Forget turkey: Six smaller alternatives for a pandemic-restricted Christmas dinner
For many in the Thompson-Okanagan, pandemic restrictions are going to make Christmas dinner look very different this year and chances are they’ll be a lot more space around the dinner table than usual.
Whether you’re used to cooking the largest turkey available for a table of 20 or heading over to eat with your extended family and then helping with the washing up, neither scenario will be taking place this year.
With fewer mouths to feed, it seems pointless to cook a 15- or 20-pound turkey unless you want to be eating leftovers until the spring. So with that in mind, iNFOnews.ca looked at some turkey alternatives far more suitable for a smaller family feasts.
We turned to Kelowna chef and Start Fresh Grocery co-owner Michael Buffett to give us his recommendations for alternative Christmas dinners for pandemic restricted households.
If it just isn’t Christmas without turkey but there no need to buy a whole one, Buffett recommends just roasting turkey breasts or legs depending on your preference of white or dark meat. Buffett says you also can’t go wrong with a locally produced roast chicken, and if that’s not quite special enough for Christmas you could go with a fittingly small Cornish hen.
While duck may be a good size bird, Buffett recommends staying away from it as it can be complicated to cook properly — the breast should be medium rare but the rest of the duck takes much longer.
“Unless you have a really well-developed recipe and know what you’re doing, you’re probably going to be a little disappointed with the outcome,” he said.
But it doesn’t have to be poultry.
"I love braised beef, I think it’s a beautiful option,” Buffett said.
Buffett recommends grabbing chuck flat or short ribs from your local butcher and cooking them slowly in a dutch oven for three to three-and-a-half hours.
Ham is a Christmas staple for many and has multiple advantages over turkey. You can get your butcher to cut the exact amount – Buffett recommends one to 1.5 pounds per person – so there aren't endless leftovers and it's also cheaper than turkey.
“A lot of people aren't working during COVID… (so) for people are trying to save money a ham is a really affordable option,” he said.
If fish is more your thing, Buffett recommends going with Arctic char.
“It’s like a small salmon but the flesh is more buttery and more flavourful,” he said.
The chef said roasting the Arctic char makes for an amazingly healthy and delicious option and the fish are also sustainably farmed outside Oliver by DelicaSea Fish Co.
If you’re looking for some French Canadian traditions, Buffett recommends going with tourtière. The meat pie is often served with a seafood stew as part of the réveillon meal, eaten late at night on Christmas Eve.
For those who don’t eat meat, owner of Kelowna plant-based restaurant Frankie We Salute You!, Christina Skinner recommends slow-roasted celery root with a coffee and winter spice rub.
“It looks shockingly like turkey and it’s absolutely delicious,” she said.
What Skinner also recommends is that people give themselves a break this Christmas and purchase the slow-roasted celery root dish – served with turnip puff, sourdough stuffing, fingerling potatoes with lemon herb butter, wine-soaked cranberries and a mushroom jus – from her restaurant's online store (see main photo).
And with so much work going into a meal for so few people she may have a good point.
"For two people it’s a lot of work, you've got to make the stuffing, you've got to make gravy, you've got to make all the accompaniments to make it feel real,” Buffett said.
His catering company is also doing a turkey dinner for two served with buttery mashed potatoes, focaccia stuffing, local veggies, house-made gravy, and whole berry cranberry sauce.
For more information on Start Fresh Grocery go here.
For information on Frankie We Salute You! go here.
For information on DelicaSea Fish Co, go here.
— This story was originally published Dec. 12, 2020.
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