Dinner ‘En Croute’

Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.

At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it  ‘En Croute’.  In the culinary arts, the term en croute (pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry  is frequently used for most en croute recipes.

The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key  version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.

Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.

 

Print Recipe
Turkey / Seafood 'en Croute'
Alternative ideas for those special occasions.
Instructions
Turkey en Croute
  1. Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
  2. Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
  3. Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
  4. Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
  1. Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
  3. Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
  1. Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
Recipe Notes
  • The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
  • The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
  • The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com  which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever. 

Thanksgiving Day in Canada

The second Monday of October has been the day Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving since 1957. We have now entered into our Autumn season with all it’s breathtaking fabulous fall foliage. Part of Canada’s appeal is it’s four seasons that offer changing landscapes and temperatures. 

I, for one, have always loved the changing seasons. That’s not to say that I like freezing cold and slippery roads but that I have come to understand the important role each one plays in the ‘big picture’. When Brion and I initially landscaped our property, careful consideration was given to what plants were planted. Over the years it has developed into a beautiful tapestry of color through our growing season.

Growing up on the farm, Fall was an especially busy time with the grain crops being harvested, garden vegetables being canned, frozen or just stored for use over the coming months. So much needed to be done before winter would set in. As a teenager it all just seemed like a lot of work. Even as hard as my parents worked at making a living from farming, I think they felt a real sense of satisfaction in what they were able to achieve. I realize now that even without being aware of it the visual beauty of the farmland at harvest was imprinted on me forever.

Thanksgiving Day in Canada is linked to the European tradition of harvest festivals. A common image seen at this time of year is a cornucopia, or horn, filled with seasonal fruit and vegetables. The cornucopia, which means ‘Horn of Plenty’ in Latin, was a symbol of bounty and plenty in ancient Greece. Turkeys, pumpkins, ears of corn and large displays of food are also used to symbolize Thanksgiving Day.

Over the years, Brion and I have chose to have a variety of different meats for our Thanksgiving meal. Turkey is always the tradition for our Christmas dinner and since the two holidays come fairly close together, why not! All that being said though, we decided this year to roast just the turkey breast with stuffing. I also incorporated some of that wonderful Butternut squash with cranberries into the meal as well. For dessert we are having some pumpkin chiffon tarts. As a ‘kid’, I remember having a great dislike for the regular pumpkin pie — you know the kind –‘solid’. Then one year my mother made pumpkin  ‘CHIFFON‘  pie. Well, now that was glorious and I have loved it ever since.

Today in my recipes I have only included the Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts. I thought I’d get into the turkey and stuffing recipes later in the season.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Print Recipe
Butternut Squash with Cranberries / Pumpkin Chiffon Tarts
Course dessert, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
Pastry
Course dessert, Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
Pastry
Instructions
Butternut Squash with Cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Split squash in half; place hollow side down on a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake for about 45 minutes or until completely soft to the touch.
  2. In a small skillet, saute celery & onion in margarine until tender. Add the apple, salt, lemon juice & pepper. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat until apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cranberries, sugar & water. Cook & stir until berries pop & liquid is syrupy. If you prefer, you could process this mixture for a couple of seconds in a food processor.
  3. Remove seeds & membrane from cooked squash; mash well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, balsamic vinegar & maple syrup. Place some squash in individual custard dishes. Make a hollow in the center for the cranberry 'filling'. Add cranberries & serve.
Pumpkin Chiffon Tart Filling
  1. In a medium saucepan, combine first 7 ingredients; mix well. Add pumpkin, evaporated milk, regular milk & egg yolks; combine well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to a heavy custard. Boil 2 minutes, add 1 Tbsp margarine. Place wax paper over custard to prevent a 'skin' from forming. Let custard become cold (it can be refrigerated overnite at this point, finishing it the following day) then stir in 1/4 cup orange juice.
  2. Whip envelope of dessert topping with 1/2 cup milk & 1/2 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks form. It should yield about 2 cups. Put aside the amount you need to garnish tarts with. Fold remaining whipped dessert topping into custard. Spoon custard into a large pastry bag with a large 'star' tip. Fill baked mini tart shells. Decorate with a small dollop of dessert topping.
Pastry
  1. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a 1 cup measuring cup place egg & vinegar; beat well. Add enough COLD water to fill cup. Pour all at once over flour mixture, mixing until pastry pulls away from sides of bowl. This should only take a couple of minutes, making sure not to over mix pastry. Roll out on floured surface. Using the bottom side of tart pans, cut pastry circles & place over each 'cup'. Bake at 350 F. until golden. Cool on wire rack before filling with pumpkin custard. If your using purchased shells follow baking instructions & cool before filling as well.
Recipe Notes
  • This pastry & pumpkin chiffon custard recipe was one I started using many years ago while working in the food industry. They were some of my favorites because they were pretty much 'fail proof'. If you want to make a double batch of each it will give you 4 - 9-inch pies. You can make them up to the point of decorating. Freeze until needed then just bring them out & thaw, decorate and you got a nice little homemade dessert just like that!