks and dredge in flour. Fry in pan with olive oil until browned. Set aside.

In a large, heavy pot cook the carrot, celery and onion in a bit of olive oil until browned. Add the tomato paste, peppers, olives, capers, wine and half a cup of the hot water. Bring to a boil and cook a few minutes to slightly reduce and burn off the alcohol. Add the baccala, cover with sauce and sprinkle with parsley. Slowly add 2-3 ladles of hot water . Cover and simmer very slowly for 1 1/2-2 hours. Keep checking to make sure the sauce doesn't dry out (add more water if needed).

While baccala cooks, either roast potatoes or make rice. A good crusty bread is also nice to soak up sauce.

Before serving, remove to a platter and then heat the remaining liquid at boiling until it thickens. Pour sauce over fish, vegetables and potatoes/rice. Serve hot.

3) Baked Trout

I promise, this is quick, easy, and very nearly fool proof. 
You will need:

A whole rainbow trout
Salt and pepper
1 lemon, sliced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 sprigs parsley
A few thyme leaves
White Vermouth

Wash your trout. Lay a large piece of foil on a heavy baking sheet. Butter the foil generously-this will prevent the skin from sticking. Salt and pepper the inside of the fish. Fill the cavity with the remaining ingredients except for the wine. At this point, if you like, tuck a few extra pats of butter inside, though trout is a fairly oily fish and really doesn't require it. This is a sort of guarantee against it becoming dry if you overcook it-but you're not going to overcook it. You're going to do it correctly.

Dribble about an ounce of vermouth over the fish, and seal the packet. Bake about 30 minutes in a 475 degree F. oven. Start checking your fish at 25 minutes-cooking time will vary by the size of your fish, as well as your oven.

To serve:

After everyone has had a chance to see your impressive fish, use a knife to peel away the skin-unless you like it. Some people eat the skin. *Shrug*. Use your knife to gently lift the fish away from the bones. It should slide off easily. Your first few attempts will not yield perfect servings, and some pieces will fall apart. Don't despair. Stick the pieces close together on the plate, and no one will be the wiser, and if they are they won't care. If they do care, tell them to fuck off, and cook for people who don't care, and appreciate someone feeding them.

And that's that. Thirty minutes to a beautiful dinner. 

4) Vegetarian Pot Stickers
Who doesn't enjoy dumplings? With all the extra time at home this year, you can make a large batch and freeze some for future meals. 

For The Filling:

1 cup frozen soybeans, boiled and drained
1 package pot noodles cooked, drained and tossed lightly with oil (save the seasoning packet for later)
1 carrot, finely diced
3 stalks celery, trimmed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup kale, finely sliced in shreds
1/2 cup baked tofu cut into very tiny dice
1/2 seasoning packet from noodles
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil

Cook everything except noodles and spice packet in a large pan in oil until quite soft. Toss in noodles, adding more oil if needed to prevent sticking and toss with the seasoning packet. Remove to a bowl to cool.

Prepare Dough:

2 cups warm water (you may need more)
4 cups AP flour

Place flour in a large bowl and add water slowly, mixing with your hand as you go. The dough should be pliable without being sticky. Knead lightly, then cover with a damp dishtowel and let rest twenty minutes.

Divide dough into 8 parts. Roll each part into a long strand and then cut into balls (about ten per part, but that's going to vary depending how big you want the dumplings). Roll out as thin as possible, leaving the centre of the dumpling slightly thicker.

Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre, bring up the sides and pinch closed. Then, crimp together and set on a tray that has been lined with waxed paper and a generous coating of oil. I mean, generous. Spray isn't going to cut it here.

When you are finished, grease another piece of paper and lay it over the top. Chill the tray until you are ready to cook. If freezing, do a few at a time on a greased paper lined plate in the freezer. Transfer to freezer bags when firm, using the waxed paper as a divider between layers. Repeat until bag is filled. Lay flat in freezer.

