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~ The First Course ~

Oysters were a typical first course of festive Victorian meals, as they were both plentiful and cheap. They were usually served raw, but sometimes baked with various flavorings. The flavors in the following recipe compliment the courses to come.

~ Oysters Katharine ~

48 to 60 oysters, depending upon number of guests
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped (sweet onion if possible)
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley
1 4 ounce jar pimentos, minced
Freshly Ground Pepper
Parmesan cheese

Plan six oysters for each serving. Prepare baking sheets by lining them with either sand, salt, or crumpled foil.

Prepare topping:
Heat butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add finely chopped onion and cook until soft, about five minutes. Add garlic and mushroom and cook an additional four minutes, stirring. Add parsley and pimento, cook over medium heat two minutes until entire mixture is soft.

Open shells, (or have it done at store), and discard top. Rinse bottom half completely of sand or remaining particles. Place in prepared baking sheets so that they lie flat. Place 1 tablespoon of topping over each oyster. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with parmesan cheese.

Broil in oven for five minutes, or until cheese has lightly browned.

~ The Second Course ~

Cream soups and plain bouillons were popular in Victorian menus. While the First Course was viewed as an appetizer, the Second Course was meant to prepare the palate for the coming entrees. Servings of both the soup and fish would be small and tasty, but light. Fish was often found two and three times on the same dinner menu along with a main meat course, almost always in a delicious sauce. The version offered here, after the soup, is delicately flavored with gruyere.

~ Cream of Celery Soup ~

2-1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
2 quarts chicken broth or bouillon
1-1/2 cups half and half (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon thyme (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in large pan over medium heat, add celery and onion and cook until tender. Mix in flour, stir well. Add 1 quart broth, cook and stir until soup thickens and has boiled for one minute. By the cupful, whirl soup in blender until smooth and creamy. Return to pan. Over low heat, add remaining broth, half and half, and seasonings except Paprika, heating slowly and stirring well. Place soup in small bowls or bouillon cups. Sprinkle lightly with paprika.

~ Fillet of Sole with Gruyere ~

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

4 lbs. fillet of sole (other tender-fleshed white fish fillets will do), cut into serving pieces
4 tablespoons butter
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 shallots, finely minced
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1-1/2 cups Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups half and half

Butter a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish. Layer fillet on bottom. In saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter, add mushrooms and shallots, cooking until soft. Reduce heat and stir in sherry, heating through. Spread mixture evenly over fish. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere over this. In saucepan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add flour, stirring over low heat to make paste. Removing from heat, stir in half and half until smooth. Return to heat and stir until thickened. Add remaining Gruyere and stir until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour over fish. Bake in oven 30-40 minutes or until fish, when tested, is firm.

~ The Main Course ~

The presentation of the main course is a grand tradition in itself, with the "parading of the goose," or turkey, in this case, before it is served.

~ Roast Turkey ~

14 to 16 lb. Turkey
Salt and Pepper
Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing (recipe below)
1/2 cup Butter, softened

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Remove neck and giblets from turkey, wash well. Pat dry, salt and pepper both inside and out. Stuff and truss as usual. Place turkey in large roasting pan and brush all over with soft butter. Insert meat thermometer in thickest part of breast, just above rib bones, and place turkey in oven. Cook 16 to 18 minutes per pound, or until meat thermometer reaches 175 degrees.

To prepare gravy, if desired, pour turkey drippings from pan into bowl and let cool. Skim fat and discard. Heat one cup of remaining drippings in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 cup flour and stir until lightly browned. Add to this one quart of chicken or turkey stock (or broth) and simmer until thickened. The turkey giblets, cooked and chopped very fine, may be added when gravy is finished.

~ Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing

2-1/2 cups cooked chestnuts, coarsely chopped*
1 loaf (1 lb.) firm or stale bread, cubed
1/2 lb. pork sausage
6 tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups celery, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup chicken or turkey broth

Combine chestnuts and bread cubes in large bowl. In pan, cook sausage over medium heat until fully browned. Drain and discard fat. Add sausage to dressing mixture. In same pan, melt the butter, add onion and celery and sautť until soft. Add all to dressing mixture, stirring well. Add remaining ingredients and mix until blended. After filling turkey, place leftover stuffing in greased casserole dish, cover and cook in oven along with turkey for the last 40 minutes of roasting time.

