Christmas!

20111229-123008.jpgWell, Christmas is in every way finished, and New Years is upon us. The Hubby and I decided to go to Ottawa for New Years Eve, since the crew we hung out with when we were living with Jm in October is having a big party. We need a break from small talk and want to be around people we already know.
Christmas was really nice. We had a couple Skype dates with family and friends and opened a small amount of presents. Jm got whiskey stones and beer, the Hubby got a flask with an Iain M Banks quote about whiskey, and I got a book of Tom Waits sheet music! A good haul!
After present-opening, I took to the kitchen to test it’s limits with our epic Christmas dinner. You can refer to my previous post to see what we had, but what follows is my. Review of each dish.

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Painful Punch, or rather a modified version of it. We nixed the cognac (too expensive), and I forgot to lay claim to the rum (the boys drank all but 2 shots), so it was basically just spiced sangria. That said, delicious! I will totally make this again!

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Caramelized-pomegranate carrots. These were probably the dish that needs the most tweaking. The pomegranate syrup should be used in way less proportion than suggested, since it overwhelms most other flavours. It can taste a little cough syrupy. I would also roast the pine nuts instead of adding them later.

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Parsnip and celery purée. This was my favorite dish, hands down. It was also pretty easy, and I will definitely make it again. This dish involved some improv, though, because the site with the recipe went down mid-creation! I added garlic, not sure if that was in the original, but it was fantastic!

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Green beans! This was my “wait we only have starches” thrown-together veggie side. It ended up being pretty good. I blanched the beans then threw a dash of apple cider vinegar and salt and heated them up in the oven for 15-20 minutes. They tasted like beans, with a bit of a salt and tang. Love!

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Smashed rutabaga and ginger-roasted pears. Two things I would change about this dish. First, I would cook the rutabaga a bit longer. I’m not convinced it was quite done. Second, moar ginger and pear! Overall it was pretty tasty. I have a lot left over, and I think I’ll throw it together with some peas, cheese, and some sort of protein to make mini-pie pockets.

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The main event: Phucken! Now, any critique I have here has to be tempered with the fact that this was one of the most delicious things I think I have ever cooked! I intend to perfect this dish over the next couple Christmases (as long as we’re on our own).
What I ended up doing was marinate the bird overnight in orange juice, garlic, and fresh thyme, then stuffing it with chopped up gluten-free bread, kohl rabi, dried chanterelles, duck, and chicken. Then I cooked it at 350 for around an hour on it’s own. After an hour, I added more stuffing around the sides to bake in the juices. Every 20 minutes, I basted the bird and stuffing in melted butter and wine. The point at which a pheasant is cooked is an internal temperature of 150 F, and due to the finicky state of our oven, that took us around 1 hour and 45 minutes. The internal temperature when I pulled the bird out was actually 160, so I overshot a bit. I think it probably only needed to be in for 1 hour 40 minutes. The bird was a touch dry, but pheasant is notoriously quick to turn from undercooked to dry. With what a pain in the ass our gas oven is, I’m just glad we didn’t have 3 of us with food poisoning! I would also change the dried chanterelles for fresh ones, as the dried ones were too tough for my liking.

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Last but not least, we has apple pie for dessert. I’ve made a lot of pies in my time, and watched/apprenticed in the making of many more. My mom makes the best pie in the world, and I have a high standard. I let myself down with this pie, and not just in one capacity. First, the filling simply didn’t have enough cinnamon and sugar. It didn’t taste “pie” enough and was pretty dry. Second, I made my Mom’s recipe just substituting Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose flour. I give a big thumbs down to their idea of a 1-to-1 substitute flour. It is bitter, grainy, and somehow dry and too easily dissolvable in liquid. Thus, I had to add extra flour, the taste was altered, and the texture was terrible. Thirdly, I got cocky with Hobart. Hobart is great for everything but pie. Pie dough really can’t be mixed too much, or else it gets very tough. I mixed it too long in the initial stages, and the dough was so tough I couldn’t roll it out thinner than a 1/4 inch! So the dough was, after all these screw ups, too dry, too thick, grainy, bitter, and falling apart. Disappoint. A failure to learn from, I suppose.
All in all, it was a great meal. My kitchen and dishware were pushed to their total limits. I am really proud of how good everything came out, ad am excited to cook these dishes again next year and improve on them. The pie will get improved on way faster, though, because terrible pie is really a source of inner shame for me!
-W-

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