For Canadians of all backgrounds, the centrepiece of the holiday season is usually a meal shared with family and friends. For many of us, our fondest memories of childhood Christmases and Hanukkahs revolve around a dinner table laden with a sparkling array of exciting dishes, some of which we only got to eat at this special time of year.
This means that if you want to pass the joy of the holidays on to the next generation, you need to put some thought into what you serve. The meal you make is a perfect opportunity to establish a link to the past, or to forge a new set of traditions that your family can carry into the future.
Most of us have favourite holiday recipes that have been passed down to us by previous generations. But if you want to try something new this year, here are five meaty dishes you can include in your celebration.
At truLOCAL, we pride ourselves on being the best meat delivery company online — and we guarantee that when you buy your meats through our fresh meat delivery service, you’ll be getting products you can be proud to serve to your family at the most anticipated meal of the year.
If your family has Quebecois ancestry, there is a good chance you are already familiar with this French Canadian classic. If not, get ready to meet your new favourite pie!
Savoury pies are part of a venerable tradition in European cookery, and when the first French Canadian settlers arrived in New France, they brought these foods with them as a culinary link to the Old World. Tourtière was particularly popular as the main event of réveillon, the traditional feast enjoyed after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
Over time, as colonists adapted their favourite foods to their new home, tourtière evolved into a specifically Quebecois dish. Tourtière is made from a blend of meats (ground beef and ground pork being the most common) served with spices and vegetables in a flaky pastry crust, but there are a lot of regional variations, and the question of what, exactly, makes a tourtière authentic is hotly debated.
For example, in the north of Quebec it is common for families to use game meats such as rabbit or moose rather than ground meats, while other chefs like to substitute cubed steak to give the pie a heartier texture. In the Gaspesie and the Lower North Shore, it is even common to come across tourtière that includes fish and other seafood.
But most food historians agree that the key to the tourtière lies in its unique blend of spices. The essence of a tourtière’s flavour comes down to the fact that it is seasoned with:
You may decide that you want to try multiple different versions of the pie, in which case you can order top sirloin steak online through truLOCAL, and add ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey or even ground buffalo to your meal box as well, to give this perennial Christmas favourite your own unique spin.
If you are looking for great tourtière recipes to help you explore this exciting dish, this one from Grow a Good Life is an excellent place to start.
Beef is one of the great Canadian meats, and if your family lives on the prairies or in one of the other Canadian regions where beef farming is a way of life, roast beef may already be part of your holiday tradition.
For most of us, however, poultry or fowl is the standard holiday choice. If this is true for your family, why not try mixing things up with a seasoned rump roast from a local farm?
At truLOCAL, we source a lot of high quality beef from farmers in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, and we make sure to include a lot of easy options for busy families around the holidays. Our seasoned rump roast can be defrosted and put straight in the oven, making prep easier for you while guaranteeing your guests the very best quality meats.
You may also want to consider supplementing your own holiday favourites with some Ontario filet mignon as a side or appetizer. Filet mignon is one of the tastiest and most desirable cuts of beef, and it makes a great addition to any holiday gathering.
Serving the filet mignon as an appetizer, or as part of another dish, is a great way to experience the best that Canada’s beef farmers have to offer.
Lamb is not the staple meat in Canada that it is in other parts of the Commonwealth, but in recent years that has started to change. More and more Canadians are being introduced to lamb through Mediterranean cuisines from countries like Greece, Israel, Lebanon, and Morocco, and this is spurring a greater interest in traditional English recipes for lamb as well.
Whatever your particular tastes may be, there is no question that the addition of lamb shank to your holiday table will be a favourite for lamb lovers and first time tasters alike.
In terms of seasoning and cooking styles, there are lots of directions to go with lamb. Lamb meat has a strong and very distinct flavour, and coupled with the tender, juicy texture of the meat, it can be made to pair well with lots of different sauces and spices.
The classic English tradition is to cook lamb with a mint sauce, but this is far from the only option. For example, a red wine sauce braise is a great way to enhance the richness of the meat, and for a more eastern flavour you can use rosemary, olive oil, and garlic.
The most important thing to bear in mind when cooking lamb shank, though, is timing. Lamb meat is delicate, and to get the most out of its unique properties you need to take great care not to overcook it. The key to good lamb is to go low and slow, giving yourself plenty of time to bring out the flavours of the meat and the seasoning without causing the meat to tense up and become tough.