To Cook:


line your steamer with cabbage leaves (Napa, regular old cabbage, even lettuce will do in a pinch) and oil it (they call 'em "potstickers" 'ya know?) well. Place the potstickers into the steamer over boiling water and cover. Cook until the dumplings are translucent-about five minutes. Remove and let drain/dry while you heat the oil.

Heat a small amount of oil in a wok/pan and stir fry the dumplings until they are slightly browned, but still chewy textured (you don't want to deep fry them-well, perhaps you do, but I don't). Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

For dipping sauce you can use plum sauce if you have it (we finally finished the last of my homemade plum sauce-boo hoo. I made two very nice sauces tonight with the following:

Brown sauce:

4 tablespoons hoisan sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon dried shallots
Splash water
Splash soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon Five Spice powder

Mix well and let onions re-hydrate before serving

Red Sauce:

Juice of a lime
4 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons garlic chili sauce
]1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup water

Mix well

5) Meatless Sausage Pies
Skip the egg wash to keep it vegan.

You Will Need:

2 batches of pastry for a double crust pie. Use what you are comfortable with, though a hot water crust works well here.
2 large potatoes, diced and boiled
1 large parsnip, diced and boiled
3-4 carrots, finely diced and boiled
a package of fake sausage meat (I use "Gimme Lean")
1 cup cooked barley
1 large onion, chopped
a few tablespoons olive oil for cooking
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon dried thyme

You'll want to prepare the filling ahead and let it cool before filling the pastry. I did that part early in the day, leaving plenty of time to assemble, and bake. You'll need about 45 minutes to bake the pastry (depending on the size of your case) and I'd give myself 30-40 minutes to fiddle with the pastry. Having the vegetables done ahead makes it all that much easier.
Assorted shapes just add to the fun.

In a large frying pan, heat a few tablespoons of oil, and fry the cumin seed in it over medium heat for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, and thyme and cook until the onions are soft and just becoming golden. Remove the onions to a bowl with the cooked vegetables, and set aside. Cook the sausage substitute in the oiled pan, adding more if needed (It lacks the fat of regular sausage, so you really need to be generous with the olive oil). Cook 5 minutes over medium heat until browned. Add to the mixture of vegetables and onions. Stir well, and let cool. This can be done several hours ahead.

Prepare your pastry cases by buttering them generously. Roll out your pastry, fit it into the cases, then fill and top with the second layer of pastry. Crimp well, cut a hole for a vent, then brush with an egg wash of 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon water. Transfer pastry cases to a baking sheet and bake in a 425 degree F oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 and bake another 30 minutes, or until pastry is done. Remove carefully from cases, and cool on a rack, or serve hot.

6) Coronation Tofu

Yes, it is very, very, wrong.  That said, it was also very, very, good😁. You can also do this with seitan-based imitation chicken chunks, to even better effect. 

The Tofu: Slice a block of extra firm tofu into slices 1/2 inch thick. Press dry between towels for about thirty minutes. meanwhile, make a marinade of:
1 veggie soup base cube
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
A generous grind of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3 tablespoons neutral salad oil (I had soybean)

Whisk together, pour over tofu in a pan. Turn tofu once, then bake in a 400 degree F. oven 30 minutes. Turn the slices, bake another 30. Cool. Slice as thinly as possible in strips to resemble shredded chicken, or dice finely if you prefer. This will be your, "chicken" proceed with recipe.

For the chutney:

I cannot handle mangoes as I am allergic to latex and the sap on the skins gives me a terrible rash (true, strange I know). To compensate, I used fresh peaches, dried apricots, and some apricot jam to make a sweet chutney.

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 cup raisins
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons thick apricot jam
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/8 cup finely chopped ginger root
1/2 cup water
4 fresh peaches, peeled and chopped

Combine all, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened. Makes about 1 1/2 pints.

The rest:

Combine tofu, 200 ml of mayonnaise, 200 ml of coconut yoghut, 1 tablespoon curry powder (more or less to taste) 5 tablespoons of the chutney, and salt/pepper to taste. Mix well. Serve over basmati rice and lettuce greens. Toss with flaked almonds or in our case, lentil sprouts and fresh coriander. 

