Christmas Brunch

23 12 2010

Pre-cooked ham makes an easy Christmas brunch dish.

Christmas morning is an exciting time for anyone who celebrates the holiday.  Kids wake up at the crack of dawn to see if Santa has arrived and many adults still feel a tingle of excitement when they see the tree surrounded by gifts in the morning. Once everyone has opened their presents and settled down, why not enjoy a delicious brunch?

I like to make a nice meal on Christmas morning.  However, I don’t like to fuss too much because who wants to be slaving in the kitchen when everyone else is having fun?  (plus, I have a turkey dinner to cook later in the day!).  The key is to do as much as possible the night before so Christmas can be enjoyed with your family.

Here are a few ideas for a relatively simple brunch.  I have included some helpful tips for prepping in advance to make things easier.

Spiced Cranberry-Apple Cider – On Christmas morning, I like to get up before everyone and put on a pot of mulled cider so when everyone wakes up, the house smells wonderful and there is something warm to drink while we’re opening gifts. Prepare the spice packet the night before. To make cranberry-apple cider, mix equal parts non-alcoholic apple cider and unsweetened cranberry juice in a saucepan and add the spice packet. Let simmer for 10 minutes and serve.  Garnish mugs with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Crustless Quiche – Leaving out the crust makes things much simpler. Of course, asparagus isn’t in season during Christmas but you can substitute chopped spinach, sautéed leeks, diced red peppers or sautéed mushrooms.  Bake the pie the night before and serve at room temperature or briefly warmed in the oven.

Spicy Breakfast Potatoes – The potatoes can be peeled and cubed the night before. Place the cubes in a bowl, add enough cold water to just cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Drain well and pat dry before cooking.  The spices can be pre-mixed in a small bowl so they’re ready to go in the morning.  You can let the potatoes cook while you’re preparing other dishes.

Cheddar-Herb Biscuits – The biscuits can be rolled, cut and placed in the baking dish the night before.  Refrigerate overnight and let them come to room temperature before baking.

Ham with Spicy Maple-Dijon Glaze – I buy a ham that has been pre-cooked, which makes things much simpler.  It can be sliced and served cold or heated briefly in the oven while other things are baking. Prepare the mustard glaze the night before and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Baked French Toast – This entire dish can be assembled the night before and baked in the morning.

Morning Glory (Orange and Pomegranate Mimosas) – In a pitcher, add orange and pomegranate juices the night before and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling wine just before serving (the wine can be added to the pitcher or to individual glasses.)  Use club soda for guests who don’t drink.

Pancakes – Mix all of the dry ingredients the night before in a large bowl.  Measure out the wet ingredients (except the egg) into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, combine everything and cook the pancakes.  Serve with pre-made fruit syrup or maple syrup.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins – Like pancakes, the dry ingredients can all be measured and added to a large bowl the night before.  Measure the wet ingredients into small bowls and refrigerate.  In the morning, you can mix and bake everything quickly.

Banana-Rum Bread – Banana bread and other sweet breads can be made in advance and frozen.  Remove from the freezer the night before to defrost in time for brunch.

Yogurt, cereal, bagels with cream cheese, smoked salmon, granola and fruit don’t require much prep work!

Coffee and Tea – Set up the coffee maker/espresso machine/french press with coffee and water the night before.  Fill a kettle with water for tea.

A Final Tip: You will be very happy in the morning if you take the time to set the table before you go to bed (and tell Santa not to mess it up with crumbs while he’s enjoying his milk and cookies on Christmas Eve!)

Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!

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Pomegranate Cocktails

21 12 2010

Pomegranate juice makes a great base for festive cocktails

Pomegranates are in season right now and they are ideal for making festive holiday cocktails (bonus: pomegranate juice is good for you!).  Whole pomegranates can be juiced but it’s a bit of a hassle and bottled pomegranate juice is readily available almost everywhere these days.  However, if you can’t find pomegranate juice, you can substitute unsweetened cranberry juice.

Christmas in the Tropics

This drink was inspired by a recent trip I took.  It’s a great way to use up that bottle of coconut rum you bought one summer that has been languishing at the back of your liquor cabinet.  The coconut is subtle and the pomegranate balances the flavours nicely.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 3 oz. rum
  • 1.5 oz. coconut rum (such as Malibu)
  • 6 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Slice of pomegranate or pomegranate berries, to garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine the rums, juice and some ice.  Shake well and strain into two martini or low-ball glasses.  Garnish with a slice of pomegranate or some seeds.

The Merry Maker

This unusual cocktail captures the flavours of the holiday season: warming spices, pomegranate and mandarin orange. Vodka can be substituted for the tequila if you’d prefer.

Makes two drinks (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teapsoon ground ginger
  • 1 oz. mandarin or regular orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz. tequila or vodka
  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice
  • Ice
  • Orange slice or twist as garnish (optional)

In a cocktail shaker, combine all ingredients (except garnish) and shake well.  Strain into martini glasses and garnish with an orange slice or twist if desired.

Morning Glory

Mimosas (orange juice with sparkling wine) make Christmas brunch festive.  Adding a splash of pomegranate gives it a new twist.  I sometimes juice some of the mandarin oranges or clementines that come in boxes around the holidays.

Makes one drink (can easily be multiplied for a crowd)

  • Orange juice or freshly squeezed mandarin or clementine juice
  • Pomegranate juice
  • An inexpensive sparkling wine such as cava or prosecco
  • Orange or mandarin slices to garnish, if desired

Fill a champagne flute halfway with orange juice.  Add a splash of pomegranate juice and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with an orange slice.

Cheers and Enjoy!