*To cook chestnuts in shells, slit an X in the skin of each (approximately 2 lbs). Drop into boiling water and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain, cool, and remove skins with a knife. Return nuts to pan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain, chop and use in recipe as above.

Citrus fruits were expensive, especially for city dwellers, in Victorian times, and they were also more bitter than those that we enjoy today. Their flavorings, however, were an important part of many Christmas dishes, especially the Plum Pudding. While they were in season, lemons and oranges, along with many other fruits, were preserved for the winter months, and their peels either dried or candied.

~ Citrus Cranberry Sauce ~

12 ounces cranberries
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 large, or 2 medium/small, oranges
1-1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

In a saucepan combine cranberries, lemon, orange, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 7 minutes. Stir often, but beware of popping cranberries. Remove from heat and add walnuts. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made ahead of time, keeps well 3-4 days.

Early in the Victorian era, roast goose was the preferred main course for Christmas Dinner in Southern England, while roast beef was traditionally served in the north.

~ Prime Rib Roast with Yorkshire Pudding ~

8 - 10 lb. Prime rib roast
Dry mustard
1/2 cup hot beef drippings
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub dry mustard over fatty portion of roast, and place, fat side up, in roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer into meaty portion, and roast 17 minutes per pound for Rare (130 degrees), 19 minutes per pound for Medium Rare (140 degrees), 20 minutes per pound for Medium (150-160 degrees), and for Well Done, roast 25 minutes per pound (165 degrees). Remove roast from pan and place on cutting board, tented with foil, to rest while making Yorkshire pudding. Save beef drippings.

Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Pour 1/2 cup beef drippings into 13 x 9 inch baking pan and place in oven to keep warm while preparing batter.

Mix together flour and salt. Beat eggs and add to flour mixture, stirring until well mixed. Add milk and stir until batter is smooth. Pour into pan with hot drippings and bake 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden and slightly puffy. Cut into squares and serve with beef.

~ Creamed Horseradish Sauce ~

1 pint sour cream
1/2 cup prepared horseradish

Mix sour cream with horseradish and add salt to taste. A dash of lemon juice or vinegar may be added if desired. Refrigerate one hour before serving.

~ Potatoes Marie ~

4 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
1-2/3 cups chicken broth (low-sodium may be used)
1-2/3 cups light cream or milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Place layers of potatoes in dish, sprinkling crumbled blue cheese, salt and pepper between each layer. In medium saucepan, bring both broth and cream to boil, then pour immediately over potatoes. Cover with foil and bake 50 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 40 minutes or until potatoes are tender and top is browned. Allow potatoes to stand a few minutes before serving for sauce to thicken.

~ Carrots in Dilled Cream Sauce ~

6-8 cups thinly sliced carrots
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon. butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup light cream
2 teaspoons dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh

In a large saucepan, combine carrots, water and sugar, cooking on medium-low heat until carrots are tender. Drain liquid into a separate saucepan; add butter, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Combine flour and cream until smooth, slowly add to liquid, stirring constantly. Cook until thickened and add dill. Pour over the carrots; stir well.

Itís interesting to note how popular Brussel sprouts were in the 1800ís. One cookbook published at the turn of the century states: "Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are much esteemed, and are given rank among the best vegetables," while their cousins, cabbage and kohlrabi "have little flavor and are considered coarse and vulgar foods."

~ Brussel Sprouts in Mustard Sauce ~

Remove any wilted leaves from the outside of the sprouts, and let them stand in cold salted water from fifteen to twenty minutes. Rinse well, place in saucepan, and cover with fresh water. Bring to boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly. Pour Mustard Sauce over and gently toss to coat.

Mustard Sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup hot vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice or weak vinegar

Brown the butter well, add flour and brown it. Add the broth, stir and cook until smooth. Mix seasonings with lemon juice or vinegar and add to broth mixture. Stir over medium-high heat until smooth and thickened.

~ The Dessert Course ~

The dessert course was a feast in itself, usually composed of more than one pudding, a variety of cakes, and, in the United States, several different kinds of pies. Iíve offered two of the most popular Victorian desserts, Nesselrode, or chestnut, pudding, and the most important element of the entire Christmas meal, Plum Pudding.

