Holiday entrees range from such traditional favorites as turkey with gravy, glazed hams, succulent roast duck and the Christmas goose, and the classic rib eye, rib and tenderloin beef roasts. They all taste great.
And yet, some cooks want a little something extra.
For those who want to bring new flavors to the holiday season, a little something extra for a roast for a crowd can be a sauce or presentation. For a smaller entree for one to four servings, pairing the entree with vegetables and a lovely little garnish like pomegranate seeds can make a hit.
During this busy season, it's a good idea to order the type and size of roast, poultry or ham that you need in advance from your butcher shop or supermarket.
When ordering a beef roast, select the type: Leaner cuts — round tip, eye round, and tri-tip — are delicious and more economical choices than the rib eye, rib and tenderloin.
Determine what size of roast to purchase. Lean boneless roasts such as tenderloin, eye round and tri-tip yield four 3-ounce servings of cooked, trimmed beef per pound.
Rib eye roasts have more trimmable fat and yield three 3-ounce servings of cooked beef per pound.
Bone-in rib roasts yield two 3.5-ounce servings of cooked, trimmed beef per pound.
But plan on 6 ounces of cooked, trimmed beef for those "holiday servings," advises the Beef & Veal Culinary Center.
While beef tenderloin is delicious simply rubbed with salt and lemon pepper, here's a spectacular recipe for the holidays: Beef Tenderloin With Wild Rice Pilaf and Holiday Ale Sauce. Prepare a rub of finely chopped pistachios, ground coriander seeds, thyme and black pepper. Roast the beef on a rack in a 425-degree oven. Meanwhile, prepare wild rice pilaf laced with dried cranberries, chopped shallots and spinach. Carve the roast into slices and then serve with Holiday Ale Sauce. The recipe takes about one hour to prepare, depending on the degree of doneness desired.
For the wild rice pilaf, use an unspiced, long-grain and wild-rice mix; when we tested the recipe we used the Near East brand. As for the sauce, a red ale, Christmas ale or another variety of beer can be used; for those who don't want to use beer, try ready-to-serve beef broth.
Bone-in hams also make an ideal centerpiece. The amount of water contained in a ham affects its taste, texture and price, according to the HoneyBaked Ham Co. Added water also lowers ham's nutritional value and makes the meat more perishable.
Read the label on the ham.
For a bone-in ham, plan on 1/2 to 3/4 pound per serving.
Tangy Orange Ham Glaze is a three-ingredient glaze. Brush the mixture on frequently during the last 30 minutes of baking so that the ham does not get too dark or burn in the oven.
When there are only two to four people at your holiday table, a smaller entree such as Garlic and Walnut Crusted Chicken With Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds is wonderfully festive. The savory dish is first baked and then topped with a crunchy walnut-breadcrumb coating and finished in the broiler. It is served with caramelized Brussels sprouts and tender leek rings on a bed of wilted spinach. For a restaurant finish, sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.
To open a pomegranate, score it and submerge it in a bowl of water. Break open the pomegranate under water to free the seed sacks (arils), which sink to the bottom of the bowl. The membrane floats to the top; discard the membrane. Use a sieve to remove the seed sacks from the remaining liquid. Use the amount of arils desired and refrigerate or freeze the remaining seeds for another use. One pomegranate yields about 1/2 cup seeds.
Plan a casual supper with friends during the hectic holiday season. Veal cutlets, which are always special, are versatile, from piccata (quickly sauteed and served with a sauce of lemon juice, pan drippings and parsley) to Marsala (sauteed veal with a Marsala wine sauce). For a festive dish, Veal Cutlets With Shiitake Mushroom and Tomato Sauce is easy to make, even after work.
The secret to the veal cutlets is to pound them to the same thickness so they cook evenly and, most importantly, don't overcook them. They're ready in 2 to 3 minutes. The savory blend of sun-dried and fresh tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms and fresh basil complements the delicate flavor of the sauteed cutlets.
To complete the supper, serve focaccia or a baguette with good olive oil for dipping. Dress crisp romaine lettuce leaves with a light vinaigrette and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan.
For a nice ending, serve holiday cookies and sherbet or sorbet.
Beef Tenderloin With Wild Rice
Pilaf and Holiday Ale Sauce
1 center-cut beef tenderloin (2 to 3 pounds)
Salt and pepper
Holiday Ale Sauce (recipe at left)
For the rub:
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, finely chopped
1/4 cup coarsely ground coriander seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
For the wild rice pilaf:
2 packages (6 to 6.3 ounces each) unspiced long-grain and wild rice mix
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots (or other onions)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 cups water
3 cups loosely packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine rub ingredients; press 6 tablespoons evenly onto all surfaces of beef roast. Reserve remaining rub for pilaf.
