Christmas Dinner Recipes
from Amelia Island Chef Wardynski
Looking to prepare a delicious and festive Christmas dinner? Executive Chef Daven Wardynski from the Omni Amelia Island Plantation provides some great tips and Christmas dinner recipes for preparing a unique and tasty holiday dinner including pumpkin and fig gnocchi, lingonberry sauce and roasted vegetables with pickled concord grapes as a twist on a traditional side.
Fresh turkey is always the best when available and this is the time of year. Sourcing a good bird from the local farmers or farmer’s market is the best case scenario. We choose a local organic farmer from Pasture Prime Farms (Summerfield, FL). You should look for a bird that has minimal to zero saline solution injected. If it has been injected, it will say so on the packaging. Everybody has their own way of preparing turkey, but we like to separate the breasts from the leg and thigh and cook them separately. I recommend brining the breasts for 6-8 hours (a whole bird would take 20-24 hours). For the leg and thigh, I take a different preparation and confit the meat which is slowly cooking in fat. We use a duck fat, but an unflavored cooking oil will also work. This gives a great end product that outshines the breast by far.
Cranberry sauce does not need to come from a can. A recipe for a spiced lingonberry sauce is reminiscent of the holiday staple. If cranberry sauce is what you are looking for, just substitute the lingonberries for the cranberries.
2 cups Lingonberry
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Star Anise
1/2 cup Orange Juice
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Oil, Orange Pure
1. Combine all ingredients and cook for 20 minutes on medium heat.
2. Chill for service.
We run a twist on the traditional sweet potatoes or roasted squash at the dinner table. We make a gnocchi by first making a fresh roasted pumpkin puree (sweet potato puree would also work) and then stuffing them with a late season fig puree, my favorite! These little delicate bites are fantastic and remind me of taking bites of fig newton cookies as a kid.
Fig Stuffing for Gnocchi
10 Dried Figs
1/2 tsp Thyme
1 cup Apple Juice
1/2 tsp Salt
1 oz Butter
1. Stem and chop the dried figs.
2. Simmer with the thyme, apple juice and salt until liquid is syrupy.
3. Transfer to blender while still hot and puree with cold butter.
Pumpkin Gnocchi Dough
1.5 cups Pumpkin, roasted and pureed
1 cup Orange Juice
1.5 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
8 oz Mascarpone
2.5 cups All Purpose Flour
1. Mix the pumpkin and orange juice together.
2. Add the salt, pie spice, egg and mascarpone and mix thoroughly.
3. Once incorporated, fold in the flour to make the dough. The dough should be loose, but not sticky.
4. Roll portions of the dough into long flat strips about 4″ wide. The length does not matter.
5. Pipe a thin line of fig stuffing (puree from previous recipe) down the middle.
6. Fold the dough over and roll into long thin “snakes” like you did playing with play-dough as a kid.
7. Cut into 1″ pieces and place on a floured sheet pan.
From here they can be either cooked in boiling water or placed in the freezer for future use. When cooking in boiling water, they are ready when they float to the top. Be careful not to overload the pot of water with too many as the dough will clump together during the cooking process.
There are a lot of great vegetables available this time of year. We’d like to think that this encompasses much of what the season has to offer. It is a simple roast of butternut squash, chestnuts and Brussels sprouts tossed with red wine pickled concord grapes. Simply toss the vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them individually at 350 degrees. Top the vegetables with pickled concord grapes and garnish with chestnuts.
Pickled Concord Grapes
12 oz Concord Grapes, halved and seeded
1 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Red Wine
1/2 cup Sugar
1. Half and de-seed grapes.
2. Dissolve sugar into vinegar and wine by warming on the stove slightly.
3. Cool the liquid.
4. Add grapes and pickling liquid together and allow to macerate for at least 4 hours.
I am a purists on this course and love a traditional pumpkin pie. I especially enjoy using baby bear pumpkins early in the season (before they are all gone and sold!) to roast, puree and jar so we can enjoy the farm’s pumpkin long past the seasons end. Top your pumpkin pie with maple whipped crème fraiche (simply crème fraiche and your favorite pure maple syrup) and honey caramel to spice up the traditional dessert.
From our family at Amelia Island Plantation to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and delicious dining all around!