Turkey. It’s a classic, it packs a soothing dose of tryptophan and a single bird can feed a small army. But doesn’t the holiday season deserve something a bit less typical? Something with a bit more game?
Here are five delicious, non-turkey options to make your festive meal more memorable.
Nutritious and very low in fat, rabbit is tender, subtly flavoured and responds best to being marinated and cooked slowly. Break down your bunny into legs and saddle and stick it in a pot with root vegetables and a rich, savory broth. Leave it alone for a few hours. Put the pot on the table next to a loaf of crusty, rustic bread, and hand out forks and spoons.
It may be no easier to prepare than turkey, but roasted goose gives a festive gathering a cosy, Dickensian feel and a richness of flavour that should be experienced at least once. Score the goose’s skin, stuff the bird with chestnuts, apples and seasoning, roast it until it’s golden and serve it with fig salad, potatoes, parsnips and plenty of gravy. Unlike turkey, goose is a “red meat” bird, which means pink breast meat is not only acceptable, but preferable.
Find rabbit and goose at Bon Ton Meat Market (28 Crowfoot Circle N.W., 403-282-3132, bontonmeatmarket.com)
Deeply, darkly delicious and reassuringly local, it’s surprising bison doesn’t appear on more festive menus in Alberta. Because it’s less fatty than beef, a bison prime rib roast likes to cook long and low, and is done when its internal temperature reaches about 135F. It goes very well with a red wine jus and sturdy sides like polenta, pearl onions and a warm cabbage salad.
Find Sunworks Farm organically raised bison at Blush Lane Organic Market (300, 10 Aspenstone Blvd. S.W., blushlane.com), Calgary Farmers’ Market (510 77 Ave. S.E., calgaryfarmersmarket.com) or Casel Marche (Market 17, 17 Ave. and 24 St. S.W., market17.ca)
Elk can be cooked as a roast, but for a more casual gathering or a buffet, it also makes a deeply savoury pot pie – especially if you remember to add a few slices of bacon to the mix. Make scratch pastry if you’re so inclined, or roll a sheet of store-bought puff pastry over the pie dish and watch it rise in the oven. Serve with malbec and follow with dark chocolate.
Find elk roasts and steaks at Wapiti Ways (Calgary Farmers’ Market, 510 77 Ave. S.E., calgaryfarmersmarket.ca)
Duck has a rich, brown flavour that makes even the finest turkeys envious. While a single duck will only feed a couple of people (four at the most), small gatherings are sometimes the best. Rub your bird with salt and seasonal spices like nutmeg, orange zest, rosemary and bay leaves and stick it in the oven for a couple of hours on a bed of carrots and onions. Cook potatoes. Make gravy. Serve it all in a heap.
Find whole duck at Second To None Meats (3, 2100 4 St. S.W., 403-245-6662 or 114, 10816 Macleod Tr. S.E., 403-225-2788, secondtononemeats.com)