Curried Parsnip Soup

22 03 2011

Parsnips are often overlooked but they are surprisingly delicious and versatile

We have finally welcomed spring after a long winter. Unfortunately, in many areas, there will not be a lot of new local produce available for at least six to eight more weeks.  However, there is an overlooked vegetable that is usually the first crop harvested each spring (sort of): Parsnips!

Parsnips are root vegetables that look like white carrots, although they taste a bit nuttier and sweeter.  In Ontario, parsnips are typically planted in the spring.  While most of crop is harvested in the fall and stored for the winter (much like potatoes and carrots), some parsnips are left in the ground through the winter and harvested in March and April. As a result, parsnips are considered both a winter and spring vegetable.  They are also delicious but sadly under appreciated. They can be used in soups, stews, dips and pasta sauces.

This soup is the perfect antidote to grey March days.  It’s hearty and warming and can be dressed up with the addition of seafood or shredded duck confit (the original recipe called for mussels but the soup is delicious without them). Be sure to use vegetable stock and skip the garnishes if serving vegetarians.

Curried Parsnip Soup

Makes about 6 cups

  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. (454 grams) medium sized parsnips, peeled and cut into rounds 1/8” thick (equals about 8 parsnips)
  • 1 medium tart apple (such as a Granny Smith), peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (preferably low-sodium)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Items to garnish (optional) – shredded duck confit, steamed mussels or sautéed scallops
  1. In an enameled cast iron pot or medium stockpot, heat butter on medium until melted. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add parsnips and stir into the onions. Let parsnips cook until softened, about five minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning and sticking. Add the apple cubes and cook for another minute. Add curry and nutmeg and stir through until combined.
  3. Add stock and bring to a gentle simmer for 15 minutes, until parsnips are very tender. Remove parsnip mixture from the heat. Using a regular blender or immersion blender, carefully puree soup until very smooth. Return pureed soup to the pot and place back on medium heat.
  4. Add cream and stir through. Heat the soup until it’s warmed through and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To serve: ladle some soup into each bowl.  If using any of the garnish ideas, place a couple of cooked mussels, sauteed scallops or a small amount of shredded duck confit in the centre of each serving.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Curried Parsnip Soup can be dressed up with steamed mussels, sautéed scallops or shredded duck confit

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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





Cock-A-Leekie Pie

17 03 2011

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Today is the day we celebrate all things Irish whether you have Irish blood or are just Irish in spirit.  If you’re spending the evening at a pub or having a quiet night at home, an Irish-inspired dinner is a must to celebrate.  And of course, don’t forget the beer!

This is basically a pot pie, made with chicken, leeks and potatoes.  To save time, you can use leftover cooked chicken (a supermarket rotisserie chicken works well). However, if you don’t have a cooked chicken, you can poach some breasts and/or thighs quite easily:

Poaching Chicken: Select chicken breasts or thighs with the bone-in and skin on (you’ll need about 3 large breasts to yield enough meat for the pie).  Place the chicken pieces, skin side down, in a large pot and cover with chicken stock (about 3 cups). Peel and quarter a small onion and add to the pot.  Add a sprig of fresh sage and two sprigs of time.  Cover and simmer gently on medium-low heat (don’t bring to a hard boil).  Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, or until the meat is just past pink.

Use tongs to remove the cooked chicken from the broth.  Let the chicken cool on a cutting board and bring the stock to a hard boil for five minutes.  While the stock is boiling, remove the chicken skin and discard. Use two forks to pull the meat from the bones and chop it into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. Place cooked meat in the casserole dish (as directed in the recipe below). Strain the stock and use the reserved stock in the recipe.  Extra stock can be kept in the fridge for a few days.