For this reason, we’d recommend starting with recipes like this one, for slow-roasted rosemary garlic lamb shanks from The Spruce Eats.
Slow Roasted Beef Brisket
When we think of meats that are perfect for the holiday season, brisket tends not to come high on the list. For Canadians, brisket means two things: barbecue, and Montreal smoked meat, neither of which is strongly identified with Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year’s. But if you are looking for ways to expand your holiday food traditions, there are good reasons to give brisket a shot.
First of all, brisket can feed a lot of people. You can cook a 5lb beef brisket for multiple meals and eat off of it for a week, and if you have lots of company coming over and you want to make sure they’re all well-fed, brisket could be the perfect solution.
Like a roast turkey or a beef roast, brisket takes a bit of time to cook. But it is easier to carve and serve than turkey, and it is often a cheaper option than tip or prime rib roasts due to the tougher nature of the meat. And if you have a smoker or a barbecue, you can free up oven space by cooking it the old fashioned way.
Another reason you might want to consider brisket is because of its versatility. Brisket has a strong flavour and a significant fat cap, but over the years people around the world have found ways to use these qualities to their advantage by pioneering methods for brining and slow cooking brisket.
The famous Montreal smoked meat recipes that emerged from Montreal’s Jewish community in the twentieth century are a masterclass in how even the toughest meat can shine when it is prepared lovingly and cooked slowly and with care.
If you want to make brisket part of your holiday celebration this year, there are plenty of recipes online designed to help you make the perfect oven, barbecue, or smoker brisket. But here are three general rules that you should follow no matter what recipe you use:
- Give yourself time: Unlike other cuts of meat, you can’t just pull a brisket from the freezer and expect to be able to cook it within a few hours. Defrost your brisket a couple of days before you plan on cooking it so you’ll have time to give it a proper marinade.
- Don’t rush the cooking: If you cook brisket too fast, you’ll ruin the meat. It is common for briskets to stall while cooking, and it can be tempting to turn the temperature up to speed the process along. Resist this temptation. If you’re really in a hurry, wrap the brisket in butcher paper to provide better insulation.
- Let the brisket sit for at least thirty minutes: One of the most common mistakes people make when serving brisket is to cut into it right away. This will cause the juices to spray out, rendering the meat tougher and dryer. Give the juices time to settle and redistribute before carving the meat.
Maple Glazed Salmon
For most North Americans, holiday food means poultry, pork, or beef. But for a growing number of people, especially on the West Coast, salmon is rapidly becoming a new Christmas favourite. It isn’t hard to see why: not only is salmon plentiful and delicious, it is also a healthy, nutritious meat that presents a welcome change from the heavy foods typically associated with Christmas celebrations in the West.
Salmon is a popular food year-round throughout North America, though, and if you want to give salmon a starring role in your holiday meal, you should try to put a new spin on it.
This recipe for maple glazed salmon is an excellent way to make salmon part of your holiday celebration, as it mixes the rich natural flavour salmon has with the sweetness of maple syrup. It’s also just about as Canadian a combination of flavours as you can get!
There are a few things you should bear in mind when preparing this recipe, however, and the first one is that getting the reduction of soy sauce, garlic, and maple syrup right is key. After you’ve marinated your salmon filets for thirty minutes, you will need to pour the marinade into a saucepan and reduce it on the stove to get that nice burnt sugar flavour. This can be a bit difficult, and if you aren’t constantly stirring the pot, it can easily burn to the bottom of the saucepan — which will ruin the flavour of the glaze, and leave a major clean-up job.
When it comes to sourcing your maple syrup, make sure as well that you are using pure Canadian maple syrup rather than an imitation brand. Here are a few of the major high-grade maple syrup brands that should be available in most shops in Canada and the United States.
The holidays have always been a time when family traditions are built and reinforced. But the truth about traditions is that they all have some origin point in the past, no matter how near or how distant. Taking the time to create new traditions is one of the best ways to keep the holidays exciting and vital for your family and experimenting with new dishes is a great way to do that.
At truLOCAL, we are passionately committed to providing you with the best local meat and seafood options throughout the year, but especially during the busy month of December, when so many people are trying to plan, organize, and shop for the perfect meal.
This year, check out truLOCAL’s fresh meat delivery service, and find out how you can use the best Canadian meats to forge new holiday traditions this year.