Christmas season foods for entertaining

The Christmas season sneaks up on us every year, and every year we search for new recipe ideas. Simple is best. And if it can be made in advance, even better.

There tends to be no end of sweets, but interesting savoury foods are sometimes lacking.

Firecracker shrimp

Skip the usual shrimp ring this year and offer something a little more interesting.

  • 2 lb. of jumbo shrimp, legs removed, deveined and butterflies 1 kg
  • 1/4 c. butter, softened 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. olive oil 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro or parsley 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. chopped red pepper or red chili pepper 60 mL
  • 3 tbsp. finely chopped garlic 45 mL
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt 5 mL
  • 1 tbsp. dried chiles 15 mL

Arrange oven rack so that it is closest to the heating element. Line sheet pan with foil. Place prepared shrimp so that there is only a single layer and every shrimp will receive maximum heat. To butterfly the shrimp, slice them almost all the way through down the centre back and flatten open.
In a large bowl, prepare butter mixture. Add olive oil to softened butter mixture and mix. Then add cilantro, red pepper, garlic, dried chlles and lime juice.
Mix until you have a consistent mixture, flecked with green and red. Carefully spoon about two teaspoons (10 mL) of the butter mixture on top of each shrimp.
Cook for three to four minutes, until shrimp is opaque and slightly pink. Do not overcook. Place shrimp onto a serving plate and drizzle with pan juices.

Tourtiere bites

These are a takeoff on a sausage roll. Rather than buying frozen and ready to bake, why not make your own. Tourtiere is a traditional Christmas meat pie and makes an ideal filling for puff pastry.
Making your own bites also lets you be creative. Try using your own homemade wild meat sausage or ground wild meat. Just remove the sausage from the casing before using.
Salmon or steelhead trout also make a good filler. Be sure the filling is cooked before using in this recipe. Make a vegetarian roll with a mushroom filling.

Tourtiere filling

  • 1 lb. ground pork 500 g
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef 365 g
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon 2 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves 1 mL
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper 1 mL
  • 1 tsp. salt 5 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 2 mL
  • 1/2 c. beef or chicken broth 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. breadcrumbs 30 mL
  • purchased or home made puff pastry
  • 1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. milk 15 mL

Make the filling by putting the stock in a large pan or pot and bring to a boil. Add pork, beef, onions and seasonings. Cook with lid on until meat is completely broken down and cooked, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove lid and cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Add bread crumbs one tablespoon (15 mL) at a time to soak up any oil. Cool completely before filling the pastry.
To make the rolls, begin by rolling the puff pastry into a rectangle about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Place it so the long side is in front of you. Do not cut into strips for the rolls. The pastry will be cut as you make the rolls.
Place a line of meat filling, about an inch (2.5 cm) wide, an inch (2.5 cm) from the top edge of the pastry. Brush the pastry just below the filling with a little bit of egg wash. Roll the pastry over the filling and press closed on the egg washed area. Cut the pastry along the long roll of filling. Gently press the roll to make a slightly flattened roll. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of the pastry and filling until you have used all of it. Place the long pastry rolls in the freezer until lightly frozen. Remove from freezer and cut into one-inch (2.5 cm) pieces.
The little tourtiere rolls can be baked now or frozen, unbaked, and stored in a freezer bag until needed. Bake at 375 F (190 C) or freeze unbaked and bake directly from the freezer. Gravelbourg Mustard’s cranberry style mustard is an ideal condiment to serve with these.

Vegetarian mushroom filling

  • 2 slices bread, sliced and crust removed
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil 30 mL
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. mixed mushrooms, finely chopped 250 g
  • 1/4 c. ketchup 60 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage 2 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme 10 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano 10 mL
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. oatmeal 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. dry breadcrumbs 60 mL
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice 15 mL
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 5 mL
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest 5 mL
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

In a small bowl cover the bread with milk and soak for 15 minutes and then squeeze the bread to release any milk. Tear into one inch (2.5 cm) pieces and set aside. Discard the milk.
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or Dutch oven. Add the onions and cook until lightly caramelized, about four minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until any liquid released has evaporated and the mushrooms are lightly caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the ketchup, sage, thyme, oregano and garlic and cook, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until the garlic and herbs are fragrant, about two minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved bread, walnuts, oats and breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl and cool.
Stir in salt, lemon juice, pepper, lemon zest and egg until well incorporated. Use as the filling for the vegetarian sausage rolls.

Cabernet cranberries

Although this is lovely as a cranberry sauce with turkey, I like it better when served with brie cheese.

  • 3 c. sugar 750 mL
  • 2 1/2 c. water 625 mL
  • 1/2 c. wine 125 mL
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries 125 mL
  • 2 pkg. cranberries

Combine all the ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until the berries have popped and the mixture has thickened slightly. Remove the cinnamon stick and store the sauce in a jar. It can also be water bath processed for 20 minutes for a 250 or 500 mL (one or two cup) jar.
Serve it with brie cheese. For baked brie, pile the sauce on top of a whole circle of brie and bake at 325 F (160 C) until soft, about 15 minutes. Or place slices of brie on a cracker and top with cranberries. The sauce will keep, refrigerated, for about two weeks or more.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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