Posted by Bonita
My lack of updating certainly does mean I have been unproductive in the cooking department. Rather, I've found myself constantly in the kitchen this holiday season that I haven't really had much time to blog about it until now. Christmas and New Year's has gone and went in a flash, and we enjoyed great food all around. This year for Christmas, we've decided to skip the turkey, since it's so overdone and none of us in the family would really be missing it. Thus, out with the turkey and our mom's delicious Wild Rice & Chestnut stuffing and in with cornish hens and gnocchi. Yes, we decided to go for cornish hens this year in place of the turkey, which would result in a much more tender and moist meat as opposed to the turkey.
Christmas dinner started off with a Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Soup served with some freshly baked French Country Bread. The soup was nice, with a hint of sweetness from the roasted squash and an interesting contrast from the roasted garlic. I made the soup the day before to save myself some time, so that all I had to was reheat it on the stove and then add a swirl of heavy cream right before serving. Sadly, the blender decided to give me some trouble as I was blending my soup, and rather than try to bust the blender, the soup came out a bit chunkier and thicker than I wanted too. And despite it's murky-looking colour (thanks to the leeks) and the texture, the taste wasn't too bad.
Rather than the regular stuffing we do, or simple mashed potatoes, I wanted to make something different to go with the cornish hens. In the end, I thought I would try making gnocchi, since I've actually been meaning to try making them for awhile. After doing a bit of searching around on the web, I came across this recipe over at fiordizucca which piqued my interest: Porcini Gnocchi with Speck and Zucchini. What's interesting about this recipe is that the dough isn't your typical gnocchi dough, which is rolled out. Rather, this dough stays really moist and sticky and tells you to shape the gnocchi with a spoon. I opted to do away with the spoon and get my hands messy by shaping them by hand and then pressing each gnocchi against the tines of a fork to get the more traditional look of gnocchi. It indeed was time consuming, but what's so great is that you can freeze them and have a batch for some other day.
While the original recipe asked for speck, I substitued some diced pancetta instead. I also stirred in a dash of heavy cream to the sauce right before I tossed in the gnocchi again, to help thicken the sauce and make it creamier. Despite this being my first time making gnocchi, it wasn't too bad!
The gnocchi went nicely with the main star of the evening: Herb Roasted Cornish Hens with Pomegranate Glaze. I didn't really get into pomegranates until a few years ago. What's so great about them is that they are at their peak around this season, and fit right into the holiday spirit with it's bright, ruby-red colour. The glaze was made by boiling down some pomegranate juice with some red wine and chicken stock. I further thickened the glaze a bit with some cornstarch solution. The hens turned out beautifully: a crispy skin with a moist centre. The sweetness and tartness of the sauce complimented the hens very nicely. We served the hens with the gnocchi and some steamed green beans.
With all the heavy food from the past few days, we thought we would go a bit lighter for our New Year's Eve dinner by taking it to the sea. We got some lovely fresh mussels and some haddock and steamed in the oven (using the bag method) with some white wine and saffron. Really simple and fast but it makes for a fancy-looking and delicious dish. The taste is really clean and fresh, since there aren't too many ingredients that fight to take over the seafood. Rather, the mussels and haddock are able to take centre stage without being outshined by anything else, and the white wine makes a lovely broth with the juices of the mussels.
The meal ended off some Lobster Tarragon Crêpes: I steamed a few lobsters, took out the meat and then added it to a sauce made from shallots, white wine and tarragon. The crêpes also had some chopped tarragon added to it. This dish was also very simple to make as I prepared everything the day before. All I had to last night was assemble everything, pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes (and to melt the bocconcini which I added to the crêpes before rolling them up) and serve them alongside some broccoli and cauliflower and beets.
Wishing everyone a 2008 full of good health, prosperity and happy eating!!! :)