Regarding the cheeses, Stilton would most certainly be among the offerings in a traditional Victorian meal, and also a good, sharp English cheddar. Salted, sugared or spiced nuts can be easily made by melting a half cup butter and mixing it with 2 cups of any kind of nut. Spread nuts in baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar, salt, or spicy seasoning of choice. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring every minute or two to make certain they donít burn.

~ Nesselrode Pudding ~

1 cup French chestnuts
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup cream
1/2 lb mixed candied fruits
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup pineapple, diced
1-1/2 tablespoons maraschino or sherry
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove the shells from chestnuts. Place in boiling water for three minutes, then into cold water, and take off skins. Boil chestnut meats in fresh water until tender. Take one half of them, while still hot, and press through a sieve.

Blanch almonds in boiling water, let cool, then chop very finely.

Cut candied fruits and remaining chestnuts into small pieces; pour maraschino or sherry over them and let stand until ready to use.

Pour sugar into a saucepan and place over a low fire, add 1/4 cup of boiling water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let mixture cook slowly for five minutes, or until it has become a syrup. Remove from fire.

Beat egg yolks until light and pour very slowly into the sugar syrup, stirring constantly. Replace on fire and continue to stir until the mixture is thickened enough to coat the spoon and has the consistency of heavy cream. Pour mixture into bowl and beat with mixer until it has cooled.

Add to cooled mixture the cream, mashed chestnuts, almonds, and vanilla. Mix well and place bowl in freezer. When it has become thoroughly chilled and slightly hardened, add fruits, stirring well. Pour into fancy mold and freeze at least one hour, or until well set.

Serve with whipped cream. This pudding is very rich, and small servings are advised.

What could be more festive at Christmastime than a fragrant Plum Pudding?

Several traditions are important to observe in the making of the pudding. Each family member comes to the kitchen to stand around the pot while the mixture is being stirred, and each takes the spoon, stirring once from East to West (in honor of the journey made by the Three Wise Men) and makes a wish. Afterward, the cook stirs in small silver trinkets and coins to be found and kept as prizes by those who eat the cooked pudding. Finally, the pudding must be decorated with a sprig (or several) of holly, doused with rum or brandy, and delivered to the table aflame.

~ Christmas Plum Pudding ~

3/4 lb of suet chopped very fine and mixed with a tablespoon of flour
(Suet can be obtained from a butcher or supermarket by special request)
3/4 lb seeded raisins
3/4 lb currants
3/4 lb sugar
3/4 lb fresh bread crumbs
Grated zest of one lemon
1/4 lb candied orange-peel and citron cut into thin shavings
1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice
Six eggs
1/2 cup brandy, plus 1 wineglassful brandy or rum

Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly, then add eggs, one at a time, and then the 1/2 cup of brandy. If batter is too stiff, add another egg; if it is too soft, add more bread crumbs. Wet a strong cloth in cold water, wring it dry, butter it and dredge well with flour. Pour the pudding mixture into the center and draw the cloth together over the top, leaving room for the pudding to swell a little, and tie cloth firmly, giving it a good, round shape.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and place wrapped pudding in it, making certain that it is completely covered. Cover pot and let boil 5 hours, adding hot water as necessary to keep pudding covered. (Pudding may also be placed in a butter pudding basin and set inside a large pan to steam, with water coming up to cover about 3/4 the sides of the basin. Steam 5 to 7 hours.)

After removing pudding from pan, let sit in bag ten minutes to harden. Carefully cut string, unwrap pudding, and turn onto a hot plate. Immediately before serving, pour rum or brandy over all, insert holly sprig, and light pudding with candle. Serve with hard sauce.

Hard Sauce

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectionerís sugar
2-3 tablespoons vanilla, wine, or brandy

Beat all until smooth (add additional vanilla, wine, or brandy if needed) and of a light, fluffy consistency.

~ Wassail ~

Heat 1 gallon apple cider over low heat. Add 5 sticks cinnamon, the juice and peel of 1 lemon and 2 oranges, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, 1 tablespoon whole allspice, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours, then strain well. Add 1 gallon white wine and a cup of rum. Heat through and serve.






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