Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sister Plays Culinary Santa

The feast being prepared.
This holiday season, I'm conceding on one point and hypothesizing on another.  The concession: I cannot keep apace to my sister's cooking, let alone baking, abilities.  The hypothesis: I believe my sister may soon, if she hasn't already done so, surpass my mother in being the best cook in our immediate family.  Case in point: the Christmas 2011 feast.

If you have been at least peeking at her blog, you will have seen that she is quite talented.  She volunteered to make this year's Christmas dinner, but until the day was fast approaching she kept mum on her plans.  For example, a few days before I flew to Ottawa, she confessed to me that, up to that point, she'd already spent over $100 on food items and ingredients for the feast, and only four days before Christmas did she ask my parents to help her get a turkey large enough to feed all of us but mostly deboned and sectioned so that she could get to the real work for the feast when she arrived in town.
Some of the dishware to be used to serve the feast.
She actually started working on the feast since the early afternoon of Christmas Eve... over 30 hours before the feast was to occur.  However, thanks, to some good planning everything apparently went quite smoothly for her; at one point she proudly exclaimed that she was able to serve dinner right on time, and though she was understandably tired at the end of the evening, she didn't appear stressed the few times I saw her in the kitchen.
The seven-course turkey tasting menu.
She decided to make the feast as a turkey tasting menu that was, get this, seven dishes long.  Seven dishes, for four people, of which five had turkey in it, and all of this done by, technically, an amateur chef.  From the presentation and the taste of the dishes, the feast could just as easily have been straight from a fine dining restaurant kitchen.  Without further ado, I present you the feast itself as prepared by my sister.
1. Amuse-Bouche: Scotched quail egg with sriracha aioli.
1. Amuse-Bouche
First to be served was an amuse-bouche of scotched quail egg on some sriracha aioli.  Ground turkey breast was used to substitute sausage to enclose the quail egg.  There was a light crispiness to the scotched egg, and the aioli had the right touch of spiciness.  It was definitely a delicious start.
2. "Baby it's cold outside...": Turkey consommé with poached quenelle.
2. "Baby it's cold outside..."
The next course was turkey consommé with a poached turkey quenelle.  My sister used turkey bones and wings to make the consommé, and some ground turkey was used to make the quenelles.  The consommé was light in flavour and truly transparent, and the quenelle was a nice counterbalance texturally and in terms of flavour and richness.
3. "All wrapped up": Turkey skin taco.
3. "All wrapped up"
The third course was turkey skin taco.  My sister, on a trip to Montreal earlier this year, tried a restaurant called Joe Beef and was inspired to create this dish, based on Joe Beef's Chicken Skin Taco.  Turkey breast skin, with little fat attached to it, was used and baked until it turned into crackling, of which pieces were mixed with potato de gallo, salsa de fuego (both also homemade), cilantro and lime on a flour tortilla.  Because there was little fat in the skin, the taco overall tasted light, and, of course, delightful.  I also enjoyed the contrasting textures playing on each other, from the crispy skin to the crispy yet starchy potato de gallo to the soft tortilla to the refreshing salsa fuego.
4. "Fire chicken" (L to R): Hananese Turkey; Turkey Lettuce Wrap.
4. "Fire chicken": Hainanese Turkey.
4. "Fire chicken"
In this course, my sister doubled down on the turkey, featuring two Chinese-inspired concoctions. One of them was Hainanese Turkey, based on the southern Chinese dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice. Turkey thighs substituted chicken here, and, unlike past homemade Hainanese Chicken Rice, the coconut rice wasn't briefly stir-fried during its cooking process, which made for a lighter and softer rendition. The drops of sriracha chili sauce and some homemade ginger-scallion sauce enhanced the flavour of the turkey.
4. "Fire chicken": Turkey Lettuce Wrap.
The other concoction was Turkey Lettuce Wrap, based on Shredded Duck Lettuce Wrap.  Pieces of turkey breast were stir-fried with water chestnuts, fried shallots, hoisin sauce and cashews, and then were served in Boston lettuce leaves.  This one also had contrasting textures with the crnchiness of the water chestnuts and cashews compared to the softer turkey.  The lettuce leaf also ensured that the flavour of the turkey mix was not too strong.  This definitely brought some nice childhood dining-out memories for me.
5. "Refresher": Cranberry sorbet.
5. "Refresher"
This was one of two courses where turkey was not featured at all.  Being a Christmas turkey dinner, cranberries also came to mind, so my sister decided to make sorbet with fresh cranberries to keep the Christmas theme and to allow for a palate-cleanser between the two main courses.  As the name of the dish implied, the sorbet was definitely refreshing!
6. "I'll be home for Christmas" (L to R): Stuffed Turkey Roulade; Turkey Pot Pie.
6. "I'll be home for Christmas": Stuffed Turkey Roulade.
6. "I'll be home for Christmas"
The second main course, and the sixth course for this feast, was another double-down dish: Stuffed Turkey Roulade, and Turkey Pot Pie. The roulade was stuffed with minced porcini mushrooms and proscuitto and was wrapped in some more proscuitto to maintain the turkey breast's moisture. The roulade slice was served on a bed of pearl barley and winter vegetable risotto with some cranberry-orange chutney on the side. I especially loved the barley risotto with its texture completely different from traditional risotto made with arborio rice, and the saltiness of the proscuitto-porcini stuffing was just right to enhance the turkey breast.
6. "I'll be home for Christmas": Turkey Pot Pie.
6. "I'll be home for Christmas": Inside the Turkey Pot Pie.
The turkey pot pie was stuffed with turkey wing meat reserved from the turkey consomme production, cremini mushrooms, carrots, onion, peas and sweet potato, and was topped with a butter pie crust.  This was by far the heaviest element of the feast, but thanks to the portions of all the dishes none of us felt too full at the end of the meal, though we did take a one- to two-hour break before we had dessert.
7. "Sweet endings": Chocolate-Star Anise Crémeux.
7. "Sweet endings": the cinnamon crème fraîche and walnut brittle crumble portion of Chocolate-Star Anise Crémeux.
7. "Sweet endings": Chocolate-Star Anise Crémeux, topped with Maldon sea salt.
7. "Sweet endings"
Lastly, for dessert we were served Chocolate-Star Anise Crémeux.  Made with Callebaut milk and dark chocolates and sprinkled with some Maldon sea salt, it was served with a dollop of cinnamon crème fraîche and walnut brittle crumble.  It was a light and fabulous dessert, with the crème fraîche and crumble enhancing the chocolate and countering the sea salt quite nicely.

All in all it was a very delicious feast, and props definitely must be given to my sister for a job very well done.  You can even read her personal take on this feast (split between Parts I and II).  I hope you all had a merry Christmas and holiday season, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

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