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David Ross

eG Cook-Off 74: Holiday Roasts

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A gargantuan haunch of beef for Christmas dinner, ca. 1957

 

As a child in the late 1950's, our Holiday table was graced with turkey at Thanksgiving.....and another turkey at Christmas.  It wasn't until the 1970's that my Father finally made good on his Christmas promise to "give us a Christmas Goose" by actually cooking one.  To this day, I remember how little meat there was and it was dark, tough and chewy.  We had indeed been given a Christmas Goose!  Yet in later years Father (who always coated the meat with some type of rub), and Mother (who cooked the roast), redeemed themselves and cooked regal prime ribs of beef for Christmas dinner.

 

The Holiday roast, (as my UK friend Helen calls it), is a thing of beauty and an adventure for cooks around the globe.  And while turkey and prime rib still reign supreme, I for one like to venture to the farm and forest to procure other delights for the Holiday roast.  Right now I have duck (which will be slow-roasted and served with prized wild huckleberries) and a leg of lamb in the freezer, but I'll be adding some wild Scottish grouse, wood pigeon and a fresh American ham to the larder for roasts throughout the Holiday season. 

 

Please join me in celebrating the Holiday roast with a special eG Cook-Off.  We place no boundaries or regulations on your cookery.  Whether it's sous vide, stuffed, smoked, barbecued or braised, roasted, grilled, broiled, fried or flamed, all manner of cooking techniques are welcome into the discussion and feast. 

 

See our complete Cook-Off Index here:

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/143994-egullet-recipe-cook-off-index/

 

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I might be a bit odd, but during the Holiday season I don't just reserve a roast for the actual day of the celebration.  Each year I pull out some favorite recipes, then add some new dishes to the roster.  And I like to stay in the spirit of Holiday cooking by preparing roasts throughout the long season from Thanksgiving to Christmas and on to New Year's.

 

For my first Holiday roast, I chose a time-honored family recipe for slow-roasted duck.  I buy 3 or 4 ducks during the Holidays because they are usually on sale, sometimes less than $3 per lb.  And this recipe couldn't be easier.  Once the duck is thawed, I let it sit, uncovered, in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin.

 

Just season the cavity with salt and pepper, then stuff it with a quartered onion and a head of garlic cut in half.  Then I tie the legs to cover the cavity and use this meat tenderizer to poke some holes in the duck breast.  This aids in releasing fat during roasting to keep the skin crisp.  During roasting I use a baster to take up the fat in the roasting pan, which I reserve for sauteeing potatoes later.

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Now this next step may be at odds with your duck cookery.  I start by roasting the bird in a 275 oven for three hours.  Then another 40 minutes or so at 375 to crisp and brown the skin.  Sounds like it would leave one with a rubber duck doesn't it.  But everytime the duck comes out incredibly juicy and fall off the bone.  It isn't intended to be a medium rare seared duck breast.

 

Now my sides are a bit unique.  This is a first year try at combining huckleberries and cranberries.  I do make huckleberry compote each year, but this year I decided to do a new twist on the typical cranberry sauce.  Of course, living in Eastern Washington I am fortunate to have fresh huckleberries in season and then scads of them frozen to use throughout the year.  I really don't think there are any substitutes for huckleberries, but the general thought was to combine a tart yet sweet, fragrant berry with the cranberries.

 

Just one can of whole cranberries, then about a 1/2 cup of huckleberries, orange zest, a glog of Cointreau orange liqueur, a couple of cloves and a grate of nutmeg.  Surprisingly, I didn't add any sugar.  The canned cranberries had sugar, and this year's crop of huckleberries was quite sweet.

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Spaetzle with roasted pearl onions.  This was a combination of items I had in the pantry and fridge.  Not innovative but delicious.  I buy dried Spaetzle at a local German deli and added pearl onions that had been roasted in some of the fat from the duck.

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Slow-roasted Duck with Cranberry-Huckleberry Relish-

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Great topic.  I just ordered a 8-9 lb fresh smoked ham from our favourite local butcher.  It needs to be cooked.  I am taking to our usual place of Christmas Dinner..a friend's place.  They do a turkey and all the trimmings.  We usually take two beautiful freshly baked loaves of bread, Lintzer Torte and last year I made vanilla ice cream for the Torte.

i would welcome any suggestions about cooking the ham.  I will wrap the cooked ham in foil, in towels and place it in a cooler to keep warm until dinner time.  I have only cooked one of these before.

cheers

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Funny you should mention ham.  I was pondering actually curing a ham, but given the fact that it needs to age--and there are good hams out there, I'll be buying a ham.  Just so many choices to choose from.  I think I may use my Father's old method which was to cook the ham in a brown paper bag, then bring it out at the end to give it a blast of high heat.

 

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Our local butcher come sausage maker has wonderful hams that he makes in house in his walkin smoker.  Not cheap.

he is a nice guy and it is a family business.  We like to support businesses like this.

