Every culture has a collection of show-stopping entrées for the festive season, and they all come in different delicious packages.
Holiday meals from around the world don’t always include the big bird. Certainly in North America it’s typical fare, but in other parts of the globe there are many different customs.
Germany roasts the golden goose, while Iceland makes puffin or reindeer the centre of the plate. Italy focuses on the Feast of Seven Fishes, and Eastern Europe lays out fried carp. Parts of the Middle East favour lamb, while halfway around the globe, Mexico spoons into spicy tamales, stews, and fish dishes.
In Canada, where we have a melting pot of different nationalities and customs, we meld all sorts of ingredients into the Christmas season. To reflect this here is an alluring cross-section of fabulous entrées for both lunch and dinner that will satisfy a variety of taste buds. From traditional turkey to fish, from vegetarian fare to lamb, holidays meals from around the world bring a myriad of fabulous fused ingredients to every table and dish.
Chard and Ricotta Stuffed Turkey Breast
Flaky Phyllo Tart with Artichokes and Spinach
Pan-Seared Loin of Lamb with Truffle Whipped Potatoes and Wild Mushrooms
Puff Pastry with Glazed Carrots, Mushrooms, and Pine Nuts
Salmon and Beet Carpaccio with Pickled Relish
Traditional Brined Turkey
4 quirky turkey recipes
Not every turkey needs to be cooked in a traditional, oven-roasted manner. There are plenty of other ways to quirk up a bird. Depending on where you were raised, you may remember a style reminiscent of the area and culture. Here are some “different” ideas you might want to try.
- Deep-Fried Quirky Creole Turkey from N’awlins
- Beer Can Spiced Turkey, Aye!
- “Not Too Fussy” Saskatoon Crock-Pot Turkey
- ’50s No-Fuss Brown Paper Bag Turkey
Stuffin’, trussin’, and fussin’
Let us show you how to stuff and truss a turkey. There are so many variations and so many schools of thought:
- You want your turkey breast skin to look golden without marks—the pride of the bird.
- You want to serve your bird with “piping hot” and flavourful cooked stuffing.
- You want to make sure all parts are cooked to the perfect temperature for enjoyment and health.
Both Health Canada and the US Department of Agriculture suggest cooking stuffing on the side (and not in the turkey) to secure ultimate food safety and achieve tender meat without overcooking. But most of us absolutely love the delicious turkey juices seeping into the stuffing during roasting.
There are different ways to roast a turkey and still have delicious stuffing without compromising and overcooking the outer meat, while ensuring the inner cavity is fully cooked.
In the bird
One is to ensure your stuffing is piping hot before gently packing it into the neck and body cavity just prior to roasting. Do not overpack, as stuffing expands during baking. When both turkey and stuffing reach an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C), spoon stuffing from cavity into a serving dish.
Outside the bird
Alternatively, spoon stuffing into a baking dish. About an hour before turkey is finished baking, ladle some pan juices from roasting turkey overtop stuffing in baking dish. Cover with foil and bake alongside turkey until both are piping hot and fully cooked.
Basic stuffin’ recipe
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Pullin’ stuffin’ out—the easy way
To make removing the stuffing from your turkey easy after roasting, before stuffing turkey, line cavity and neck with double layer of cheesecloth, allowing edges of cheesecloth to exceed opening. Spoon piping-hot stuffing into cheesecloth-lined cavity. Do not overpack. When both turkey and stuffing reach an internal temperature of 165 F (74 C), tug at ends of cheesecloth to pull out stuffing, and transfer to serving bowl.
Trussin’ and fussin’
Whether you choose to stuff and truss—or just truss, there are different approaches. Some truss from the neck end or “pope’s nose,” while others truss from the legs. Both are correct, but some allow the turkey breasts to be flawlessly baked without truss marks. The purpose is to keep wings and legs close to the body so it all cooks at the same rate.
If you choose to stuff the turkey, follow the “Pullin’ stuffin’ out—the easy way” tip, using cheesecloth to first line turkey cavity before stuffing. Spoon hot stuffing into cheesecloth-lined turkey cavity, and truss.
- Place turkey, breast side up, with legs facing you and neck away.
- Tuck wings underneath.
- Using 3 feet (0.9 metres) unwaxed kitchen twine, place centre of twine underneath end of neck or pope’s nose, and wrap tightly with a loop.
- Drag twine underneath bird and wrap around wings.
- Pull tightly and tie into knot underneath.
- Pull twine up under breast on either side and crisscross over open cavity, crossing strings over legs.
- Wrap ends of legs tightly together over cavity and tie with knot.
Baste turkey with butter or oil and lightly season. Bake according to Traditional Brined Turkey method.
11 timesaver tips
Given all the last-minute things that need doing—from cleaning to wrapping gifts, as well as organizing rooms for overnight family and guests—even the busiest cook needs time out to relax and enjoy the season. Short of going out for dinner every spare minute, here are a few ways to build in some “you” time.
- Plan your menu well ahead of time, making sure you’re on top of special dietary needs—from gluten free to meatless.
- Keep a Christmas notebook and checklist tucked in your bag.
- Tack recipes inside kitchen cupboards for easy reference.
- Get as much food shopping as possible done by the end of November, saving fresh ingredients for last.
- Prepare in advance; refrigerate or freeze some of the recipes where quality of the dish isn’t compromised. (See individual recipes for our suggestions.)
- Pre-assemble some of the recipe ingredients, packaging them in small bags and containers and labelling. This is known in culinary circles as mise en place, which translates to “putting in place.”
- Remember the famous adage, “messy desk, messy mind.” The same applies to kitchen work space. Make sure your counters are clear before starting preparations.
- Don’t overcomplicate your menu. Try one new dish in your repertoire as a stunning attraction and lean into familiar fare for the side dishes. Give them a little lift with an interesting garnish or sprinkle of micro greens.
- Double up on some recipes and refrigerate or freeze so family members can easily reheat in a pinch.
- Trim and clean vegetables a day ahead. Wrap and refrigerate.
- And when time is really of the essence, urge guests to bring their favourite appy or dessert.