Bring Tuscany To Your Christmas Table

Giving your Christmas feast a Tuscan touch will turn the ordinary holiday dinner into a mouth-wateringly memorable meal. This Christmas menu features Tuscan recipes like a turkey roasted with a bold herb paste, a classic ribollita soup and a sour cherry torta for dessert.

Classic Ribollita

Tuscan herb paste

Makes 2-1/4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 cups Carapelli Premium 100% Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 packed cup fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food processor, purée ingredients to use for turkey.
  2. Cook's note: Stir herb paste into mashed potatoes or drizzle over roasted veggies or green salads.

Tuscan roast turkey with giblet gravy

Serves 16

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 pound) turkey
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 cup Tuscan Herb Paste (see below for recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • 3 fennel stalks with fronds, roughly chopped
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2-1/4 quarts chicken stock
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Remove giblets from turkey's cavity, rinse cavity and pat dry; set aside. Season turkey inside and out with salt.
  3. Mix Tuscan Herb Paste with crushed fennel seeds and celery salt. Starting at the neck of the bird, slip your hand between the meat and the skin to loosen.
  4. Rub half the paste mix under skin, and rub remaining paste inside the cavity and over the rest of the turkey. Season all over with kosher salt.
  5. Place two-thirds of the chopped onion and fennel stalks inside cavity. Truss the bird. Place turkey in a roasting pan. Roast for 30 minutes.
  6. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F and continue roasting until the internal temperature of the turkey is 160 degrees F when checked with a meat thermometer, approximately 2-1/2 to three hours.
  7. If turkey begins to overbrown, cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
  8. As turkey roasts, simmer giblets with the remaining one-third of the fennel stalk, onion mix and diced celery in one quart chicken stock until tender, approximately 1-1/2 hours.
  9. When turkey is done, remove from roasting pan and set aside to rest. Degrease roasting pan, reserving three ounces of the fat to make a gravy.
  10. Deglaze pan with a small amount of chicken stock. Transfer stock to a saucepot, and add remaining stock and broth from giblets. Bring to a simmer and degrease.
  11. For the gravy, make a blond roux with reserved fat and flour. Add roux to the liquid, whisking well to prevent lumps. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain gravy through a fine-meshed strainer and adjust seasoning.
  12. Let turkey sit for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. Serve turkey with hot gravy.

Cook's note: This turkey gravy is a must to pour over mashed potatoes.

Classic ribollita

One of my favorite recipes from Ron Suhanosky's The Italian Table: Eating Together for Every Occasion (Kyle Books, November 2011), this Tuscan soup is a lovely complement to roasted turkey.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium loaf day-old Italian bread, broken into 3-inch chunks
  • 1 cup diced Spanish onions
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced leeks, white and light green parts only
  • 2 cups chopped savoy cabbage
  • 2 cups Tuscan or black kale
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lay bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden in color, about 10 minutes.
  3. Place onions, carrots, celery, leeks, cabbage, kale and stock in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Lower heat to maintain a simmer and add bread, making sure it is completely submerged. Stir often so soup doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for one hour.
  5. Pass soup through a food mill into a serving container. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle soup into bowl, garnish with a drizzle of oil and serve warm.

Brown sugar, almond and sour cherry Torta di Uova

Who better than Mario Batali to share an Italian dessert? This sour cherry torta is featured in this celeb chef's latest cookbook Molto Batali: Simple Family Meals from My Home to Yours (Ecco, October 2011).

Serves 10

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen sour cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds
  • 5 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and butter and lightly flour a deep 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  2. Scatter the cherries and almonds in the baking dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, brown sugar, salt, and flour together until smooth. Add the milk, almond extract and vanilla extract, and whisk until smooth.
  4. Pour the batter over the cherries and almonds in the baking dish.
  5. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you pull the torta out of the oven, it will wiggle a bit, which is normal. Do not over bake it.
  6. Place the dish on a wire rack to cool for five minutes. The torta will have inflated quite a bit and will deflate while cooling. Serve warm, dusted with confectioners' sugar.

More Christmas recipes

Holiday side dishes
Cherry-almond biscotti
New ideas for Christmas appetizers

Photo credit: dennis.tang via Flickr

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