It’s about that time. There’s a nip in the air, and the leaves are changing — signaling that we’re in the final stretch of 2017. Before you know it, it’ll be time to dust off the old cookie cutters and deck the halls. But before you haul the turkey pan out of storage, think about reconsidering your holiday food traditions.
We all love holiday menus, but what if you’re tired of the same old oven-roasted turkey or basic ham?
Turkey’s had a good run — but it can be time-consuming, predictable and, at times, not exactly the most flavorful protein in the pack.
What do you say? Time to revamp those food traditions, or what?
Centerpieces From the Sea
Lighten things up — well, at least relative to the typical Christmas dinner standbys. These seafood ideas are relatively simple and will have you wondering why you went with the hours-long turkey preparations in the first place:
1. Scallops in White Wine Sauce
These scrumptious scallops are a flash in the pan. They take about 15 minutes total and require no marinating time whatsoever. Grill them up in your favorite skillet, and you’re sure to impress the whole family.
• 2 pounds of large sea scallops, ligaments removed
• 1 stick of butter, cut into eight slices
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
• 1/4 cup dry white wine
• ½ an onion, diced
• 2 cloves of garlic, minced
• 1/4 cup white-wine vinegar
• 1 tablespoon of diced fresh basil
• 1 teaspoon of parsley
Dry the scallops with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
Add two tablespoons of butter to a non-stick pan and turn burner to medium heat.
Keep as is, until the butter stops foaming, then add scallops. Sear until golden brown, turning once. This process should only take about five minutes.
Remove scallops from pan and scrape any stray pieces out of the dish.
Add the wine, vinegar, onions, and garlic, along with the remainder of the butter.
Stir in basil.
Then, turn the burner to low and stir gently until the sauce is a creamy texture.
Stir in parsley and remove from heat.
Pour sauce over scallops and serve.
2. Baked Dijon Salmon
In terms of alternative Christmas dinner ideas, this baked salmon recipe isn’t the most obvious pick. It’s an easy, any night dish — but if you dress it up with a little Dijon mustard and pop it in the oven? You’ve got yourself an easy centerpiece meal, minimal effort required.
• 4 pounds of salmon, cut into fillets
• 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
• 1/3 cup of Dijon mustard
• 1/3 cup of red wine vinegar
• 2 tablespoons of olive oil
• 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
• Salt and pepper
• 1 lemon cut into quarters
Set oven to broil, with rack positioned near the top. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, add olive oil and heat to medium-high.
Add minced garlic cook for a few minutes, then stir in mustard, brown sugar and red wine vinegar.
Cook for another minute or two, letting the mixture thicken a bit.
Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.
Place salmon on a large, lightly greased baking sheet.
Spoon glaze over the salmon and place in the oven. Bake until the glaze begins to bubble and fish is both flaky and opaque — which should take about 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven and serve with a lemon wedge.
Birds and Beyond — Alternatives to Turkey
If you’re not feeling seafood as the main event or live in a landlocked part of the country, there are plenty of other proteins that’ll get the job done. From duck to game hens, lamb and pork, you don’t need a spiraled ham to take things to holiday heights. Here are a few ideas that’ll get the juices flowing:
1. Apricot-Glazed Game Hens
Game hens are sure to impress anyone sitting down to your holiday table setting. From the novelty of shrunken hens to the gourmet name, you’ll be pleased as punch with these little guys. Besides, going small has some major plusses when it comes to saving time and staying tender.
• 4 Cornish game hens patted dry with paper towels
• ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons of rosemary
• 4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
• 1 lemon, scrubbed well and cut into quarters
• ¼ cup of apricot jam
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• ½ cup of balsamic vinegar
• ½ cup of chicken broth
First, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Meanwhile, loosen the skin on each hen and gently spoon a tablespoon of the olive oil under the skin of each breast, along with a sliced clove of garlic (one clove per hen).
Then, tie the wings and legs together.
Rub hens with remaining olive oil and season with rosemary, salt and pepper.
