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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2007

Bring new flavors to holiday table

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Garlic and Walnut Crusted Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds. Garlic and Walnut Crusted Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds.
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Holiday entrees range from such traditional favorites as turkey with gravy; glazed hams; succulent roast duck and the Christmas goose, and the classic rib-eye, rib, and tenderloin beef roasts. They all taste great.

And yet, some cooks want a little something extra.

For those who want to bring new flavors to the holiday season, a little something extra for a roast for a crowd can be a sauce or presentation. For a smaller entree for one to four servings, pairing the entree with vegetables and a lovely little garnish like pomegranate seeds can make a hit.

During this busy season, it s a good idea to order the type and size of roast, poultry, or ham that you need in advance from your butcher shop or supermarket.

When ordering a beef roast, select the type: Leaner cuts round tip, eye round, and tri-tip are delicious and more economical choices than the classic rib-eye, rib, and tenderloin.

Determine what size of roast to purchase. Lean boneless roasts such as tenderloin, eye round, and tri-tip yield four three-ounce servings of cooked, trimmed beef per pound.

Ribeye roasts have more trimmable fat and yield three three-ounce servings of cooked beef per pound.

Bone-in rib roasts yield 2 three-ounce servings of cooked, trimmed beef per pound.

But plan on six ounces, cooked trimmed beef for those holiday servings, advises the Beef & Veal Culinary Center.

While beef tenderloin is delicious simply rubbed with salt and lemon pepper, here s a spectacular recipe for the holidays: Beef Tenderloin with Wild Rice Pilaf & Holiday Ale Sauce. Prepare a rub of finely chopped pistachios, ground coriander seeds, thyme, and black pepper. Roast the beef on a rack in a hot 425-degree oven. Meanwhile, prepare Wild Rice Pilaf laced with dried cranberries, chopped shallots, and spinach. Carve the roast into slices and then serve with Holiday Ale Sauce. The recipe takes about one hour to prepare, depending on the degree of doneness desired.

Beef Tenderloin with Wild Rice Pilaf & Holiday Ale Sauce.
Beef Tenderloin with Wild Rice Pilaf & Holiday Ale Sauce.
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For the Wild Rice Pilaf, use an unspiced long grain and wild rice mix; when The Blade tested the recipe we used the Near East brand. As for the sauce, a red ale, Christmas ale, or another variety of beer can be used; for those who don t want to use beer, try ready-to-serve beef broth.

Bone-in hams also make an ideal centerpiece. The amount of water contained in a ham affects its taste, texture, and price, according to the HoneyBaked Ham Co. Added water also lowers ham s nutritional value and makes the meat more perishable.

Read the label on the ham.

Ham must be 20.5 percent protein in its lean area and have no water added. Ham with natural juices contains at least 18.5 percent protein and has had a small amount of water added during the curing process for a moist ham with a smooth texture.

For a bone-in ham, plan on to pound per serving. Ham will feed more people when it is served buffet-style or when plated dinners are served.

Tangy Orange Ham Glaze is a three-ingredient glaze. Brush the mixture on frequently during the last 30 minutes of baking so that the ham does not get too dark or burn in the oven.

Small dinners

When there s only two to four people at your holiday table, a smaller entree such as Garlic and Walnut Crusted Chicken with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds is wonderfully festive. The savory dish is first baked and then topped with a crunchy walnut-bread crumb coating and finished in the broiler. It is served with caramelized Brussels sprouts and tender leekrings on a bed of wilted spinach. For a restaurant finish, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.

Pomegranate seeds and the arils (seed sacs) can be time-consuming. To open a pomegranate, score it and submerge it in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the arils, which sink to the bottom of the bowl. The membrane floats to the top; discard the membrane. Use a sieve to remove the arils from the remaining liquid. Use the amount of arils desired and refrigerate or freeze the remaining arils for another use. One pomegranate yields about cup arils.

Simple suppers

Plan a casual supper with friends during the hectic holiday season. Veal cutlets, which are always special, are versatile, from piccata (quickly sauteed and served with a sauce of lemon juice, pan drippings, and parsley) to Marsala (sauteed veal with a Marsala wine sauce). For a festive dish, Veal Cutlets with Shiitake Mushroom & Tomato Sauce is easy to make, even after work.

The secret to the veal cutlets is to pound them to the same thickness so they cook evenly and, most importantly, don t overcook them. They re ready in 2 to 3 minutes. The savory blend of sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and fresh basil complements the delicate flavor of the sauteed cutlets.

To complete the supper, serve focaccia or a baguette with good olive oil for dipping. Dress crisp romaine lettuce leaves with a light vinaigrette and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan.

For a nice ending, serve holiday cookies and sherbet or sorbet.

Contact Kathie Smith at:food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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