Posted on December 22 2022
In much of the English-speaking world, Christmas has become synonymous with turkey. However, while many are reluctant to break with tradition, others also tire of having exactly the same meal every year. After all, few would say that roast turkey is a particularly special centerpiece to the festivities. Fortunately, there are numerous tasty alternatives, some of which are actually more traditional than the ubiquitous turkey roast. Following are a few ideas that are sure to impress your family and friends for the special occasion:
1. Venison Wellington
A classic dinner party special, venison wellington might not be cheap, but it will surely impress your companions for the big Christmas dinner. Unlike beef, venison has a very distinct and gamey flavor. You'll need to buy a good cut, such as loin fillet, trimmed and off the bone, but it's not as difficult or time-consuming to prepare as you might think. As the name suggests, a venison wellington is prepared in much the same way as its beef counterpart, consisting of fillet steak coated in duxelles and puff pastry. You can also enjoy it with most of the traditional Christmas side dishes, such as Brussels sprouts, potatoes, parsnips and carrots.
2. Roast Goose
In keeping with Christmas tradition, goose is one of the most popular alternatives to turkey. Though not nearly as common as it used to be, a roast goose is no more complicated to cook than a turkey. Its distinct flavor makes it a favorite choice for Christmas dinners, and, in Germany, it remains the staple for the Christmas Day meal. In many other European cultures, it's also the traditional meal to have on St. Martin's Day on November 11. Roast goose is best served with a variety of stuffing foods, such as sweet chestnuts, onions and apples. If you want to fully indulge in the Germanic style, consider serving it with red cabbage and bratwurst stuffing.
3. Wild Boar
Dedicated traditionalists can't go wrong with the Elizabethan Christmas favorite - a stuffed wild boar head that was commonly presented at such banquets. However, while such a presentation is not likely to impress modern audiences, wild boar still makes for a delicious Christmas roast or casserole. Unfortunately, it's no longer widely available in the US or the UK, but you will on occasion find it in specialist butchers. If you really want to go the whole hog, one of the most popular recipes involves roasting a shoulder of boar in rosé wine, quinces and peeled chestnuts.
4. Game Birds
If a distinct and unusual flavor is your main priority for the next Christmas dinner, you can't go wrong with game birds. There are plenty of options available but, since most game birds are fairly small, they are not best suited to larger gatherings. If you want to cook for a large group, consider offering an assortment of mixed game birds, such as pheasant, grouse, quail, guinea fowl, duck and partridge. You should be able to find most of these game birds at any good butcher's shop in the weeks leading up to Christmas if you didn't shoot your own. The butcher should also be able to prepare a multi-bird roast for you that will be ready for cooking on the big day.
Lobster might not be very Christmassy, but for those who fancy a break from all the heavily meat-orientated dishes, it presents the epitome of sophisticated luxury. If you truly want to indulge your friends and family this year, consider opting for a lobster thermidor, a popular French dish consisting of lobster with a creamy egg, brandy and mustard sauce stuffed into the shell. The only major drawback of serving lobster is that it is extremely expensive, so you may want to provide a generous range of starters instead of relying on lobster for the main part of the meal.
With a little bit of creativity and a willingness to part with tradition (or, perhaps, go back to older traditions), you shouldn't find yourself running out of ideas for the Christmas feast. Alternatively, you might want to adopt a Christmas dinner tradition from a foreign country for this year, such as the famous Swedish smorgasbord or the twelve-course tasting menus popular in Poland and the Baltics.