Start with the turkey. The rest will follow. Part 1.

Start with the turkey. The rest will follow. A menu for Christmas dinner practically writes itself with a little decision making to guide it through.

Christmas Dinner

The turkey, whether it’s fresh, frozen, brined, buttered, fried, stuffed, whole or dismembered is all dependent on your own expectations and whatever mood you’re in. To keep it simple – an ideal goal at Christmastime – let’s say it’s fresh, buttered, and stuffed. For flavourings, it’s got to have sage, so mix a bunch of freshly chopped sage with a celebratory amount of softened unsalted butter, shoving it between the flesh and the skin.

Christmas Dinner

For the stuffing, in the season of excess, why have one when you can have two? The one going inside the bird has got to be this one, that’s so east-coast Canadian it’s not even referred to as stuffing but as dressing and as such, is made up of potatoes. It’s as simple as making mashed potatoes but has the addition of some onion and the official herb of Nova Scotia, summer savory. The bread stuffing that I crave, with an extra dose of gravy over top is done as a side casserole.

Christmas Dinner

Summer Savory Potato Dressing

Makes enough to stuff a small turkey
Serves 8 as a side dish

1.145kg (approximately 5 medium) white potatoes, peeled
1/2 tsp kosher salt
70g unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion, diced finely (approximately 150g)
2 tablespoons dried summer savory
100ml whole milk (3.5% M.F.)
2 teaspoons large flaked sea salt, such as Maldon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot add the potatoes and fill with enough cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, add the kosher salt and turn the heat down. Simmer, partially covered until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the water off the potatoes, add the rest of the ingredients, and mash until resembling a relatively even texture. Allow to cool completely before stuffing the bird.

Christmas Dinner

Basting the beast need not be complicated either. Though turkeys are lean birds this one is so loaded with butter it won’t hurt missing an encounter with the brush here or there, leaving you to get in full cheer with your guests. When you do remember to baste it, I like mixing equal parts of maple syrup and butter in a small saucepan on the stove and brushing it over the bird in liberal amounts. The sugar and butter help the skin bronze beautifully and the sweet maple syrup will drip down over the obligatory parsnips roasting, tucked up alongside. Leave the bird to cook depending on a number of factors but try to think of it as a giant chicken, and just cook it until the juices run clear in the thigh. If you need precise timings, refer to any number of guides out there on the subject.

Christmas Dinner

The cranberry sauce does not come from a can. I understand some need it to but for shame if you’re in an area such as Canada that has access to good fresh and frozen cranberries that come directly from our friendly east-coast cousins. It’s hard to improve on the recipe on the side of the bag, which consists of adding water and sugar and simmering until the tart berries have just given up their shape. I don’t want my cranberry sauce tasting like oranges, anise, cinnamon or anything else. If you feel like some extra fussing in the kitchen, say to escape some drunken family member or cat obsessed aunt, add a grated apple which will provide a jellied texture to the sauce as well as some extra natural sweetness.

Christmas Dinner

Cranberry Sauce

340g bag whole cranberries, fresh or frozen
170g granulated sugar
1 small apple, peeled, cored and grated
125ml cold water

In a small saucepan add 230g of the cranberries, sugar, apple, and cold water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes until the cranberries have started to pop and collapse. Add the remaining 110g of cranberries and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, until the berries just begin to pop. Pour into a resealable glass jar and cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

131130 Crustcrumbs Christmas 0102-2-3

Gravy is gravy is gravy. Thicken the sweet pan juices with a slurry of white all purpose flour and cold water and season with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. If for whatever reason you haven’t much in the way of pan drippings add some turkey stock that you’ve made from simmering the neck on the stovetop with some aromatics, then add some wine (known as chef’s juice on Christmas) before going on to add the thickening slurry.

Christmas Dinner

Sides plus dessert coming up in two posts!

Christmas Cookies

Have you heard how many people have been singing about Santa Claus coming to town lately? It’s been pretty much everybody and if that doesn’t stress you out a little bit, well you’re a better person than I. There is only one full work week before Christmas. So you know those Christmas cookies you were thinking would be fun to make this year? It’s time to pull the trigger and make them.

Christmas Cookies for Santa

It’s hard choosing what cookie recipe to make with so many out there to choose from. After I went with my trusted three recipes that I knew I could churn out without thinking, I realized that I could have done so many other things like a sugar and butter-laden shortbread – the kind that induces heart palpitations but is so utterly addictive. Mint Nanaimo bars or even cornflake wreaths topped with a snippet of Swedish Berry would have both been joy making, especially since my cupboard is stocked with so much green food dye.