 

he usually comes out from the back to say hi when I go in.  Yesterday we were there and I told him about our bacon, pancetta and guaincle making endeavours.  He, being of Germanic extraction, did no know what guainacle was.  I should take him some to try.  Also need to take my egg providing lady in my village a package of our bacon...I bet she will love that:). It's all about sharing!

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@David Ross I slow roast duck similar to your preparation and it is great!  Using fork to puncture skin all over.  Here Is a picture of one.  Family started to eat skin before I managed to take photo.  And you get tons of duck fat as a bonus.

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I agree and this time I was surprised at how much duck fat I keep spooning out of the roasting pan.  I'll use that to fry some potatoes with the next roast. 

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Ohhhhhh.....those duck remind me of the pans and pans we would do on Friday for service over the weekend.  One of my jobs was to drain the fat every minutes or so and flip the birds at the same time.  We horded the fat and actually used it for specials when we made rosti.(did I mention my boss was Swiss by extraction?). A l'orange  or Montmorency depending on the bosses decision that week.

I have fallen in love with an Ina Garten recipe for beef filet slow roasted after being massaged with kosher salt and wrapped with tarragon leaves.  Not crazy about the sauce she uses but love how lovely the meat comes out - faintly scented of anise from the tarragon(one of my favorite herbs) and without that nasty dark ring around the outside.

Give me that, some mash and some carrots and peas and I am a happy camper. 

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I cannot decide at all what roast to do this year. We didn't end up doing Thanksgiving at home due to health issues. In the past I've done a rib roast very happily, but I'm not sure if I want to do it again or branch out. Not sure how many people we will have, either, which doesn't help.

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On 29/11/2016 at 1:01 PM, Okanagancook said:

Great topic.  I just ordered a 8-9 lb fresh smoked ham from our favourite local butcher.  It needs to be cooked.  I am taking to our usual place of Christmas Dinner..a friend's place.  They do a turkey and all the trimmings.  We usually take two beautiful freshly baked loaves of bread, Lintzer Torte and last year I made vanilla ice cream for the Torte.

i would welcome any suggestions about cooking the ham.  I will wrap the cooked ham in foil, in towels and place it in a cooler to keep warm until dinner time.  I have only cooked one of these before.

cheers

We do hams at Christmas. The ham rind gets scored and studded with cloves.  I use a basting liquid with pineapple juice, brown sugar and allspice. Bake in a low oven basting frequently for a couple hours. Delicious with potato bake. 

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Overnight I got to thinking that I should probably do what I've always wanted to do, smoke a Holiday roast.  I could do turkey, some sort of beef or turkey, but I may venture out and smoke some other type of roast. 

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On 11/28/2016 at 8:01 PM, Okanagancook said:

i would welcome any suggestions about cooking the ham.  I will wrap the cooked ham in foil, in towels and place it in a cooler to keep warm until dinner time.  I have only cooked one of these before.

 

@Okanagancook, I'd like to try Jacques Pépin's method of pre-poaching the ham (and his glaze sounds tasty, also!):

 

https://ww2.kqed.org/jpepinheart/2015/08/27/smoked-ham-glazed-with-maple-syrup/

 


Edited by FauxPas (log)
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Thanks for the ham suggestions.  Jacques' recipe looks very interesting. I will have research that idea.

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My extended family has essentially abandoned roast turkey and ham in favor of prime rib, with the question of how it should be cooked.  One family branch gives it a good salt/herb rub and barbecues it over a hot gas grill; another branch smokes it.  Either way we get a good, hot, brown crust on the outside and plenty of rare meat inside, to everyone's groaning delight.

 

The question came up this year about branching out a bit.  The duck posts above have me really jonesing for duck.  If I could lay my hands on some I'd be happy to roast it for another night's family feast.  How much duck should I acquire - if I can - for, say, 10 people?

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The duck I roasted would have generously served two.  On the plate I showed two thick breast slices and one leg, but you could stretch one duck to serve 4, especially if you've got plenty of delicious side dishes.  For 10 people, I think three ducks would be really safe in terms of enough.  But I teach cooking and I'm always stressed we won't have enough for our students, so, if I was teaching a class on roasting ducks for 10 students, I'd do four ducks!

 

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One thing about duck is make sure everyone is okay with how you plan to serve it temperature-wise. We've had dinner with friends with roast duck rare and it was just too rare for some of the guests. So either check in advance, or try to serve a range so people can find what they like.

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@SmithyDepends on how big the duck. One of the local supermarket duck(lings) will serve two usually...maybe three if you divvy up the breast and legs. I had a couple so undersize that breasts were miniscule and fit for nothing.

 

On the other hand, one of the big mother breast/leg boxes from costco.com has breasts that are the size (nearly) of my hand and each could serve three generously, maybe four.


Edited by gfweb (log)
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1 hour ago, quiet1 said:

One thing about duck is make sure everyone is okay with how you plan to serve it temperature-wise. We've had dinner with friends with roast duck rare and it was just too rare for some of the guests. So either check in advance, or try to serve a range so people can find what they like.

