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You may have spent half a lifetime thinking that every warmhearted Canadian should eat turkey and plum pud ding at Yule. But the true chauvinist knows that turkey is as Canadian as the Pilgrim Fathers and plum pudding belongs to Tiny Tim. A real Canadian Christmas dinner, like the one that's pictured so lushly here, should have all traces of Washington and London removed from the menu and make use of only the best homegrown ingredients. with no room on the groaning board for food with colonial or foreign overtones. Maclean's undertakes this Christmas season to tell you how to buy, prepare and savor a dinner so delectable - and so Canadian - that it's bound to titillate even Walter Gordon's patriotic palate and glaze Mel Watkins' eye. Goodwill toward men begins at home. For patriotic observations, xenophobic exhortations, gas tronomic revelations - an~ recipes -
turn to page 70.
CHRISTMAS DINNER from page 42
The first thing you have to get into your mind when contemplating a chauvinistic Christmas dinner is that it’s hardly an act of deprivation — not when you can eat sturgeon caviar from our northern lakes, smoked salmon from the Pacific or the Atlantic, goldeye from the Prairies, wild rice from the Indians and Quebec ducks that have more flavor than anything produced on Long Island. All the food on our menu is freely available in Canadian cities except for the caviar — and you can even find that if you’re sufficiently determined, aggressive and rich.
I tried to make this menu more urban than most of the pioneer fantasies that are usually suggested as Canadian specialities. Moore ragout, prairie chicken à la Diefenbaker and chokecherry parfait have at one time or another been concocted by wellmeaning Canadians searching for their roots. Unless you live on a farm and shoot game for daily sustenance it’s not possible to eat that sort of thing at Christmas. This menu is basically for city people. Its only rustic indulgences are the wild preserves, which may be bought unpreserved at farmers’ markets wherever they still exist. It’s planned to serve eight.
The preparation for the dinner is easier than the elaboration of the menu might lead you to believe, since the first course requires no cooking and everything except the ducks may be prepared in advance. The one hitch is that the ingredients, except for such basics as turnips and apples, are expensive. But since everyone eats and spends too much at Christmas, why not overindulge on food with a madenorth-of-the-undefended-border label? It could easily be as much fun as joining the Committee For An Independent Canada and it may produce some of the same results.
The hors d’oeuvres have been kept deliberately simple; the only thing that may cause trouble is the caviar. Canadian caviar could soon be as obsolete as the carrier pigeons that used to swarm the prairie skies. Hardly anybody but a few gourmets ever knew about it, but until very recently Canadian lakes and rivers provided a small, steady supply of sturgeon caviar to the large fish stores and wholesalers in Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal.
Two years ago, Lapointe’s in Ot-
tawa was selling Canadian caviar for eight dollars a pound. Six months ago it was obtainable for $12.50 from Waldman’s in Montreal or the St. Lawrence Fish Market in Toronto. But this fall, the price jumped to $28 and it was almost impossible to buy Canadian caviar in the usual retail outlets. By Christmas, it will, hopefully, be available again. If not, try Paul Benoit, a commercial fisherman, River Road, Box 850, Sturgeon Falls, Ontario. He sells most of his caviar overseas but will keep back some for the Christmas rush. He will ship a minimum of 12 pounds, at $25 a pound. (You could get 12 epicurean friends to share the cost.) Even at that, it’s a bargain. Russian or Iranian caviar sells for $75 a pound.
The chef at the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa lent me some Canadian caviar for the picture on page 43, on the condition that I bring it right back. He won’t tell where he bought it except to say that it comes from somewhere around North Bay, Ont. He thinks so highly of his caviar’s quality — and of the importance of hiding its source — that recently, when the chef from the Ritz Carlton in Montreal came on bended knee to find out the secret, he turned him coldly away.
Anyway, if you’re able to track down the caviar, you can put it, the salmon and the smoked goldeye on the table in separate dishes and let everyone help themselves. The caviar should be served with grated egg yolks, grated onion and dry thin fresh white toast on the side. The smoked salmon (which by rights should be carved in thin slices off the whole fish rather than bought ready sliced in foil pans) needs brown bread, butter and capers. Smoked goldeye is good served in chunks on rye bread. All these fish need plenty of lemon, so lavish the platters with wedges.
1 cup frozen spinach 1 pint oysters 4V2 cups chicken stock Salt, pepper Sherry to taste
Heat chicken stock to boiling and let simmer on stove. Blend oysters and their liquor in blender. Add to the simmering chicken stock. Blend spinach and add to chicken stockoyster mixture. Simmer for 15 min-
utes or until oysters are cooked. May be refrigerated and reheated next day, when you add the sherry.