At this time of year though, it’s better to go with your autopilot if you have one. It helps to avoid tears on Christmas, just as it does to decide not to roast and peel your own chestnuts or over-do-it on the County Nog.

As much as I’d like to experiment with other recipes, I have to give a recipe for this gingerbread. This is what I want to smell baking when I’m making Christmas cookies and I’d be a little disappointed if I didn’t have that familiar scent around Christmas as there’s really no other appropriate time to have them. It’s heavy on the cloves, which is one thing I really like about them. They’re also lighter in colour and crisp. They’re a perfect gingerbread cookie for those that say they don’t like gingerbread because they really don’t resemble any other gingerbread cookie out there.

I’m not one for decorating cookies. I really hate to do it so for these I enlisted a helper to do the dirty work, after I mixed up some icing that consisted of icing sugar and water, with some added red and green food dye. If no one is expecting pretty Christmas shapes, my real preference for these cookies is to roll out small amounts in my hands and smush them onto the cookie sheet, making for an average-looking round cookie that’s uneven in places but tastes just as good as the fussed-over version.

The prune turnovers, I hope I don’t have to convince you too much about. They’re absolutely basic to put together but taste like a Scandinavian Christmas. The instant you pull out the bottle of brandy, and dump in the sugar and prunes, you know it’s Christmas.

Christmas Cookies for Santa

The Peppermint Meringues come from Martha Stewart. I think they were first published in her magazine as a stand-alone holiday cookie issue, before it was turned into the popular Martha Stewart Cookies book. With only three egg whites, some sugar and food colouring, they take no time to put together. Though as a Canadian that flips between Celsius and Fahrenheit from recipe to recipe, I find I always flip the oven temperature in my head to Celsius instead of following it as written, meaning whenever I make this recipe, I inevitably have to run to the oven, remembering that I’ve again turned it up much higher than it’s supposed to be. I skip the chocolate ganache filling because I like them how they are, minty, light, and unfussy.

If you’ve taken the time to read this entire cookie rambling you’re practically done for. Santa Claus is probably reading this with you, over your shoulder and Christmas is about to be over. Just make something quick!

Christmas Cookies for Santa

Gingerbread Cookies

250g unsalted butter, softened
355g granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
450g all-purpose unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, add the butter and sugar. Cream on medium speed for approximately 3 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, corn syrup, and vanilla extract and continue to mix until fully incorporated. With the mixer turned off add the flour, baking soda, and spices and mix on low speed until just incorporated, finishing mixing by hand using wooden spoon so as not to over mix the dough.

Divide the dough into two portions and wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. The dough can be made a couple of days ahead of time or frozen if desired.

When ready to bake preheat your oven to 350°F and remove the dough from the fridge to allow time to warm up and become pliable.

Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough to approximately 1/8” thickness and cut into Christmasy shapes. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet or a sheet lined with parchment paper for a little non-stick cookie insurance, for approximately 8-10 minutes. Leave a good 1” of space between cookies as these spread a fair amount.

Christmas Cookies for Santa

Brandy Prune Turnovers

makes 18 turnovers

60g granulated sugar
125ml brandy or Calvados
250g pitted prunes
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
45g fresh bread crumbs
450g package frozen all-butter puff pastry
1 egg, well beaten
coarse sugar, for sprinkling

In a small saucepan, add the sugar and brandy and heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved. Add the prunes and continue to heat for another minute. Remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Add the spices and bread crumbs and using an immersion blender or food processor, blend everything to form a smooth paste. Cool completely before using.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Roll the puff pastry out into two equal squares if you’re not lucky enough to have scored some ready-rolled puff pastry. Cut each square into 9 smaller squares and heap about 1 tablespoon of the prune mixture into the centre of each. The filling doesn’t do much in the way of expansion when it’s baked so squeeze as much of the filling in each square as you can, while still managing to seal the edges with some of the beaten egg. Fold over each square to form a triangle and press firmly around the edges to ensure they’re sealed. Place the turnovers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and stash in the fridge to ensure the pastry remains cold. Right before baking, brush the turnovers with the egg and sprinkle with coarse sugar, then bake for approximately 25 minutes or until puffed and golden brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Christmas Cookies for Santa

Christmas Cocktail Roundup

I was out of town last week, so I missed getting drunk with all our Crustcrumbs readers during our 5 Days of Cocktails.  Allow me to reminisce with you all by rounding up all five of our Christmas cocktails.