Cock-A-Leekie Pie

Serves 4 to 6

  • 3-1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken meat (white, dark or a combination – see above for instructions on how to poach chicken)
  • 1-1/2 cups cubed red potatoes (cut into 1/2″ cubes) – no need to peel them
  • 5 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, roots trimmed and cut into thin rings
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 package frozen puff pastry, thawed OR homemade pastry to cover a casserole dish

White Sauce:

  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Add cubed potatoes to a large saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them. Cover the pot and heat on high until the water comes to a boil.  Cook the potatoes until just tender (do not overcook), about 12 to 14 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, add the butter and heat on medium-high until melted. Add the sliced leeks.  Sauté until tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chopped thyme and sage and cook for another minute.
  4. Remove the leeks from the heat and spoon into an oven-proof casserole dish. Add the potatoes and chopped chicken and set aside while preparing the white sauce.
  5. To make the white sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium-high heat.  Stir in the flour and reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the flour-butter mixture for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  6. Whisk in the chicken stock and stir until the mixture is smooth.  Add the milk, a half-cup at a time, whisking continuously.  Let cook until the sauce begins to thicken, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  7. Stir in the cream.  Cook for another couple of minutes.  Season with salt to taste.
  8. To Assemble the Pie: Pour the white sauce over the potatoes, leeks and chicken that are in the casserole dish. Stir to combine. Roll out the thawed puff pastry dough (or other dough) to fit the top of the casserole dish. Lay the pastry over the top of the casserole dish and use a knife to make a few slashes in the top so steam can escape.
  9. Bake the pie for 20 minutes at 425 F or until the top is puffed and golden.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Bon Appétit and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Cock-a-Leekie Pie with a green salad

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





Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto

15 03 2011

Scamorza Affumicate: A smoked cheese that is similar to mozzarella and provolone

I recently returned from a trip to northern Italy and have been busy working on my own versions of some of the dishes I enjoyed there. One of those dishes was a smoky risotto with sautéed radicchio that I had one day for lunch.  It was a cool, rainy day and the hearty richness of the risotto paired with a glass of Piedmontese wine was the perfect way to warm up.

Sourcing Ingredients

Scamorza is a cheese that is similar to provolone or mozzarella.  The smoked version (affumicate) is darker in colour and has a firm smoky rind and soft interior. Scamorza affumicate can be found at many cheese shops but you can substitute smoked mozzarella or smoked provolone if you can’t find it.  The scamorza rind is edible but won’t melt as easily so it can be trimmed if desired.

Radicchio at an Italian market

Radicchio is a leafy vegetable that is related to chicory.  Raw radicchio can be quite bitter but it mellows when sautéed or grilled. It can usually be found near the lettuce or cabbage in supermarkets and is easily recognizable by its bright purple leaves.

If it is your first time making risotto, you might find this primer helpful for information about ingredients: Basic Risotto.

Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto

Makes about 4 servings as a starter

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 cups chopped radicchio (about 1 small head), plus extra for garnish and to make radicchio ‘cups’ (optional, see below)
  • 1 cup raw carnaroli rice (you can use arborio if carnaroli isn’t available)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • About 3-1/2 to 4* cups chicken or vegetable stock – be sure to use vegetable stock if cooking for vegetarians
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) smoked scamorza cheese, cut into 1/2″ cubes (equals about 3/4 cup of cubed cheese)
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt, to taste
  1. In a large deep skillet or enameled cast iron pot, heat olive oil on medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until it’s beginning to soften, about two minutes.  Add the radicchio and sauté for another two minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add rice and sauté for another 2 minutes, stirring periodically.  Pour in the wine and stir the rice.  Reduce heat and let simmer gently until the wine is completely absorbed, about 3 minutes.
  3. Once the wine has completely absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the stock.  Let the rice simmer gently, stirring occasionally.  Once the stock has almost fully absorbed (about 4 minutes), add another 1/2 cup of the stock.
  4. Repeat the process of adding the stock a half-cup at a time once it has almost absorbed. Continue until the rice is creamy and cooked through but still has a very slight ‘bite’ in the middle of the grains (al dente).  Stir the rice on occasion and keep an eye on it.  It will take approximately 6 to 7* additions of stock in half-cup increments (*Note: the rice may require a little more or less stock, depending on how absorbent it is).
  5. Once the rice is cooked to the desired tenderness, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and cheese. Stir into the risotto until completely melted.  Season with salt to taste.
  6. To serve: If you want to make radicchio ‘cups’, trim off the root end of a fresh head of radicchio. Carefully peel back the whole leafs, making sure not to tear them. Arrange three or four leaves on a plate in a circle to make a cup shape. Fill with risotto and garnish with a small amount of fresh chopped radicchio.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Radicchio and Scamorza Risotto in a radicchio cup

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





Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

8 03 2011

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

March 8th is Pancake Day (a.k.a. Shrove Tuesday)!   It’s a great excuse to whip up some pancakes for breakfast (or have ‘breakfast-for-dinner’ if there’s no time in the morning).  Adding lemon zest and a bit of fresh juice gives these breakfast treats a hint of lemon flavour that is perfect with strawberry sauce. Fresh strawberries aren’t in season in most areas yet but frozen ones work just as well. Of course, maple syrup also pairs well with the pancakes and is seasonally appropriate.