Place roast on rack in shallow roasting pan. Insert ovenproof meat thermometer so tip is centered in thickest part of beef. Do not add water or cover. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes for medium rare, 45 to 50 minutes for medium doneness.
Remove roast when meat thermometer registers 135 for medium rare, 150 for medium. Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let stand 15 minutes. Temperature will continue to rise about 10 degrees to reach 145 for medium rare; 160 for medium.
Meanwhile, prepare wild rice pilaf (remove seasoning packets from rice mixes and reserve for another use). Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add cranberries, shallots, reserved rub, salt and pepper; cook and stir 3 minutes. Stir in rice mix and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer according to package directions, about 25 minutes or until rice is tender and most of water is absorbed. Stir in spinach. Let stand 5 minutes or until spinach is wilted.
Carve roast into slices. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Serve with wild rice pilaf and Holiday Ale Sauce.
Yields 6 servings.
Source: Scripps Howard News Service
Garlic and Walnut Crusted Chicken
With Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pomegranate Seeds
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup unsalted butter, soft
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 cup toasted walnuts, lightly chopped
6 chicken breasts
2 leeks, whites only, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup fresh Brussels sprouts, slit in half lengthwise
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 pound fresh spinach
1 pomegranate, seeds only, optional
Mince garlic. Add 1/2 cup butter and herbs. Process until smooth, then stir in bread crumbs and walnuts. Reserve.
In a heavy-bottom ovenproof pan, swirl just enough olive oil to coat bottom of pan. Place chicken breasts in pan, skin side down, and cook until skin is golden brown. Place pan in 350-degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes until juices run clear when pricked with tip of knife.
Meanwhile, cook leeks: Bring small pot of water to a rolling boil and add a pinch of salt. Blanch leek rings about 1 minute until tender with some bite. Shock in ice-water bath, drain and reserve.
Meanwhile, cook Brussels sprouts: Swirl a small amount of olive oil in heavy-bottom pan and arrange Brussels sprouts in pan cut side down. Cook over medium-high heat until Brussels sprouts are caramelized. Season with salt and pepper and cook until just tender. Add leek rings and set aside.
Cook spinach: In another pan, warm 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, add shallots and cook until soft; add spinach and cook just until wilted. Drain. Season with salt and pepper and reserve.
When chicken is fully cooked, remove from oven to a sheet pan, skin side up. Coat each breast with garlic-butter-walnut crust and place under broiler until the coating turns golden brown and crisp. Remove from broiler and keep warm.
To serve: Distribute spinach among plates, placing it in center. Sprinkle the leek rings and Brussels sprouts around outside of spinach and then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds over top. Place one breast on top of spinach and serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.
Source: California Walnut Board
Veal Cutlets With Shiitake Mushroom
and Tomato Sauce
3 cups veal stock or chicken broth
1 cup white wine
4 tablespoons butter, divided
8 ounces thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
3/4 cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, patted dry
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 pound veal leg cutlets, cut
1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Add stock and wine to medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover over high heat until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and shallots to pan; cook and stir 5 minutes or until mushrooms have softened. Remove from skillet.
Pound veal cutlets into 1/8-inch thickness, if necessary. Combine flour, salt and pepper in shallow dish. Lightly coat cutlets with seasoned flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in same skillet over medium heat until melted. Place 2 or 3 cutlets in skillet; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until veal is cooked through, turning once. Remove cutlets; keep warm. Repeat with remaining cutlets, adding remaining butter as needed. Add reduced stock mixture to pan. Cook and stir 1 minute or until browned bits attached to pan are dissolved. Return veal cutlets and mushroom mixture to pan. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.
Source: Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Holiday Ale Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, cut into quarters
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots (or other onions)
3/4 cup ready-to-serve beef broth
½ cup red ale, Christmas ale, or substitute ready-to-serve beef broth
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Cook's note: Christmas ale may be substituted for red ale.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and shallots; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes or until mushrooms are browned. Add broth and ale; cook and stir 8 minutes or until reduced by half. Whisk in mustard until combined. Remove from heat; whisk in 2 tablespoons butter. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 1 to 1 1/2 cups
Source: National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Tangy Orange Ham Glaze
1/2 cup honey Dijon mustard
1/2 cup orange marmalade or apricot jam
1/2 teaspoon ginger, optional
Combine all ingredients. Brush mixture on ham frequently during the last 30 minutes of baking. Serve extra glaze for dipping.
Makes 1 cup (enough for a 10- to 15-pound ham).