5 Days of Cocktails

The first beverage in our week-long Mad Men themed office Christmas party was a County Nog.  The County Nog was modeled by Lynn, who later passed out under her desk.

County Nog

Next, we have Sarah drinking a Black Manhattan, garnished with bourbon-soaked cherries.

Black Manhattan

Sara joined us to drink a Widow’s Kiss, John’s twist on an old classic.

Widow's Kiss

A flashy Bourbon Sour was fourth, topped with a snowy froth and a swirl of bitters.  The Bourbon Sour was modeled by the lovely Mika.

Bourbon Sour

And last but not least is Michelle drinking a classy and elegant Bijou.


That’s it!  We hope you enjoyed our office Christmas cocktail shenanigans.  Maybe drink a few glasses of water on your way out.

5 Days of Cocktails


5 Days of Cocktails – Day 5: Bijou

Like a sparkling glass Christmas ornament, the Bijou shines bright with little extra adornment. Well put-together, it’s a cocktail that makes use of a combination of spirits with colours representative of precious diamonds and emeralds, immediately putting the drinker in a place of grace and elegance as its gleaming green hue illuminates from the glass.

It’s a polished cocktail for those looking to appreciate sophisticated flavours and aromas  such as juniper, anise, and orange.


This jewelled cocktail is traditionally made with three spirits: gin, green chartreuse, and sweet vermouth. I’ve changed the formula for the Crustcrumbs office party because I wanted this cocktail to be completely emerald in colour so as to better embody the unabashed sparkle of Christmas. It’s a joyous alteration. The Lillet Blanc is a little less sweet than the vermouth would be and adds its own pleasant aromas of orange. I’ve opted for no garnish in our version, though a cocktail cherry or orange peel (not both, please) would be a welcome addition.



makes 1 cocktail

1 oz Plymouth gin
1 oz Green Chartreuse
1 oz Lillet Blanc
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters No. 6

In a mixing glass filled with ice, add the gin, Chartreuse, and Lillet. Stir to chill. In a chilled coupe add a dash of orange bitters to the empty glass then pour the cocktail over top.

The Ladies of Crustcrumbs

That brings us to an end of the 5 Days of Cocktails and we’re feeling completely polluted. Soon it’ll be time to get the turkey in the oven! Thank you to all of our incredible Mad Men models – we obviously couldn’t have made it through the week without you.

5 Days of Cocktails – Day 4: Bourbon Sour

Out of all of our Christmas cocktails this week, I think the Bourbon Sour is the most decked-out for the holidays. Sit this drink in front of one your guests and the others will certainly get jealous when they see the attention given to its pretty snowy top, swirled with amber bitters.

Bourbon Sour

Underneath this meringue-like blanket is a drink that’s gently spiced from bourbon and enlivening on the palate thanks to a burst of freshly squeezed lemon juice. It’s a flashy cocktail for those that appreciate some extravagance around the holidays.

A good sour is essential to any cocktail party menu. They’re a crowd pleaser and understandably so as they offer a satisfying balance between refreshingly tart and lightly sweet. They’re great for people that don’t enjoy the harsher edge certain spirits have, providing a pleasant and smooth sip. The real trick is to get the snowy layer of froth strong enough to hold the shape of the bitters when they’re carefully dropped on top. Getting it right comes down to when you add the ice to the shaker. Pre-shaking without ice helps to combine the ingredients and the egg white. A final vigorous shaking with ice, aerates the white enough that it pours out silkily on the surface of the cocktail.

Bourbon Sour

Bourbon Sour

makes 1 cocktail

2 oz bourbon (I use Bulleit)
3/4 oz lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 oz simple syrup
1 egg white
2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a cocktail shaker combine the bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds, add ice and shake again for 20 seconds or so to create a good, sturdy froth. Pour into a chilled coupe glass and add two drops of Angostura on either side of the drink. Using a skewer, drag the bitters through the froth in a circular motion to achieve a marbled effect.

Simple Syrup

makes 500ml syrup

250ml cold water
250g granulated sugar

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring a little to ensure the sugar dissolves evenly. Once the sugar is fully dissolved, remove from the heat and cool. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.