7) Vegetarian Haggis
Nothing says, "Festive" like a vegetarian haggis. 

You Will Need:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
5 fresh mushrooms finely chopped
1 cup veggie broth
1/3 cup dry red lentils
2 tablespoons tinned kidney beans-mashed
3 tablespoons ground peanuts (can be omitted with no harm done)
2 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (omit if you like)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1.2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/3 cup steel cut oats
1 tablespoon black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and saute the onion 5 minutes. Mix in carrot and mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in broth, lentils, kidney beans, peanuts, hazelnuts, soy sauce and lemon juice. Season with spices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in oats. cover and simmer 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C) Grease a 5x9 in. baking dish. Stir the egg into the saucepan. Pack mixture into prepared pan and bake 30 minutes until firm.

8) Roasted Duck Legs With Quince
Marinate 1 hour before cooking with the following:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon chopped garlic

Cover and turn once at 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 180 degrees C.

Place a rack in a roasting pan. Place the duck legs on the rack and roast for about 50 minutes without basting. When they are nearly done, drain off the duck fat (don't you dare toss that out!) and pour over the following:

1 cup red wine (I used Cabernet because I had it)
1/2 cup ginger/quince conserve

I know, you probably don't have the conserve unless I sent you a jar last year. Gosh, that was a pain in the behind chopping and cooking all that quince. Anyway, in the absence of fancy conserve, use red currant jelly, or apricot jam, or really whatever you like. I don't think it matters. Marmalade is always nice with duck.

So pour that over your duck legs, and return to the oven. Increase the heat to 450 degrees F. for five minutes. Open the door carefully (steam, you know) and baste. Return to the oven for a few more minutes to crisp up slightly. Keep an eye on it.

Remove the duck from the pan and let stand on a baking sheet while you deal with de-glazing the pan. If you have glasses (or shop glasses) it might be a good idea to wear them.

Place the pan directly on the burner and heat it until the crud in the bottom of the pan loosens. Stand back, and add a generous splash of red wine. With a wooden spoon, stir, scrape and dislodge as much of the crud as you can. Strain through a sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup. Grate in 1 or two gingersnaps (if you have them, otherwise just do flour) until thickened to your tastes.
Serve over noodles with the sauce.

9) Kasha Kulebiaka
The posh versions have rice and sturgeon. This isn't that. 

For the kasha filling:

¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup kasha, rinsed
2 cups boiling water in which 3 bouillon(beef) cubes have been dissolved
3 egg whites
4 tablespoons margarine

Over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of the margarine in a deep frying pan and cook the onions and mushrooms until soft. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Rinse and drain the kasha and add to the eggs, stirring to coat evenly. Add remaining butter to pan and push the onions and mushrooms to one side. Add the kasha and stir quickly until dry. Stir in the boiling broth and bring everything back to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Either toss with cooked bow-tie pasta for a side-dish, or set aside to use as filling for the knish.
*Some people swear by a tin of cream of mushroom soup or potato soup mixed-in at the end. If you do this, omit the bouillon as there will be adequate salt and flavouring in the soup.

For the Pastry:

4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 pound unsalted butter cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons chilled vegetable shortening

1 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons ice water (plus 3-4 more if needed)

1 egg yolk

1 tablespoon cream

Into the flour and salt cut the butter and shortening until you have a fine meal. Quickly add the cold water and any extra needed to bring it together into a ball. Taking a couple tablespoons at a time, smear it against a work surface with the heel of your hand to incorporate the fats. Divide dough into two balls, wrap with plastic and chill 1 hour.