Place hens in a large roasting pan, lined with aluminum foil. Place sheet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl combine apricot jam, balsamic vinegar and chicken broth and whisk together. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and take hens out of the oven. Spoon sauce over the hens and arrange lemons around them. Place back in the oven for another 30 minutes, intermittently basting with the sauce from the pan.
The hens are done when the meat is heated to 165 degrees, and the juice runs clear.
Serve with a slice of the warmed lemons.
2. Citrus-Bourbon Duck
Duck is likely something you don’t have all the time — at least we don’t — and it brings a sort of richness and warmth perfect for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This recipe brings bright citrus to the table, seasoned with bourbon and a hint of cinnamon — the best flavors of the season, if you ask us.
• 1 5-pound, oven-ready duck
• 2 lemons — one juiced, one cut into wedges
• 1 navel orange, juiced
• 3 tablespoons of light brown soft sugar
• 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
• 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
• 1 cup of bourbon
• 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
• 1 cup of chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon of flour
Heat oven to 325 degrees and place duck in a roasting pan.
With a sharp skewer, prick the duck’s skin all over.
Stuff the duck’s cavity with lemon wedges and squirt some of the orange and lemon juice in there as well. Combine the remainder of the citrus juice with bourbon, vinegar, brown sugar and cinnamon and pour into the pan. Cover the duck.
Baste the duck with the juices once every 15 minutes.
Roast for about an hour, remove from heat and drain excess juices into a saucepan.
Increase the heat to 350, uncover the duck and place back into the oven. Roast for another hour. Increase temperature to 400 degrees. Remove from heat and transfer duck to a baking sheet. Cook for another 45 minutes and prepare the sauce.
Add butter and flour to saucepan and turn burner to medium-low.
Let the sauce simmer and thicken, as the duck continues to cook.
Remove duck from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
Serve with citrus sauce.
3. Roasted Leg of Lamb
A roasted leg of lamb is a Christmas or Thanksgiving alternative to the hams and turkeys of the season, yet it provides that same sense of specialness or tradition. This recipe requires a bit of a commitment regarding marinating, but it only takes about two hours to cook — freeing up some precious oven-real estate for your favorite sides.
• One bone-in 6-pound leg of lamb
• 2 onions, diced
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 carrots, grated
• 4 cloves garlic, minced
• 3 teaspoons of fresh thyme
• 4 teaspoons of fresh oregano
• 1 teaspoon of rosemary
• ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
• 1 teaspoon of salt
Place your leg of lamb in a large roasting pan.
Add all the other ingredients and take a couple of minutes to rub them all over the lamb leg. Arrange vegetables around the leg.
With a sharp knife, score the lamb with tiny slits.
Stick garlic into those slits and set aside.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine herbs, vinegar, salt and pepper and pour over the lamb leg. Cover with plastic wrap or foil and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
Baste the meat with the marinade occasionally.
When the time comes (the next day), preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Remove the lamb from the fridge and stick it in the oven.
Cook lamb for about 2 hours — or until your meat thermometer reads 145 degrees. This should give you a medium-rare dish — cook a bit longer if you prefer it to be medium or medium-well. As it cooks, baste the meat with the pan juices intermittently.
Remove lamb from the oven and transfer to a cutting board.
Let it rest for 15-20 minutes, then skim the fat off the pan juices and remove carrots and onion.
When ready to serve, transfer lamb to a serving dish and drizzle with remaining pan juices.
4. Pork Rib Roast With Apple and Onion Glaze
This pork roast features a delectable apple onion glaze — the perfect balance of sweet and savory that makes this tender pork roast sing.
•1 4-pound pork rib roast (boneless)
•2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary
•3 tablespoons of olive oil
•3 cloves of garlic, minced
•Salt and pepper, to taste
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 2 yellow onions, chopped into fine pieces
• 1 large apple, diced
• 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
• ¼ cup of applesauce
• Salt and pepper, to taste
First, preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil and minced garlic. Place pork on a working surface, and with a knife, crosshatch shallow incisions into the surface of the meat.
