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Holiday Season Alternatives

Posted: November 9, 2011
by: Robert Jackson

Don't you just love this time of the year? Once autumn is upon us we can all be forgiven for getting just a tad excited - the Holiday Season has arrived! Suddenly Halloween is upon us, Thanksgiving just around the corner, Christmas hot on its heels and New Year right behind just to cap it all off - quite exhausting, but great fun for all of the family, whatever their age!
Yet some years, as much as I love the tradition of these celebrations, I like to experiment a little with something different. So this year I want to share with you a few ideas for some alternative holiday season recipes.

Informal Supper Party

For a hassle-free evening choose something that can be prepared ahead of time such as my Confit of Duck with Port & Sour Cherry sauce. Served simply with baked jacket potatoes and a nice big dish of potato & vegetable gratin, you will have plenty of time to enjoy yourself with your guests. This dish would be especially suitable for Halloween, Boxing Day or perhaps a casual New Year's party.

Thanksgiving & Christmas

A traditional roast turkey with all of the trimmings is what we have learned to expect on one or even both of the biggest celebrations of the holiday season. But let's ring the change and try something different this year. If you are one of the many who absolutely must have a roast bird, then how about trying a roast goose instead. This bird is more gamey than turkey and a good deal richer so serve a modest portion balanced with a wide selection of seasonal vegetables and traditional accompaniments.
Or if like me you like to have a complete break from poultry occasionally, then a Beef Wellington makes a very impressive alternative. Although this recipe is quite time consuming, almost all of the preparation can be done in advance leaving just the baking to be done before serving.

New Year

It's much easier to be adventurous on your choice of menu for New Year as thankfully, tradition doesn't clearly determine this one for us! And as most folk have been over dosed on poultry by this time, it's the perfect opportunity to choose something different. Last year I cooked a slow braised venison casserole. Not only was it utterly delicious, but best of all it can be cooked twenty four hours in advance! And as a token gesture to tradition, try serving it with a good old Scottish side dish of bashed neeps'n tatties.

And finally I want to share with you a recipe that without fail, I cook every Christmas, sometimes for the big day itself, other times for Boxing Day - Slow Roasted Shoulder of Pork. This is so very easy, and absolutely delicious. Although the recommended cooking time is 10 to 12 hours, I sometimes put it in the night before and let it cook for anything up to 24 hours.

Slow Roasted Shoulder of Pork

Serves 8-10
1 small whole, boned shoulder of pork, about 6-7lb (2.75-3.25kg) in weight
salt & freshly ground black pepper
juice of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons of olive oil


  • Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C/Gas mark 8.
  • Rub one tablespoon of oil really well all over the surface of the pork. Season with the black pepper and then generously with the salt (this helps the skin to become really crisp) and rub it into the surface firmly.
  • Place the pork onto a wire rack in a roasting tin and roast for 30 minutes until the skin just starts to crackle up. Take the pork from the oven, pour over the lemon juice and two tablespoons of oil. Now turn the oven down to 250°F/120°C/Gas mark 1/2. Leave the meat to roast for 10 to 12 hours. During this time, baste several times with a little of the juices in the roasting tin.

Now you can virtually forget about the pork for the rest of the day (or night!).

  • Approximately 45 minutes before the cooking time is up, turn the heat back up to 450°F/230°C/Gas mark 8. Then just leave the joint alone until the crackling is really crisp and brown. Take the pork out of the oven and leave it standing on the wire rack.
  • If the crackling is not really, really crisp by now, simply remove the string and then cut it away from the joint and place back on the roasting rack, fat side down. Pop back into the oven for a further 15 minutes or so until it has crisped completely.

I hope that perhaps some of my recipe suggestions will prove suitable for the festive period, but whatever your choice, traditional or alternative, I wish you all Happy Holidays!


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