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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The Friday Five – December 17th, 2010

17 12 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1.  If you’ve already started thinking about eating healthier in 2011, you can start by avoiding these Worst Foods in America.  One of the dishes has more than 2,700 calories per serving! Yikes. (Yahoo)

2.  The last days of Kodachrome film are upon us.  Check out a retro styled holiday meal to celebrate the end of an era: The Last Kodachrome Christmas. (chow.com)

3.  Barney’s department store in New York has unveiled their annual holiday window and this year’s theme is the Food Network.  I’m not sure what is more nightmare-inducing: a mock-up of Mario Batali’s severed head or the fact that he is surrounded by his signature orange Crocs. (The Village Voice)

4.  If you’ve spent any time on food-related internet forums, you’ve likely heard about Sandra Lee’s infamous Kwanzaa Cake (if you haven’t, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with it – it’s hilariously awful). However, it turns out the real story of where the recipe came from goes beyond Ms. Lee’s talents.  It takes a brave woman to own up to that… (Huffington Post)

5.  If the forecast calls for snow, why not make ice cream! However, given how filthy the snow is near my house, I don’t know if I would try it in the city (and be sure to steer clear of any yellow snow!) (Eatocracy)

Have a great weekend!

The Friday Five will return on January 7th, 2011.

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How to Serve Burrata

15 12 2010

Creamy burrata drizzled with olive oil and served with toast rounds is sure to impress at your next party

We’re in the middle of the holiday entertaining season and no party is complete without a cheese board.  Why not move beyond the usual brie/cheddar/blue cheese and splurge on something special?  Burrata is a fresh mozzarella ball filled with rich cream. It’s decadent, delicious and perfect for impressing your friends.  Until recently, burrata was only produced in Italy but a number of cheese makers in Canada and the United States are now making it domestically.

Check out an article I wrote about where to buy and how to serve burrata: How to Serve Burrata (Fresh Mozzarella Cheese from Puglia, Italy).

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Steve’s Osso Bucco

13 12 2010

Osso bucco (braised veal shanks) + risotto = the perfect cold weather meal.

It’s mid-December and in many areas the weather has taken a turn for the grim.  The days are short and dark and curling up with a cup of tea in front of the fire is a very appealing prospect.  What could be more delicious for dinner than a hearty braise, served over creamy risotto?

Any good butcher should be able to get veal shanks for you. Be sure to ask if you don't see any on display.

Osso bucco are Italian veal shanks and my friend Steve makes the best version I have ever had (it’s even better than the one I tried at Babbo restaurant in NYC!).  Luckily he gave me the recipe so now I can make it whenever I please.  It’s ideal for cold winter nights when you don’t want to fuss because it’s easy to put together and most of the cooking time is unattended.  Any good butcher should be able to get you veal shanks so ask for them if you don’t see them on display.

Tip: Don’t skip the gremolata – it brings all of the flavours together.

Steve’s Osso Bucco

Makes 6 servings

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 6 veal shanks (osso bucco)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium red onions, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine
  • 3 cups (700 ml) chicken stock
  • 14 fl. oz. can San Marzano tomatoes with juice (or half of a large can)

Gremolata:

  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Tablespoons finely chopped Italian (flat leaf) parsley
  • The rind from 2 lemons (yellow part only), finely diced
  1. In a large bowl, add the flour, salt and pepper and stir to combine thoroughly.  Roll each of the veal shanks in the flour, making sure they are coated on all sides.  Shake off any excess flour and set the shanks aside on a plate.  Discard any leftover flour.
  2. In an enameled cast iron pot (5.5 quart or larger) or other large pot with a lid, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the veal shanks to the oil, making sure they are not crowded in the pot (work in batches if necessary).  The shanks will take about 3 to 4 minutes per side to brown.  Use tongs or a fork to turn them over.
  3. Remove the browned shanks from the pot and set aside.  Add the butter to the pot and heat until melted.  Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots. Reduce the heat to medium-low and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Turn the heat back to medium-high and pour in the wine, chicken stock and tomatoes.  Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer.  Return the veal shanks to the pot and use one of the following methods to finishing cooking:
  5. Stovetop Method: Cover and simmer for 2 to 4 hours on medium-low heat, until the meat is tender.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.  OR use the Oven Method: Heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover the pot and place in the oven, cooking for 3 hours or until the shanks are tender.
  6. To Make the Gremolata: In a small bowl, add the chopped garlic, parsley and lemon rind and stir to thoroughly combine.
  7. Stir the gremolata into the osso bucco sauce just before serving.
  8. Serve the shanks and sauce over risotto milanese.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.

A Delicious Tip: The bone marrow at the centre of each cooked shank can be seasoned with sea salt and scooped out with a small spoon.  Serve with toast rounds if desired.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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The Friday Five – December 3rd, 2010

3 12 2010

A weekly round up food and drink-related news stories:

1.  A mystery recently unfolded in Brooklyn: Honey bees and their combs were turning bright red. It turns out that bees like junk food too. (NYT)

2.  The next time I’m staring into my closet complaining that I have nothing to wear, perhaps I’ll head to the fridge and whip up an edible outfit like these amazing works by Yeonju Sung (of course, mine wouldn’t be as nice). (yeonju.me)

3.  If you know an adult who will only eat french fries or foods that are brown, they might not be boring, they may have Selective Eating Disorder. (msnbc)

4.  Would you pay $526 for a Christmas pudding made by one of the world’s top chefs?  I might – if it was made of solid gold. (Toronto Star)

5.  A company in British Columbia has developed an apple that won’t turn brown after it’s been cut.  Critics are calling it a ‘frankenapple’ and ‘botox apple’.  Yum… (gawker.com)

Have a great weekend!

The Friday Five will return on December 17th.

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