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A Different Take On Christmas Dinner

12/09/2014 07:56AM ● Published by Aimee Cormier

Gallery: Holiday Menu 2014 [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

Text and Photos by Curt Guillory

A little creative thinking and some local ingredients is all that’s needed for you to serve a unique Christmas dinner that is still quite traditional.

For many people, myself included from time to time, Christmas dinner is simply Thanksgiving dinner 2.0. Old Tom Turkey makes an encore appearance, along with the same dressing, candied yams – and let’s not forget Mr. Green Bean Casserole.

While there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, the same effort can produce an incredible seasonal meal no one will soon forget.

Christmas Menu

This simple menu comes together easily with some advance prep-work. The flavors complement each other as well as celebrate the season.

Here’s the menu:

• Roasted Pork Loin with Duxelles Stuffing

• Cornbread and Oyster Dressing

• Sweet Potato Soufflé

• Homemade Cranberry Sauce

While it may look intimidating it’s not. Let’s take a look at each individual dish.  

A Different Pork Loin

Pork loin is readily available, locally produced and of excellent quality.  The subtle flavors of the loin marry well with Duxelles stuffing. Duxelles is simply finely chopped, seasoned mushrooms cooked into a paste.  The recipe is very old, but like all classics it is timeless. Seasoning the Duxelles with some dried herbs adds even more flavor to the dish.  

Any local butcher shop, grocer, or slaughter house will have locally sourced pork available.  There should be a thin layer of fat on one side of the loin.  This is important because it not only adds flavor, but also moisture.  Pork loin has virtually no fat in the muscle itself so it is prone to being dry when overcooked.  

Speaking of overcooking, the pork should be cooked until an internal temperature of 160° is reached in the thickest part as read on a meat thermometer.  You may notice some pink color in the meat when it is sliced…don’t worry.  It is perfectly safe to eat pork anywhere from medium to well doneness.  Medium doneness tastes much better and the juiciness factor is off the charts.

Cornbread And Oyster Dressing

Cornbread dressing is a staple on the South Louisiana holiday table, and it should be. The addition of oysters elevates the tastiness of the dish. The oysters and the Duxelles from the pork loin were made for each other so the two dishes are a perfect match.

When it comes to dressing I always use Savoie’s®.  I know it’s pre-packaged and pre-cooked but I don’t care.  Savoie’s® is the taste I grew up with and to be honest I can’t make a better dressing mix, at least not yet.

Make sure the oysters are from Louisiana, and that they are cold packed in their own liquid.  

Jiffy® is the brand of cornbread mix I use.  They have it down to a science and it is perfect every time. (If you don’t care for sweet cornbread, try the Martha White® brand). 

So it’s just a matter of browning some ground beef along with the dressing mix, adding the cornbread, seasoning to taste, and adding the oysters off of the fire.  Simple.

Sweet Potato Soufflé

Everyone makes the same sweet potato dish around the holidays.  Candied yams or some variation of sweetened sweet potatoes.  You know the ones swimming in that brown, thin syrup with pecans and marshmallows.

With the help of a hand held electric mixer and some eggs you can transform canned sweet potatoes into an elegant soufflé.  It’s pretty easy to do.  Just make sure that the kids go outside when you’re baking it.

While this dish is sweet, it’s not over the top, make your teeth hurt sweet.  It is also very light and helps to balance all the savory flavors in the meal.  This recipe is an adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe from 2007.  It’s simple, straightforward, and turns out great.  The recipe calls for a soufflé dish, a ceramic dish made like a casserole dish but with high sides.  Soufflés like to climb, and if the dish is shallow it will not rise very much so it won’t be as light and airy.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

This is a dish that I prepare every year and I make it for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Fresh cranberries, apples, citrus, and just the right amount of sugar combine to make the best tasting cranberry sauce I have ever had.  It’s thick, chunky, tart, sweet and bright.  I also use it as a spread for leftover sandwiches in the days that follow the holidays.

This dish is as beautiful as it is delicious, and it bears no resemblance to the canned jiggly stuff we are so used to seeing on our holiday tables.  

Fresh cranberries are a must for their unmistakable flavor and tartness.  Also, I love to watch them pop when they are cooking.

Ingredients for Pork Loin 

• Yield: About 15 servings, 6 ounces each

• 5-6 pound pork loin

• 2 cups dry white wine (Chardonnay or similar)

• 2 cups water

• Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and all-purpose seasoning to taste

Ingredients For Duxelles

• 1½ pounds baby bella mushrooms 

• 2ounces unsalted butter

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or similar)

• 1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs

• Kosher salt to taste

• Fresh ground black pepper to taste

Preparing Duxelles

Finely chop the mushrooms or use a food processor.

Note:  Do not over process the mushrooms or you will have mushroom soup.

Place the chopped mushrooms in a clean tea towel or large dishcloth. Fold the towel lengthwise enclosing the mushrooms and twist the ends together over the sink as if you are wringing out the towel.  It is important to remove as much water from the mushrooms as possible.

Place a large (10” or larger) skillet over medium to high heat, and add the oil and butter.

