We almost all think of turkey when setting out Christmas dinner menu, but past the nostalgic qualities there’s no reason to stick to tradition. Wouldn’t a roast chicken filled with stuffing and served with classic accompaniments be as satisfying as turkey? Or, why not gourmet it up a little by serving a game bird such as duck or pheasant.
Cornish aren’t game birds. In reality, they are just small chickens. Maybe it’s a bit of personal nostalgia as I can still remember ordering these personal sized birds - they are usually between 1 1/2 and 2 pounds) at one of the limited number of fine dining experiences I enjoyed as a child. Cornish hens are the perfect side for one, or two, but it would also make for a little 80s chic to serve everyone their own individual Cornish hen with classic Christmas dinner accompaniments served on the side.
In my household, there is certain reverence for duck. And while we most often stick to the roast turkey dinner routine for Christmas, our New Year’s Eve dinner is celebrated with duck. It’s nearly impossible to find a whole duck, but it’s increasingly easy to find frozen duck legs. We usually go the confit route by braising them in duck fat but you if you want to pinch a couple pennies the legs themselves have a lot of fat in them so you can simply braise them in stock. Then again, you are sacrificing the pleasures of potatoes roasted in your leftover duck fat.
I’ve only cooked pheasant a couple times in my life. Yet, the sheer thought of this robustly flavoured game bird instantly awakens my culinary senses. Rich and gamey, and typically large enough to serve a family of 4, roast pheasant is fantastic when accompanied by earthy, smoky sides. Wild mushrooms, smoky bacon and fragrant herbs such as sage are just a few of the flavours that I recommend sharing the holiday table with roast pheasant. Try this recipe for mushroom risotto to go along with your roast pheasant feast.