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Traditional Holiday Menu with a Twist

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By definition, traditional means something that is long-established and habitually done. When we think about the “traditional” holiday meal, these are the foods that often come to mind: an oven-roasted turkey, a succulent ham, a rich and decadent whipped or mashed potato, a starchy stuffing, cranberry sauce, greens – whether it be Brussels sprouts or asparagus, and a sweet dessert to complete the meal. Although the holidays are tradition and we gather with friends and family annually to celebrate, it doesn’t mean we can’t bring something new to the table (literally).

To help shed some light on bringing a twist to traditional holiday meals, we caught up with Toben Kochman, executive chef and owner of Toben Food by Design (TFBD), one of Toronto’s top catering companies. Toben shared some key ideas that they use to play up traditional holiday meals. As we head into the holiday season and find ourselves finalizing the food and beverage components of our upcoming programs, we can draw from the concepts below to reinvigorate the traditional holiday menu.

Modern Twist
At TFBD, they take a modern twist on the holidays by incorporating traditional elements of the holiday menu in a way that reflects the trend of clean, healthy eating and reduced portion sizes. Instead of serving up a whole turkey packed with stuffing and all the fixings, Toben incorporates all of the traditional food elements in a deconstructed manner. They serve a smoked and carved turkey breast panzanella salad. Their suggested ingredients include smoked and carved turkey breast with garlic and rosemary sourdough croutons, heirloom tomatoes, pickled butternut squash, crispy Brussel sprouts, fresh mint, and a sage-lemon vinaigrette.

Fresh, Vibrant Colours
Toben stressed the importance of keeping food colours fresh and vibrant. Traditional holiday recipes sometime yield food with drab colouring due to the extreme temperatures that are used to cook the foods or the thick and heavy ingredients typically used. To bring more cheer and spirit to the holiday meal, we should use ingredients that are fresh and appealing not only to our stomachs but to our eyes. For example, we can use caramelized pears, Brussels sprout petals, golden and candy beets, sweet potato mousseline and roasted apple-cranberry chutney.

Presentation is Everything
Another way to elevate the traditional holiday meal is to use new cooking techniques and presentation styles. Going back to the traditional whole turkey, Toben suggests substituting this with a turkey leg confit to give guests something unexpected. Tradition calls for a sweet ending to the holiday feast. Toben suggests a pumpkin cheesecake ice cream pop – a unique presentation style.  Considering guests are usually quite full by the end of such a decadent meal, this dessert incorporates the creamy, harvest pumpkin flavor reminiscent of the holidays in a cute, bite-size way. Guests will be pleasantly satisfied.  Another fun option are mini candy apples – again, bite-size portions presented in a unique way.

Changing things up on your holiday menu with modern twists, fresh and vibrant food choices and new preparation and presentation styles will leave guests taste buds tantalized and minds blown.

Happy Holidays from the Redstone Team!

This article was originally published in the November/December issue of MPI Toronto’s, Meetings Magazine. Read it here

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