Wait until the oil and butter mixture is hot. It is hot when it shimmers and moves in the pan.

When you see the first wisp of smoke, add the mushrooms. Immediately shake the pan or stir the mushrooms in order to coat all of them with oil. You may have to add an additional tablespoon or two of oil if the mushrooms begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Stir the mushrooms every 2 minutes or so until they begin to wilt.

Add the wine, salt and pepper.

Continue cooking and stirring occasionally until there is no noticeable liquid remaining.

Add the fresh herbs and stir the mixture to evenly distribute.

Cook for one to two more minutes and then remove to a plate or bowl to cool.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Preparing Pork Loin

Preheat oven to 375°

Split the pork loin length wise along the midpoint but do not cut all the way through. 

Open the pork loin and season the inside with salt, pepper and all-purpose seasoning.

Spread the cooled Duxelles inside the pork loin, close, tie with butchers twine and season the outside.

Place on a wire rack inside a roasting pan, fat side up.

Pour the wine and water into the pan and cover with foil.

Roast for 45 minutes covered, then an additional 15-20 minutes uncovered.

Do not cook past 160° as read on a meat thermometer.

Ingredients For Oyster Cornbread Dressing

Yield: 20 servings

• 2 pounds Savoie’s® dressing mix

• 2 boxes Jiffy® cornbread mix

• 1 pound ground beef

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 large white onion (chopped)

• 6 cloves garlic (chopped)

• 1 bunch green onions (chopped)

• ½ cup flat or curly leaf parsley (chopped) 

• 2 pints fresh Louisiana oysters (optional)

• All purpose seasoning to taste 

Preparing Oyster Cornbread Dressing

Prepare and bake the cornbread according to the package directions. Allow to cool completely.

Place a large heavy pot over medium heat; add the olive oil.

Add the ground beef and brown  well.

Add the dressing mix, and cook until heated thoroughly.

Note: It is advisable to thaw the dressing mix beforehand, but not necessary. The mix can be thawed in the pot. Simply reduce the heat, cover and stir frequently to thaw.

Add the onions and garlic, and cook until the onions are clear.

Reduce the heat to simmer, and season with all-purpose seasoning.

Stir in the baked cornbread in pieces, making sure to break up the cornbread very well.

Add cornbread until the there is no liquid remaining, but the mixture is very moist.

If too much cornbread is added, and the mixture appears dry, add water ½ cup at a time, until the mixture is very moist.

Add the green onions, parsley, oysters, and turn heat off.

Serve after 5 minutes.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Ingredients For Sweet Potato Soufflé

Yield: 6-8 servings

• 1 tablespoon butter, plus more for soufflé dish

• 1 tablespoon white sugar

• 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup whole milk

• 1 cup canned sweet potatoes, mashed

• 3 large eggs

• 2 tablespoons Karo® corn syrup

• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

• ½ teaspoon vanilla

• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

• Pinch of Kosher salt

Preparing Sweet Potato Soufflé

Preheat oven to 375° 

Butter a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish and dust with sugar.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt butter.

Add flour, and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes. 

Add milk, corn syrup, and stir until thickened.

Remove from heat, mix in sweet potatoes and allow to cool for 5 minutes. 

Stir in egg yolks, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon.

Add salt to egg whites and beat with hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form. 

Whisk about ¼ of whites into sweet potato mixture. 

Using a rubber spatula, fold in remaining whites. 

Pour mixture into prepared dish and place on a lined baking sheet. 

Bake for 45-55 minutes until the soufflé rises. 

Ingredients For Cranberry Sauce:

Yield: About 1 quart

• 1¾ cups granulated sugar

• 1 cup water

• 2 cups fresh cranberries

• 2 Gala apples (peeled and diced)

• 2 teaspoons Kosher salt

• 2 medium oranges (zested and juiced)

• 1 medium lemon (zested and juiced)

• 3 tablespoons local honey

Note:  I use Gala apples because they are sweet yet firm.  But feel free to use whatever apple you like.  If using Granny Smith, some additional sugar will have to be added.

Preparing Cranberry Sauce:

Add the sugar, water, salt, cranberries, and apples to a heavy, medium pot over medium heat.

Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, and stir occasionally until the cranberries start to pop, about 10 minutes.

Add the citrus juices and continue to cook for another 10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken to about the consistency of thin syrup.

Add the zests and honey and remove from the fire.

Note: The sauce will thicken substantially once it is cooled.

Refrigerate for up to a week.

Final Notes

The Duxelles recipe can be made 3-4 days ahead of time.

Lemon juice in the soufflé will add tartness and depth of flavor to the dish.

The pork loin will taste just as good at room temperature as it does hot.

The cranberry sauce should be served cold, as the flavors will intensify.  Next to the hot food on a plate, the sauce is striking in flavor, appearance and temperature.

Tom Turkey and the usual holiday suspects will be a distant memory once your family has these dishes. While some of the ingredients are unique, the dishes themselves are steeped in Louisiana culture. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Stay hungry.

Life+Leisure Christmas Dinner Holiday Menu Recipes

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