Ricotta is a soft, mild cheese that can be found in the dairy case of most supermarkets. However, it’s also possible to make it at home and doesn’t require any exotic ingredients: Home-Made Ricotta.

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes with Strawberry Sauce

Makes about 10 pancakes (recipe can be halved or doubled)

The Strawberry Sauce can simmer while you’re preparing the batter and cooking the pancakes (see recipe below).

Lemon-Ricotta Pancakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Finely grated zest of one medium lemon (about 2 teaspoons of zest)
  • 2 cups milk (1% or 2%)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • Oil for cooking
  • Strawberry Sauce (see below for recipe)
  • Lemon zest, powdered sugar or fresh strawberries as garnish (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and lemon zest.  Use a fork to stir until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
  2. Pour the milk into a large measuring cup.  Break the eggs into the milk and beat with a fork until combined. Melt the butter in the microwave for 1 minute (or in a saucepan if you don’t have a microwave).  Let cool slightly and stir it into the milk/egg mixture.
  3. Slow pour the milk and egg mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring as you add the liquid.  Add the lemon juice and whisk until the batter is fairly smooth.
  4. Break up the ricotta with your fingers and add to the batter.  Stir until combined (there may be some small lumps of ricotta but that’s ok).
  5. In a large skillet, add a small amount of oil and heat on medium-high until a bit of batter dropped in sizzles. Working in batches, pour three or four circles of batter into the pan.  Cook until browned on the bottom, about 3 to 5 minutes. Reduce the heat slightly and flip the pancakes over.  Continue to cook until the bottom in browned and they are just cooked through.  Move cooked pancakes to a plate and repeat with the remaining batter.
  6. Top with Strawberry Sauce (below) or maple syrup and garnish with lemon zest, powdered sugar or fresh strawberry slices if desired. For an extra decadent treat, add a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream to each serving.

Strawberry Sauce

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
  1. Add all ingredients to a large sauce pan.  Heat on medium-high, stirring occasionally.  Lower the heat to medium and let the strawberries simmer while the pancakes are cooking (about 15 minutes).  Use a potato masher or fork to crush the cooked strawberries.  Serve over pancakes or waffles.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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Tartiflette

28 02 2011

 

L'Eglise St. Michel in Chamonix, France

I recently returned from a fantastic two-week trip to Italy and France.  It was the perfect holiday: the architecture and scenery were stunningly beautiful and I never tire of strolling the streets of European cities, window-shopping and people watching.  And then, of course, there was the food.

We spent some time in Torino, Italy (more on that later) and then headed to Chamonix in the French Alps for a bit of skiing. The commune of Chamonix is located in the Haute-Savoie region, just across the border from Italy at the foot of Mont Blanc. The area is surrounded by mountains and has a vibrant scene in the evenings once everyone has retired from the slopes for the day.

 

Haute-Savoie specialties include excellent cheeses such as Tomme de Savoie, cured meats and wine

The cuisine of the Alps is seasonally-based and includes local wines,cured meats and fantastic cheeses such as tomme, abondance, reblochon and raclette. Dining in Chamonix is typically casual and restaurants often feature fun communal dishes like raclette (a local cheese that is melted and scraped onto potatoes), fondue (both oil-based and cheese-based) and hot stone (pierre-chaud) cooking, where slices of meat or poultry are cooked at the table on a heated stone. Onion and vegetable soups are common starters and potatoes often accompany meals.  However, my favourite local specialty was tartiflette.

