- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Whether you are serving traditional turkey or something as exotic as roast goose for your holiday dinner, here are a few suggestions for completing the meal.

Because the main course is rich and filling, why not start with a fresh-tasting salad of blanched green and yellow wax beans glittering with a shallot-and-red-pepper dressing? If fresh yellow wax beans aren’t available in your market, try using thawed frozen beans (do not cook) or just all green beans.

Small red or russet potatoes stuffed with rosemary and sprinkled with sea salt can be roasted in flavorful fat for extra flavor and a pretty presentation.

For a welcome change from cranberry sauce, consider an orange-scented pear compote dappled with dried cranberries. It adds jewellike ornamentation to your table. Like cranberry sauce, the compote can be made ahead of time.

For dessert, fresh cranberries offer a pleasing tart flavor after a heavy meal. Here, they are baked in an updated upside-down cake that provides a colorful finish to the meal. If you don’t want to take the time to bake a cake, consider using the compote as dessert topped with softly whipped cream, and pass a plate of purchased biscotti or ginger snaps. The pears also could be served warm over toasted pound cake slices or ice cream.

Add these ideas to your family favorites and think of them as a palette of sides you can mix and match to create the meal you want. You can use all, or just one or two and keep some of your own traditional recipes on your holiday table. Remember, what is good for the turkey is good for the goose.

Roasted baby potatoes

3 to 4 pounds baby red or russet potatoes

4 cloves garlic, minced, or more

About 1 cup (½-inch stems) rosemary

½ cup rendered goose fat, or 1/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup olive oil

Coarse sea salt such as sel de mer

Place a potato on its side. Starting about ½ inch from one end, make a cut down to within ½ inch of bottom side. Continue cuts to other end of potato. Stuff some garlic and rosemary into cuts. Repeat with all potatoes.

In a large cast-iron or other oven-proof skillet or shallow casserole (you may need to use two), heat goose fat or butter-oil mixture.

Add potatoes, cut sides up, basting with some of the fat. Roast in middle of 325-degree oven, basting every 15 minutes until crisp, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Makes 8 servings.

Yellow and green bean salad

1 pound slender green beans

1 pound slender yellow wax beans

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons minced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon minced shallot

Salt and pepper

Bring 3 quarts water to boil. Remove stem ends and strings from beans; rinse. Drop into boiling water and cook just until tender-crisp. Drain and immediately plunge into ice-water bath. Drain again. (Beans can be cooked a day ahead and refrigerated in airtight plastic bag.)

In a small bowl, whisk olive oil with vinegar and mustard. Add red pepper and shallot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, place beans in large bowl.

Pour dressing over and toss beans to coat thoroughly. Makes 8 servings.

Orange-scented pear compote with cranberries

1 tablespoon grated orange peel

1½ cups freshly squeezed orange juice

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup dried cranberries or cherries

1 cinnamon stick

3 whole cloves

8 firm ripe pears, peeled, cored and quartered lengthwise

In a large saucepan, combine orange peel and juice, sugar, cranberries or cherries, cinnamon stick, and cloves.

Bring to boil and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken.

Add pears; stir gently to coat with liquid. Cover and simmer just until pears are tender, about 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. (Can be made up to 3 days ahead. Store covered tightly in refrigerator.) Serve chilled or at room temperature. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves before serving, if desired. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Upside-down cranberry cake

½ cup butter, plus 6 tablespoons at room temperature, divided

Extra butter for pan

2 cups sugar, divided

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups fresh cranberries

1½ cups cake flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup golden brown sugar, packed

2 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan, melt ½ cup butter. Add 1½ cups sugar, 2 tablespoons water and the cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Stir in cranberries.

Pour into buttered 9-inch springform pan that has been wrapped on outside with foil. Set aside on baking sheet.

Into medium bowl, sift flour with soda and salt. Set aside.

In large bowl of electric mixer, combine 6 tablespoons butter with remaining ½ cup sugar and the brown sugar.

Beat on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

With mixer on low, add half of flour mixture. Mix until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix to combine.

Add remaining flour mixture. Mix until smooth. Carefully pour batter over cranberries in pan.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven until golden and edges are beginning to pull away from sides and wood pick inserted near center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool on rack 10 minutes.

Run a knife around edges of pan. Invert onto serving plate. Remove foil, ring and pan bottom. (Cake can be made a day ahead and stored, covered airtight, at room temperature.) Makes 12 servings.

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