Stop us if this sounds familiar. Every year around this time, you lug home an enormous turkey and spend hours brining it, stuffing it, seasoning it, basting it, roasting it … or deep frying it, for heaven’s sake. Your guests put an obligatory two pieces on their plates because you’ve gone through all that trouble to cook it and carve it. Then they engulf it in gravy because—let’s face it—it’s still dry.
Do we as a society truly enjoy eating turkey? Or do we spend countless hours preparing it for one meal a year simply because it’s tradition?
There are some holiday traditions that, quite frankly, shouldn’t be messed with, but food doesn’t have to be one of them. While turkey, or even ham in some families, is considered the norm at holiday gatherings, there are plenty of tasty alternatives that can impress guests and please palates. Here are three dishes that may inspire you to change things up this year.
Crown Roast of Pork with Cranberry, Apple and Orange Stuffing
Rest assured that when you present this decadent dish, no one’s going to ask, “Where’s the turkey?” Encased with sausage, filled with an extravagant, fruit-forward stuffing and drizzled with an impeccable sauce, this crown roast of pork will be considered the crown jewel of your table.
- 10–11-pound pork rib roast—butcher prepared*
- 2 pounds bulk sausage
Stuffing recipe from Emi’s aunt, Joyce Miller
- 1 bag of prepared stuffing mix
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup Virginia apples (Granny Smith or Honeycrisp), diced
- 1/2 cup fresh oranges, segmented
- 1/2 dripping of the pork rib roast
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 16 ounces of cold chicken stock
Preheat oven 375 F.
Spread bulk sausage around the outside of the pork rib roast.
In a baking pan that’s larger than the roast, invert the pork roast so the bones are facing down. Add the scraps to the bottom of the pan alongside the roast to add flavor to your sauce.
Roast for approximately 2 hours, 20 minutes. Check temperature with an instant- read meat thermometer; the center of the roast should reach at least 150 F.
Let pork roast rest for about 30 minutes before serving.
When the pork is almost done, prepare the stuffing. Mix all ingredients together on the stovetop in a pan for about 15 minutes.
To make the sauce, whisk half the drippings from the pork roast with flour until a paste forms. Add chicken stock, and whisk to combine.
Place the stuffing in the center of the pork roast, and drizzle sauce on the pork roast to keep moist
Recipe created and prepared by Chef Emi Ostrander, chef instructor at Stratford University and Tidewater Community College; chef/owner of O meals and special events chef for Virginia Beach Resort Hotel/Tradewinds.
*It’s best to call your butcher ahead of time to order a crown roast or pork. Here are some local options:
1120 Kempsville Rd., Chesapeake
757-547-2161 | CentralMeats.com
1608 Hilltop West, Virginia Beach
757-422-5012 | VillageButcherOfVirginiaBeach.com
Country Butcher Shop and Deli
3640 Dam Neck Rd., Virginia Beach
757-468-1583 | CountryButcherShopAndDeli.com
Pendulum Fine Meats
820 Shirley Ave., Norfolk
757-962-6990 | PendulumMeats.com
Jeb’s Meat Market & Diner
15668 Carrollton Blvd., Carrolton
757-238-7044 | JebsBBQ.com
Roasted Acorn Squash with Black Rice and Pecan Filling and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce
This recipe is simple to prepare, yet special and satisfying enough for the main course of a holiday meal. It is most striking prepared with black rice, which contrasts beautifully with the golden flesh of the squash, but use whatever rice you prefer.
Acorn Squash and Filling
- 2 acorn squash, halved horizontally, stems, seeds and pulp removed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms (any type)
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 2 cups cooked black rice; allow to remain moist by not evaporating all of the liquid (I prefer to cook the rice in vegetable stock with 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary to infuse flavor)
- 1 cup toasted pecan halves or pieces + a few additional for garnish
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce (recipe follows)
Garnishes: fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs and toasted pecan halves
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce
- 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers
- 2 tablespoons dried rosemary
- 1 large clove garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon sherry wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each half of the squash so that it will sit flat. Lightly spray both a metal or ceramic roasting dish and the squash with nonstick spray, and roast for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly caramelized on the top surface. Squash should hold its shape.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and salt and sauté, stirring, approximately 2–3 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and sauté another 30 seconds. Stir in mushrooms, and continue sautéing for another 2–3 minutes or until tender. Stir in sage, thyme, rice, pecans, salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired; remove from heat.
- When squash has finished roasting, mound one-quarter of the filling into each squash half. If serving immediately, drizzle each half with sauce, allowing some to cascade down the sides, and garnish with rosemary and thyme sprigs, finishing with toasted pecan halves. If not serving immediately, allow squash to cool, cover with foil, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, remove squash from refrigerator about a half hour before placing in oven, then reheat at 350 F, covered, for about 20 minutes or until heated through.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper Sauce
- Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
- Taste, adjust seasoning, process again, and, if serving immediately, gently warm in a small saucepan over medium heat or in a small bowl in the microwave.
If not serving immediately, store in an airtight container, refrigerated. Heat before serving.
Recipe created and prepared by Betsy DiJulio, artist, award-winning Virginia Beach public school art teacher and author of The Blooming Platter Cookbook, a celebration of the seasons, featuring a wide range of accessible and elegant vegan recipes for the home cook. Learn more at TheBloomingPlatter.com.
Rockfish and Cranberry, Sage and Orange Stuffing with Cranberry Puree
It’s a natural fit for us Coastal Virginians to substitute turkey with a freshly-caught rockfish straight from the Chesapeake Bay. Since rockfish is mild in flavor—much like turkey—we thought to stuff it with it an aromatic dressing of dried cranberries, fresh sage and orange rind. Sitting in for the typical cranberry sauce is a tangy and tart cranberry puree.
- 4 rockfish fillets
- 1/2 loaf bread
- 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped, plus more for garnishing
- 1/2 bunch fresh sage, finely chopped
- 1/2 bunch fresh thyme, finely chopped, plus more for garnishing
- Zest of 1 orange, plus more for garnishing
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- Fresh cranberries for garnishing (optional)
- 12 oz. can frozen 100% cranberry juice
- 3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
- 1 Virginia apple (we like Honeycrisp), cut into chunks
- 1 peeled orange, sectioned
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Butterfly the rockfish fillets, keeping one side connected and ensuring that both sides are even in thickness.
- Place bread in a food processor and process into crumbs.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat, add pecans, and cook 3–4 minutes or until golden brown, ensuring to toss frequently for even toasting. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and sauté onion for 3–4 minutes or until translucent. Add the breadcrumbs, chopped herbs, pecans, cranberries and orange zest. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon one-quarter of the stuffing into each rockfish fillet.
- Line a baking tray with foil and parchment paper. Place the rockfish fillets on top. Scatter parsley, orange zest, salt and pepper on top, and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap the fish with the foil and parchment paper and cook for 30 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.
- While the fish is baking, prepare your puree. Empty the frozen fruit juice concentrate into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. Reduce and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
- Place cranberries, apple chucks and orange slices into a food processor and blend until smooth. Add fruit juice and pulse all ingredients together. Pour into a serving dish.
- Place the rockfish fillets on individual dishes, and garnish with fresh cranberries and thyme. Serve with cranberry puree.
- Recipe created and prepared by Angela Blue, editor-in-chief of Coastal Virginia Magazine and casually creative home chef.