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4th December 2012
Christmas Sausage Tryouts
Christmas Sausages

Time to try out my Christmas Sausage versions on a couple of unsuspecting guests.
Thanks Andy: long-suffering occasional flatmate, and Flora: longer-suffering butt of my blog!
It's a Sourville family tradition that I make the starter and the stuffing, Mum makes the main course and Kurt complains about the amount of washing up.
This year we've decided my starter will be homemade sausages with red onion marmalade (and not sure what else but I thought I'd try out some pommes dauphines), so today I'm auditioning a couple of different Christmassy flavours.
I'm going with ducky sausages seeing as it's quite seasonal and it isn't goose:
Sage and Onion: Solid, traditional flavour. Bit obvious though, plus I'm not a great fan of sage.
Cranberry and Zirbenz: Interesting. The cranberry adds a pleasant sweetness and a festive appearance, but the Zirbenz disappears without trace. Still, it's the principle of the thing!

Since I don't get home till 6 and Flora needs feeding at 7:30 I have a pretty tight dinner plan.
Fortunately I had some soup I made earlier from ham stock, leftover dried beans (cannellini and chick peas), leftover celery and a collection of leftover herbs. I call it leftover soup. Serve with extra freshly chopped herbs, lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. I'd planned to skip the soup course myself and prepare the main course while the guests were occupied, but due to their constant complaining about not having any bread (I forgot to put in one of those part-cooked baguettes), wanting more soup, then wanting some cheese 'cos there wasn't any more soup and they were still hungry and couldn't wait TEN MINUTES for the next course, it took a bit longer than expected.
Sigh.

Butter Braised Green Cabbage
side veg
Savoy cabbage braised with butter, sage and juniper
I wanted to make a cabbage dish as rich and delicious as buttered leeks.
I think I succeeded.
I suppose you could stir some cream through at the end if you wanted to, but it really isn't necessary. You could also throw in onions or garlic, but why mess with perfection?

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Set the oven on low.
Cut away the stalk from the centre of thicker cabbage leaves, wash them thoroughly, then slice them crosswise into about 2cm strips.
Slice sage leaves finely crosswise until you have a generous tablespoon (or two if you like sage).
Lightly crush 10 juniper berries with the flat of a knife.
Heat a cast iron casserole and melt a generous hunk of butter until it foams, and covers the bottom of the pot to at least ½ an inch.
Throw in the juniper berries, swirl, then the sage leaves immediately followed by a handful of the cabbage. Stir the cabbage with a wooden spoon and add more handfuls when the pot is hot enough until it is all added and the cabbage is well coated.
Add a large glass or two of white wine and reduce it to a coating, stirring all the while.
Add the stock if you have any and reduce to a thick coating, stirring all the while.
Stir through a teaspoon of salt, put the lid on and leave in a low oven (or the bottom of a hotter one) for about an hour, until the cabbage is well cooked and meltingly tender.
OMG gorgeous!
I'm sure you could use any sturdy herb or spice. Caraway might be nice. Even lemon peel/juice.
Lots of butter is the key!

Port, Redcurrant Jelly and Orange Sauce
sauce veg vegan
I needed a sauce that wasn't too stock dependent since I only had some light vegetable bouillon. You really could make this without any stock at all.

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Gently reduce the port in a small pot with a stick of cinnamon.
When the port is reduced by about half add the stock if using and reduce again by half.
Pare the orange peel off in thin strips, use a lemon zester if you have one and add to the pot.
Juice the orange, and add the juice, then the redcurrant jelly and simmer until the jelly is melted.
Remove the cinnamon stick when you feel the sauce is cinnamony enough.
Season to taste.
Rather nice and Christmassy, but it's definitely a thin sauce not a gravy.
You might want to leave it gently simmering to reduce it further, or whisk in butter or beurre manié to thicken it before serving.
Goes well with gamey meat.

Pommes Dauphine
side veg
Choux pastry and mashed potato, deep-fried
Named after the wife of the Dauphin - heir to the French throne.
Although the recipe is American - and so their cups are ⅘ the size of ours - I didn't bother adjusting. It doesn't seem to be a problem.

Serves 4

Ingredients
Method
Combine the potatoes and coarse sea salt in a large saucepan, and add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender all the way through when tested with a knife. Drain and let stand until just cool enough to handle. Peel the potatoes and pass them through a food mill; this will yield about 2 cups of potatoes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a medium baking dish with parchment paper. Spread the potatoes in the dish and bake for 10 minutes, stirring halfway through, to evaporate some of their moisture.
Or just prick the potatoes all over and bake them at Gas 6 for 1¼ hours as I did. That way they come out quite dry already, and tasty too!
Run them through a potato ricer, then let them steam off for a while before mixing with the egg.
Prepare the pâte-à-choux: combine the butter, ½ teaspoon fine sea salt and ½ cup water in a medium saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Return to low heat and stir for 1 minute, until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir for 3 more minutes to evaporate some of the moisture.

Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and let cool for 2 minutes. Meanwhile add the first egg to the potato mixture and stir with a spatula until well blended. Set aside.
In a small bowl, beat the other egg lightly with a fork. Stir the beaten egg, tablespoon by tablespoon, into the pâte-à-choux adding just enough to make it smooth, shiny and elastic; the entire egg may not be needed.
You really need to work the pastry to get it as elastic as possible, in which case you will probably use up the whole egg. An electric whisk is best, but you can do it by hand with a spatula or wooden spoon. Good wrist exercise!
Add the potatoes to the pâte-à-choux, season with pepper and beat with a spatula to combine. (To store for up to 8 hours, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface, cover and refrigerate.)

Heat 4 inches of oil in a deep fryer or large saucepan until a candy thermometer registers 320 to 340°F. Line a medium baking dish with a double layer of paper towels. The first pomme dauphine will be a test of the seasoning and the oil temperature. Using 2 tablespoons of the potato mixture, shape a 1-inch ball or a quenelle - if you want to be classy! and drop it into the oil. It should fall to the bottom and bob up after a few seconds. (If it doesn't, the oil isn't hot enough.)

Fry until puffy, golden and crisp, about 3 minutes, flipping it from time to time with a mesh skimmer. Remove from the oil with the skimmer, transfer to the prepared dish and season with a pinch of salt. Shake the dish lightly so the paper towels absorb excess oil. Let cool for a minute, taste and adjust the seasoning of the potato mixture accordingly.

Repeat with the remaining potato mixture, frying the pommes in batches of 3 or 4 or 6 or 8 if you don't want to be at it all day and stirring them gently with a skimmer so they will not stick to each other. Keep warm in a 300-degree oven until all the batter is used. Serve immediately.
Excellent - you don't want them to be too large, or to cook too quickly in too hot oil though, or the centres will be a thick and heavy rather than light and puffy.

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