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A very cranberry Christmas

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Jean and I have developed a tradition of celebrating with our Christmas morning and dinner the weekend before the stuff with the extended family begins. This year, that pushed it quite early, to this weekend. Even though some of the mail order gifts hadn’t quite made it to our house, yet.

Our Christmas dinner was particularly good this year, for whatever reason. It was a whole set of new recipes (on familiar themes, mind you), and they all turned out really well. Most are available online, and the time I spent organizing recipes in Evernote this year (geek alert!) paid off, as I accessed most of them on my tablet. Bit awkward switching between them, sometimes, but then again, it’s also a bit awkward switching between physical cookbooks.

In the morning I made the cranberry sauce and the pie. The pie was from Fine Cooking Magazine, and it was the very Christmas-sy Ginger-Spice Cranberry-Apple Streusel Pie.

Cranberry-apple pie

My version of the Fine Cooking pie

I followed this recipe pretty much as written, except that I made my usual vodka-based pie crust instead of using their recipe, and I didn’t use quite all the streusel topping. I didn’t find my crust over-browning as the recipe warned it might.

And though I’m jumping to the end of the meal, the pie was really good. It is a nice blend of tart and sweet, and the candied ginger adds a very interesting zing.

The cranberry sauce recipe, courtesy of Cooking Light Magazine, was very basic, essentially just substituting apple cider or juice for the usual water. I went with apple juice, since that’s what I had.

As a not-unusual choice for us, I choose duck as our Christmas meal bird. I had to start that mid-afternoon, following an LCBO recipe created by Jamie Oliver: Slow-roasted duck with sage, ginger, and rhubard sauce. Here I did a few substitutions: I couldn’t find any rhubarb this time of year, so went with cranberry. I added dried sage (from my garden, mind you) instead of fresh. And I used less onion, and white instead of red.

I also couldn’t be bothered with quite as much messing around with the gravy at the end as suggested in this recipe. (Gravy, like jam, is one of those things I don’t have great skills with.) We did create a gravy with the stuffing, defatted drippings, red wine (didn’t have Masala), and chicken broth, but we didn’t do that fried ginger thing. It still made for a nice topping on the meat, and the slow-roasted duck tasted amazing.

For sides, I settled on mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts. In the mashed potato recipe I followed this time, all cooking was done in the microwave, which was a first. You nuke the potatoes, then you nuke the milk and butter in a bowl, then you add the potatoes to that and mash them, then stir in buttermilk, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. This is buttermilk-Parmesan mashed potatoes from Cooking Light magazine. They tasted really good, and that method made fewer dishes.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts and dates were courtesy Sobey’s. I was low on walnuts after the pie, so I also used some pecans and pine nuts to make up the amount. I also left out the green onions, and used dried thyme instead of fresh and lemon juice instead of zest. No matter, as they were still quite delicious. Roasting gives Brussels sprouts quite nice flavor and texture.

Put together, the plate looked like this:

Christmas dinner plate

For wine, we opened up a 2008 Chateauneuf du pape, which proved highly drinkable. With dessert we had a bit of late harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Prince Edward County, which suited pretty well.

Bottles of French wine

Three French wines, but we drank only one bottle (actually, only part of one bottle) this day

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