Drizzle olive oil mixture onto the meat, covering the entire surface.
Then season with salt, pepper and rosemary. The small incisions will help keep spices intact as the meat cooks.
Place pork in a large baking dish and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the pork has reached an internal temperature of 155 degrees.
When finished, tent the pork with a piece of foil and let rest for about 15 minutes.
Slice the roast and top with apple-onion glaze — directions are listed below.
In a large skillet, add olive oil and heat to medium-high heat. Add sliced onions and apple pieces and cook for about 15 minutes. Onions should develop a brownish color.
Reduce the heat, and then add applesauce and vinegar. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Remember to stir often so the glaze doesn’t stick to your pan.
Remove from heat and let cool before drizzling over your pork roast. Enjoy.
If you’re looking for unique Christmas dinner ideas, here are some meatless mains that work alongside your favorite holiday meats or as the main star of the holiday table. Give those vegetarians you care about most something to talk about. Here are a couple of ideas sure to provide the satisfaction you need outside of the traditional turkey dinner:
1. Baked, Stuffed Butternut Squash
Hearty, flavorful and in tune with all the best flavors of the season, these stuffed squashes are the perfect veggie main for those looking for something beyond the Brussel sprouts and bread basket.
• 1 large butternut squash
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 large onion
• 2 cloves minced garlic
• 2 cups of chopped mushrooms
• 1 cup of chopped kale
• 1/2 cup of brown rice (dry)
• 1 cup of vegetable stock
• 1/2 cup of shredded parmesan cheese
• 1 teaspoon of diced parsley
• 1 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut your squash in half, length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Place both halves, cut-side down, in a baking pan and fill the dish with about a half inch of tap water.
Stick the squash in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
Rinse the brown rice and set aside.
Add olive oil to a large skillet and add onions and garlic. Sauté until onions become translucent. Add kale and mushrooms, then rice and vegetable stock. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat, letting the rice cook for about 15 minutes or until broth has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, scoop out the fleshy part of the squash, leaving at least a 1/4″ border.
Mash squash in a large mixing bowl, then add in rice and vegetable mixture when done. Mix, then refill squash shells with the filling.
Top with parmesan cheese, then return to the oven. Cook for 15 minutes, remove from heat and serve.
2. Personal Pot Pies
Earthy, filling and the perfect amount of home-y, these individual pot pies are the ideal alternative to a heavier meat dish and are vegan-friendly.
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 red onion, diced
• 2 carrots, diced
• 1 cup of frozen mixed vegetables — thawed
• 3 cloves of garlic, minced
• 2 cups of mushrooms, chopped
• 1 cup of green lentils, cooked
•2 cups of vegetable stock
•1 tablespoon of tomato paste
• 2 tablespoons of red cooking wine
• 1 tablespoon of dried thyme
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons of flour
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 uncooked biscuits
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet add olive oil and turn the burner to medium-high.
Add onions, garlic and carrots and cook for a few minutes, or until onion becomes translucent.
Add mushrooms and cook for a couple more minutes.
Then add vegetable stock, lentils, tomato paste, herbs and wine.
Stir in the frozen vegetable mixture. Add flour and stir.
Reduce heat and let simmer for a few more minutes, letting the mixture thicken.
Remove from heat.
Spoon the mixture into four large ramekins and gently set the uncooked biscuits on top of each setting. Place all dishes on a large baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes.
The biscuits should be baked all the way through, golden on the tops.
Remove from heat and stir.
Prepare for Winter — Shop Dutch Ovens and More for Your Holiday Baking Adventures
Don’t get left in the cold! Before you get overwhelmed with holiday shopping lists, travel plans and baking obligations, give that kitchen a facelift. Whether you’re on the hook for hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas or both, check out Ceramcor.
We have Dutch ovens and skillets — for baking, braising and sautéing up a storm — as well as bakeware and utensils, too. You might also want to stock up on plenty of Fridgex storage for keeping the aftermath fresh and organized.