Tartiflette: a Savoyard dish made with onions, potatoes, bacon, cream and cheese

Tartiflette, contrary to what I had thought, is not a tart but a dish of potatoes, onions, cream and bacon with cheese melted on top.  Honestly, with those ingredients, you could probably stick an old shoe in there and it would still be delicious!  It’s not light but after a vigorous day of outdoor winter activities, it fits the bill perfectly.

A day of vigorous activity and fresh Alpine air will work up an appetite for the rich foods of the region

In the Savoie region, reblochon is the type of cheese typically used in tartiflette.  It can be found in North America at most good cheese shops, however, if it is not available, you can substitute a tomme, fontina, raclette or brie (bearing in mind that the taste of the finished dish will be different but no less delicious).

Tartiflette

Serves 2 to 4 (it’s quite rich but if diners are very hungry, it will serve 2 – the recipe can easily be doubled)

This recipe is a great way to use up leftover cooked potatoes.

  • 6 oz. (170 grams) slab bacon, cut into a 1/2″ dice
  • 1 medium to large (about 6 oz / 170 g) yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cups diced peeled and cooked potatoes (cut into a 1/2″ dice) – about 2 large potatoes
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 7 to 8 oz. (200 to 226 g) reblochon cheese (see above for substitutions)
  1. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add the diced bacon. Cook the bacon until almost crisp, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped onion to the bacon. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked potato chunks to the skillet and stir until the mixture is combined.  Pour in the half-and-half and simmer gently on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While the mixture is simmering, prepare the cheese. Slice the reblochon into thin slices about 1/4″ thick. Use a sharp knife to trim off the rind if desired (the rind is edible but it may be quite strong tasting and have a slightly gritty texture).
  5. Spoon the potato mixture into individual oven-proof dishes or one large casserole dish (if the skillet has an oven-proof handle, you can keep it in the pan if desired). Lay the sliced cheese in an even layer over the potato mixture.
  6. Place the oven rack in the top position and turn on the broiler. Broil the tartiflettes until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes (watch carefully – it can burn in an instant!)
  7. Let cool slightly and serve with a lightly dressed green salad.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

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

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Serve tartiflette with a lightly dressed green salad to cut the richness





Crispy Fish Tacos with Avocado Cream

6 02 2011

Crispy Fish Tacos with Avocado Cream

Is everyone sick of winter yet?  I know I am!  Take a break from the usual winter fare and treat yourself to something fresh and different: Fish Tacos. They are very popular in California and are showing up on menus as far north as Toronto.  They’re also fun to make at home so whip up some margaritas, put on some summery music and imagine you’re somewhere warm!

To get my recipe for Crispy Fish Tacos with Avocado Cream, check out Suite 101.com.

Enjoy!

The Seasonal Gourmet is going on a brief hiatus until the week of February 22nd. Check back then for some exciting new recipes and winter menu ideas!

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My Favourite Winter Comfort Dishes

26 01 2011

Beef Pie with winter vegetables in a rich wine sauce and topped with a cheddar-flecked crust

For anyone living in a northern climate, we’re into the toughest point of winter: the weather is frigid, the days are often gloomy and spring is still far, far away. The warm glow of the holiday season is a month behind us and people are starting to get cranky. However, there is no need to despair! It’s the perfect time to enjoy winter activities such as skiing, skating and sledding as well as indulge in our favourite hearty dishes. Here are a few of my favourite cold weather comfort foods. They’re not exactly diet-friendly but they are delicious and will be sure to warm you up!

Braised Short Ribs – The most popular recipe on The Seasonal Gourmet, these ribs are perfect for cold winter nights. Serve with Horseradish Cream and mashed potatoes.

Meatloaf with Zesty Tomato Glaze – Forget dry, boring cafeteria-style meatloaf: this version is moist and flavourful.  Serve with lightly steamed and buttered green beans and mashed potatoes.

 

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses

Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Three Cheeses – Light?  No. Delicious?  Yes! This easy pasta dish can be assembled in advance and baked just before serving, making it perfect for busy nights.

Beef Pie with Cheddar Crust – A hearty pot pie packed with beef chunks and winter vegetables in a rich red wine sauce. Topped with a cheddar-flecked crust, it’s a great dinner after a busy day of skiing or skating (see photo, above).

Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta – One of my favourite meals to make on a lazy Sunday.  Once the prep work it done, it just requires low and slow simmering to develop into a rich and flavourful sauce.

Juicy Herb Roasted Chicken – Roast chicken is the ultimate comfort food and this version doesn’t disappoint.  Serve with mashed potatoes, Savoury Mushroom Bread Pudding and a green salad.  Celery Root Slaw also pairs well with the chicken.

Lobster Pot Pie – For a special treat, splurge on a bit of lobster meat to make this decadent pie. Serve with a simple salad.

Steve’s Osso Bucco – This braised veal dish is ideal for snowy winter nights.  Serve with traditional Risotto Milanese.

Sausage and Mushroom Lasagna – Another Seasonal Gourmet favourite, this make-ahead dinner has layers of pasta and rich meat sauce, studded with mushrooms and topped with a hearty bechamel.  Decadent and delicious!

 

Chocolate fondue with fruit and cake

Chocolate Fondue – Melted chocolate, fruit and cake – what’s not to love?  A staple of 70’s parties, fondue is making a comeback in the 21st century.  Light a fire, gather ’round and enjoy!

Pear and Pecan Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce – Pears, nuts and a decadent caramel sauce make this dessert a favourite.

Baked Apples with Apple Brandy Sauce – These baked apples are one of my new ‘go-to’ easy desserts.  It’s simple to put together and the results are surprisingly delicious. Don’t let the apple brandy put you off – if you can’t find it, just use extra cider in the sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Pumpkin Cream Puffs with Maple-Caramel Sauce – Cream puffs stuffed with a pumpkin pie-inspired cream filling and topped with caramel sauce – what more could you want in a dessert?

Brownie Cheesecake Bites – Fun little desserts combining the best of brownies and cheesecake are just the thing to end a decadent meal.  They’re also portable so you can pack them in lunches or take them on a picnic.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta

12 01 2011

A Tuscan-style ragu, simmered slowly with herbs and wine, pairs perfectly with fresh pasta

We’re deep in the heart of winter and snow is blanketing much of North America (including areas that don’t normally get a lot of snow). It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to put something comforting on the stove to simmer while you curl up with a blanket and a good book.  A slow simmered Tuscan-style ragu sauce fits the bill perfectly.

A few years ago I was visiting Tuscany and happened upon an outdoor cooking demonstration. A chef and his mother, Mamma Donatella, were demonstrating how to make classic Tuscan dishes.  One of the dishes was fresh handmade pasta with a ragu sauce and Donatella’s version was unlike any I’ve had before: rich with flavour and light on tomato sauce.  Since then, I’ve worked on developing my own take on this Italian classic.  The secret is to let the sauce cook down for a long time (at least 2-1/2 to 3 hours).  You can make your own noodles or buy fresh pasta at many Italian markets. Good quality dry pasta will work as well – try wide noodles such as papardelle or tagliatelle.

Click here for the recipe on Suite 101: Slow Simmered Ragu with Pasta.

Bon Appétit and Stay Warm!

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Healthy Recipe Ideas

4 01 2011

Eating healthier is one of the most common new year's resolutions.

Happy New Year!

If you’re anything like me, the holidays were a whirlwind of crazy overindulgence. From turkey dinner with all the fixin’s to an insanely decadent trip to Montreal (which included such delights as foie gras poutine, smoked meat sandwiches and vintage champagne), it’s now time for me to get back to eating a more balanced diet.

Many people make new year’s resolutions to eat better and exercise more.  To get inspired, here are a few helpful links to recipes and sites that will make eating a healthier diet pleasurable and delicious (no dry rice crackers and starvation diets are necessary!)

 

Fish can be a delicious part of a balanced diet

Recipes:

Sablefish with Caramelized Fennel and Cherry Tomatoes

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots

Avocado Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

How to Make Flavorful Low-Fat Soups

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Thyme Croutons

Spiced Apple Walnut Bread

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup

More great ideas can be found here:

Cooking Light

Simple Till Six: An Eating Plan for Busy People

Five Healthy Ways to Post-Holiday Detox

Healthy Eating – The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

I’d like to wish everyone a healthy and happy 2011!

Bon Appétit and Enjoy,

Trish

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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!