December offers many occasions in the calendar to gather with friends and family to toast good health, good food and being together midst the cold flurries of the cold Canadian winter. As I reflect on the numerous opportunities besides the proverbial 'sunday roast' or 'friday night dinners', there is in this month the honoured ritual of Hanukah early in the month, Winter solstice mid month and of course Christmas and New Year's Day.
Large gatherings at this time of year prefer a casual format, warm hearty comfort food with roasted meats and vegetables straight from the oven while the house wafts with the scents of cloves, cinnamon and allspice.
This month it is time to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with an spectacle of edible gifts to wrap, serve and share and so these recipes are entered as a special entry.
Take care to be selective about the number of creative projects one endeavors at this time as this month can turn into a frenetic hoopla of stresses furnaced by commercial interests.
Friends, family and food is meant to be enjoyed by the host as well so be selective in your social planning while serene in your enjoyment of your crowd.
December Recipe List
Cranberry Chutney Almond Cheese Mold
Olive Tapenade Onion Triangles
Pintade or Caramelized Onions
Dried Apple Onion Soup with Baguette Sandwich
Roasted Squash with Apple Pork Stuffing
Chicken Curry with Peach Chutney
Stuffed Pork Loin with Apple Plum Chutney
Lemon Cake with Pears in Red Wine
Dried Fruit & Nut Cake
Almond Mincemeat Currant Biscotti
Cranberry Walnut Apple Crisp
Apple Mincemeat Pie
Mincemeat Cake with Caramel Sauce
Applesauce with Nuts and Raisins
Cranberry Chutney Almond Cheese Mould
Warm winter evenings call for appetizers that offer rich tastes and dashes of colour all the while using a colourful cranberry chutney that was prepared during the thanksgiving season only a few months ago. Prepare this cheese mould the day before a Friday evening gathering and avoid expensive moulds that lack freshness.
16 oz. Cream cheese
2 c. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
6 tbsp. Sherry
2 tbsp. Worcestshire sauce
11/2 tsp. Curry
½ tsp. Salt
1 c. cranberry chutney
¾ c. almonds toasted
½ c. green onions, thinly sliced
Combine cream cheese, cheddar, sherry, Worcestershire, curry and salt until well blended. Pour into mould that has been lined with plastic wrap. Wrap well with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze overnight. Remove from the mould using warm water and spread with chutney. Press the chopped almonds followed by green onions and serve 10-12 party goers.
This meat pie has a very long and revered tradition at Christmas gatherings throughout French Canada as well as parts of New England. The word 'trourte' has its first sighting in 1611 where it was understood in France to be the cooking ladle to hold a small bird. In the dishes' travels to North America it was known for its savoury pastry in a deep dish and was filled with the passenger pigeon. It was harvested intensely during the 1800's and skies were cloudy with 3-5 billion birds. By 1880 the species had disappeared but the romance and nostalgia connected with 'tourtiere' as a treat or precious dish remained. It was commonly served at Christmas after midnight mass at the exuberant party called the 'reveillon' where there would be feasting, singing, and dancing. The English connection calls the dish 'pate a l'angloise', or red-devil's dish as it was known to be served with a red sweet and sour condiment (that sounds like ketchup). This flavourful recipe is one that is brought together from the traditional Jehanne Benoit ‘Canadiana’ cookbook from 1975 as well as the ‘Canadian Living’ classic cookbook published every year. Here I include an early painting from the Quebec artist, Joseph Legare: Josephte Ourne c. 1840. She is holding the now extinct passenger pigeon she had just successfully hunted with her bow along with her bountiful catch of the day. Was she bringing the pigeon home to add to her 'tourtiere'?
3 medium potatoes
3 lbs of lean ground beef combined with pork
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 large golden onions
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk celery
6 cups sliced mushrooms
2 tsp salt
3 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. sage
1 tbsp savory
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ c. chopped fresh parsley
Peel potatoes in a separate saucepan. Drainwater except for 1/3 cup water and mash them until smooth.
In a deep skillet, cook onions, garlic, celery and mushroom and set aside. Separately, cook 3 lbs meat thoroughly and drain the fat. Stir in parsley, herbs and finally add chopped carrots and mashed potatoes previously cooked separately. Generously fill the pies prepared with pie crust.
6 cups unbleached flour
11/2 tbsp salt
1 1/3 cups lard
1 tbsp lemon juice
11/2 cup cold water
Mix flour and salt in a separate bowl. Blend in lard into flour mixture until it is the size of small peas. Prepare beaten egg, cold water and vinegar up to one cup, and add to flour mixture. Make into a large mass without working the dough, and finally divide it into 6 balls of dough. Place into the fridge to cool (makes 3 pies).
Make lower shell and add mixture. Make top shell of pastry. Bake in a hot oven at 425 degrees for 15 min. Reduce heat for 45 minutes at 325 degrees until done. Don't forget the ketchup or a tomato or cranberry chutney.
This Italian holiday sweet bread in the past purchased only in delicatessen stores in now largely available in large food chain stores. Traditionally it is served at Christmas, Easter, christenings and weddings. It is a very interesting and economical bread to make at home with the convenience of the bread maker while also using many of the ingredients you enjoyed using during the period you prepared Christmas edible gifts. This recipe uses dried apples and cranberries dried at home with a portable dryer. You may find your own personal combinations to make this recipe your own. If you only select to make this bread by making the dough (by hand or in your bread machine), you can find a medium sized tin, grease it and bake in the oven for a high cylinder shaped loaf.
1 cup milk 250 ml
1 tsp salt 5 ml
2 tbsp honey 25 ml
2 tbsp buter 25 ml
31/4 cups unbleached flour 800 ml
1 tsp anise seed 5 ml
2 tsp yeast 10 ml
1/2 cup dried apples 125 ml
1/2 dried cranberries 125 ml
1/3 cup dried currants 75 ml
1/4 cup brandy 50 ml
1/4 cup water 50 ml
Add all ingredients in the same order as listed into the bread machine container and select the 'sweet' cycle to program it. Prepare the dried fruit by placing them in a small saucepan adding the brandy with water and bringing it to a simmer over a 10 minutes period to soften them. Delay adding the dried fruit until the bread machine indicator allows for it during the 'add ingredient' signal. You will be encouraged to make this bread on a few occasions throughout the festive season.