Roll out one ball into a rectangle. Mound filling in the middle leaving a 1 inch border on all sides. Top with other sheet rolled the same. Fold over and seal sides well with a fork, trying to force out as much air as possible as you go (like making ravioli). Crimp well with a fork. Use extra dough to make designs if desired. Cut a hole in the centre for steam to escape. Mix the egg yolk with the cream and brush the entire kulebiaka generously. Return to the refrigerator and chill twenty minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place kulebiaka in oven on centre rack. Bake 1 hour, rotating pan halfway through.

Serve with sour cream. 

10) Brussels Sprouts Mould

The basic recipe also works with asparagus, broccoli, or other sturdy vegetables. 

Brussels Sprouts Mould:

3 cups steamed Brussels sprouts, well drained and chopped
1/4 cup bread crumbs for the mould
Oil for the mould
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
5 large eggs
1/2 cup finely shredded cheese (your choice)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon if you have it
a quick grating of nutmeg if you have it
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted in the milk
2/3 cup dry breadcrumbs

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Place in a pan of water that is large enough to accommodate your dish and enough water to go 3/4 way up the side of the dish. I keep extra boiling water on the stove in case I underestimated. Oil your mould and coat with breadcrumbs. Knock out the excess.

In a small pan, melt the butter and cook the onion until it is softened but not browned. Remove to a bowl. Stir in the cheese, salt/pepper/nutmeg/tarragon, breadcrumbs, and beaten eggs. In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter until boiling. Slowly beat the milk into the custard mixture. Fold in the Brussels sprouts. Pour into prepared mould, and carefully place in the water bath. Bake about an hour. This varies so much, that all you can really do is keep plunging a butter knife into it until you're satisfied it is firm. To unmould, run a think knife around the edge, say a quick prayer, and quickly invert it onto a plate. If you under baked it, it will fall apart slightly, but that's what sauce is for. A nice béchamel hides that sort of thing effectively.

I will be back next time with side-dishes. 


Polyester Princess said...

As I'm not really a fan of Christmas, I've been trying for years not to put up the tree, but Jos insists we do it. I had an inkling of hope that this year I could get away with it, but no ... Well, we do have some lovely vintage decorations which would otherwise go to waste!
I love the idea of a fish-based main, and I like the look of those meat free sausage pies! xxx

bahnwärterin said...

we will do some kind of winter solstice...... not such elaborate style like last year - for well-known reasons.
you inspired me to get 2 fresh trouts from the farm by the little river right on the opposide of the valley - we like to grill them outdoors on charcoal only with a bit rosemary in the belly.

Beth Waltz said...

The Brussels sprouts mold intrigues me. It would make an excellent vegie one dish meal for ladies who lunch (whenever the plague ends), requiring exactly that amount of effort that shows one cares enough to please without trying too hard to impress. I also appreciate the Plan B provided: A nice bechamel does indeed effectively hide miscalculations. I like Brussels sprouts but my guests are fans of asparagus, which goes well with champagne served at brunch.
The mold resides in a deep storage area -- and I think the box is labeled "trifle bowl". We shall see...

Vix said...

"My husband despises all the holiday stuff lets everyone know it until 6th January"

That could be Jon and I! At least we're in agreement, it must be tricky when one partner loves all the traditional festivities and the other doesn't.

For years we escaped the whole shebang by going to India, since we shifted our trip forward by a month we've gone for a curry on Xmas day with our like-minded mates. This year there will be no restaurant, we'll probably eat what we always do and have noodles! xxx

Señora Allnut said...

mwhaha, your husband could fit perfectly into our Grinch-y Family!.
Anyway, I love a good meal, whatever the time of the year. And I'm enjoying your recipes and feeling inspired by them to cook!.
Your 'baccala' recipe looks pretty familiar to me, it's something we cook in the north of Spain (and in Portugal, where salt codfish is cooked in 365 ways, and they brag about it). Italian and spanish or portuguese plates are sometimes really similar.
Love your dumplins, pies and duck legs recipes. Yummy.
I'm glad that we don't have to cook for six persons this year for Xmas. So I'll cook some traditional and humble dishes, cardoon in almond sauce, or red cabbage with apples. And we'll count our blessings!