 

Always a problem. I tend to dictate doneness when serving a group and go MR on beef and a little closer to medium on duck breast. This ain't no Ruth's Chris.

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2 hours ago, gfweb said:

 

Always a problem. I tend to dictate doneness when serving a group and go MR on beef and a little closer to medium on duck breast. This ain't no Ruth's Chris.

 

I try to have something of a range available when possible - if doing multiple items (more than one duck, in this case) sometimes I try to pull them out at staggered times. Depends a lot on what it is and who the guests are. Some of my guests are often immune compromised and I always make clear I have no problems cooking something a bit more if they need it. It's just about knowing your guests, which is part of being a good host IMO.

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The slow-roasted duck method should work for any tastes.  The meat is well-done so to speak, yet juice and tender. 

 

As far as ham goes, today I was going through my old Bon Appetit and Gourmet November and December issues dating back to 1973 and found a country ham recipe.  I think I may order a country ham, soak it of course, then cook it in a bag and glaze with Coca-Cola.

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On 11/30/2016 at 9:41 AM, David Ross said:

Overnight I got to thinking that I should probably do what I've always wanted to do, smoke a Holiday roast.  I could do turkey, some sort of beef or turkey, but I may venture out and smoke some other type of roast. 

 

I have never prepared one, but when I lived in Bentonville (aka Home of the Walmartians), there was a restaurant that did a smoked prime rib. It was the most marvelous thing I'd ever eaten. 

 

One night, someone broke into their smokehouse and stole about a dozen prime rib roasts that were winding up smoking. Always figured they had a helluva dinner.

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Whatever you end up doing, I highly recommend taking the fat and using it for vegetables.  Suddenly, everyone seems to like Brussels sprouts when they're roasted in duck fat :D

 

I'm still using up the fat I got from the hare dinner.  Using it to roast squash is very, very good.

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I'm saving the leg of lamb I have in the freezer for Christmas or New Year's Day dinner.  But this weekend I'm looking at a Holiday Roast that we sometimes forget--stuffed.  I don't have a good local source for pork belly, certainly not a large pork belly.  If I did, I'd stuff it and roll it, tie it and some sort of roasting to crisp the skin.  But I'm pondering a stuffed pork roast or maybe stuffed flank steak rolled and tied into a roast.  For the pork, I like the idea of using dried fruits or prunes soaked in Armagnac.  For the steak, maybe something with chorizo.  And I've got two sauces that might work, a basic red-wine reduction, and then I found an old recipe out of Gourmet Magazine for a vinegar and date sauce that sounds quite good for pork or game.

 

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I am always interested in finding more uses for dates, @David Ross.  Whether or not you decide to make that vinegar and date sauce, would you share it, or at least describe it?

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I use dates in my sticky toffee pudding but have never used them in a savory dish.  The recipe for date puree is from the December 1988 issue of Gourmet and from Chef Gunter Seeger.  It was used as a garnish for a dish of Duck Breast with Glazed Cippoline Onions and a Caramel Vinegar Sauce.

 

The recipe calls for just blanching the dates in boiling water for two minutes, then peeling and pitting them. I think you can skip the peeling, pitting stage.  Then it's passed through a sieve and put in a piping bag to put a small amount on the plate.  I think you could serve it in a small dish at the table.

 

The sauce sound interesting and I think would go with duck, goose or even rich pork roasts.

 

The recipe starts with caramelizing 2 tbsp. of sugar in a saucepan, then stir in 1 tbsp. of water, and 3 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar.  The Chef specifies duck stock, but I think you could add chicken stock.  Sometimes I'll use chicken stock as a base but add duck parts to give it some richness.  So you add 2 cups of stock and reduce the sauce by half.

Then you add 2 tbsp. of "glace de viande."  Few folks probably make that today, nor do they probably make demi-glace.  You can buy concentrated demi-glace paste, but I think you could also just add in some butter mixed with flour as a thickener.  It won't have the full body of demi-glace but would work. 

 

I found another sauce that I will try with ham that also uses vinegar.

 

Saute some onion, carrot and celery in olive oil.  Then add bay leaves, thyme, parsley, leek and rosemary.  Add 2 cups of red wine and 1/4 cup ruby port.  Reduce by half and then add 2 smoked ham hocks to the pot, and pour in 4 cups chicken stock, cover and simmer for 2 hours.  Then pull out the ham hocks and strain the sauce.  Cover and chill, then skim off the top fat layer on day two.  Reduce the sauce by 1/2, then stir in the smoked ham pulled off the hocks, 2 tbsp. of butter and some vinegar.  The recipe calls for red wine vinegar, but I would probably use sherry vinegar or balsamic.  I have found some good fruit flavored balsamic vinegars that would be good.  And I think a Kentucky accent would be to add some coffee a'la red eye gravy.

 

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