You can buy everything fresh for this dinner, with one major exception. It’s impossible to get a Brome Lake duck that’s not frozen. The breeders kill their ducks at seven weeks and freeze them on the spot. Fresh ducks are sold in many markets around Christmas, but poultry buyers claim that their quality is not as consistent as the Brome Lake variety. One has to compromise in life, so use the frozen ducks; but be sure to thaw them for 24 hours in the refrigerator or overnight at room temperature. You’ll need two to serve eight people. Roast the ducks, filled with the stuffing described below, in a medium oven. As they cook, keep removing all the fat from the pan; never mind trying to separate the juices from it. There will be enough stock for gravy from the giblets and necks simmering in their own soup on top of the stove. If you strip the meat off the cooked necks and put it in a blender with a little flour, giblet stock and port wine, the resulting gravy will be remarkably rich. Cooking fowl is a by-guess-andby-golly operation, depending on the weight of the bird and the real temperature of your oven. After you think the ducks are cooked (about 1 Vi hours), sprinkle a handful of sugar over their breasts and glaze them under the broiler. This will ensure a crisp brown skin. Do not make my terrible mistake and sip a champagne cocktail during this delicate manoeuvre. I was so relaxed when I tried out this menu that I pressed four fresh cloves of garlic into the turnips when I should have been watching the ducks. They burned. The moral is, of course, never drink while broiling.
Wild plum preserves, or if you live in the West highbush cranberries, have a tartness that goes well with duck meat. My plums come from a tree in my back yard, but most markets, at the end of August, sell small tart fruits, including crab apples, that would do just as well; if you didn’t buy and preserve them earlier this year, you can get crab apple jelly in the supermarket. Avoid the usual cranberries; they’re bound to be American.
The stuffing is dedicated to the Québécois, the Selkirk settler and to
continued on page 72
CHRISTMAS DINNER continued
those fortunate people who have a blend of French and Scotch in their veins. The French ingredient is Quebec blood pudding. You can buy it in most supermarkets in the Maritimes, Quebec and the eastern tip of Ontario, which includes Ottawa and Cornwall; or you can substitute any other Canadian-made blood pudding if you live farther west. Supermarket blood pudding is spiced with cinnamon and cloves which go well with duck. The Scotch ingredient is Red River cereal, which “originated in Manitoba’s storied Red River Valley” and “because it contains whole flax . . . acts as nature’s mild regulator.” The granularity of the cereal contrasts with the soft lushness of the spicy blood pudding, giving an interesting texture to the stuffing. Chauvinism, if you add lots of breadcrumbs, parsley and giblets and bake in the cavity of a Brome Lake duck, can be very good.
Approx. 2A pound blood pudding About Và to V2 loaf of bread 2A cup Red River cereal 4 onions
Whole bunch of parsley Duck giblets, partially cooked in stock and cut up
Put bread in blender a little at a time until fine enough for crumbs. Lightly sauté onions, chop parsley very fine.
Mix blood pudding (remember to remove the casing), bread crumbs, parsley, cereal and onions together. Salt and pepper to taste. Add giblets. Stuff ducks.
You can cook the wild rice and turnip the day before Christmas (or early Christmas morning) and reheat them just before dinner, either in the oven, if you have room next to the ducks, or over hot water on top of the stove. Be careful not to overcook the rice or its lovely, nutty flavor will disappear and the rice will split and turn mushy. When the rice has been cooked and drained, place barely sautéed mushrooms and celery on top, and cover the pot ready for reheating later on. You need about 2V2 pounds of turnip to serve eight, carefully peeled to remove all the green underskin, and cut into chunks. Boil until tender (about 20 minutes), drain and mash with a potato masher. Melt four tablespoons of butter and add lA cup of flour to make a roux, add a cup of stock left over from the duck giblets to thin the roux, and then add the mixture to the turnips. Press one or two cloves of garlic into it as well, and set aside to be reheated.
continued on page 74
CHRISTMAS DINNER continued
These can be made the day before. Both are light and not too cloying.
_MOLDED SPY APPLES_
3V2 pounds Spy apples
1V2 cups sugar
¥4 cup mixed dried fruits.
1 lemon Glacé cherries
Rye whiskey to taste Peel, core and slice the apples. Cook them with the sugar and a little water in a large, heavy pot, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. This process should take at least one hour and water (no more than a cup in total) can be added from time to time. When the apples are transparent, mix in the dried fruit and the juice of one lemon and as much rye as you like. Line the bottom of a four-cup oiled mold with glacé cherries. Pour in the apple mixture and refrigerate overnight, or longer if desired. Unmold and serve with unsweetened whipped cream.
MAPLE SUGAR MOUSSE ~
2 pkgs. gelatin — soften in ¥2 to ¥4 cup strong coffee
7 egg yolks 2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup of maple sugar (granulated) ¥/2 cups boiling milk Beat egg yolks. Add sugar slowly— add cornstarch. Continue beating for about three minutes. Beat milk into egg and sugar mixture. Stir with wooden spoon over low heat. Do not boil. Custard should thicken enough to coat spoon.
Add gelatin to hot mixture and beat in until thoroughly dissolved. Beat egg whites adding a pinch of salt and one tablespoon sugar until soft peaks form — then carefully fold whites into warm custard. Place in fridge until mixture is cold but not set. It may be necessary to fold the cooling mixture again in case it separates.
Whip half a cup of whipping cream and add to mousse.
Turn the mousse into an eight-cup mold. Chill for four to five hours or overnight. Unmold and decorate with caramelized maple sugar.
Even Chauvinistic Christmas dinners need to be finished off with a digestif. An aged Canadian whiskey, taken straight or on the rocks, will help you keep a patriotic glow on. ■
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