Alternative Holiday Meals: Venture from the Expected - Some years many of us feel a nagging sense of adventure around the holidays and a desire to veer a bit from normal seasonal fare. In The Entrees, there are several recipes that represent great alternatives to traditional turkey, ham, or goose. Look over the recipes and see what you think. I have listed below a few of my favorite alternatives for the holidays from The Entrees!

Happy Holidays!

Gail Monaghan

Learn more about Gail's cookbook, recipes & cooking classes by clicking here.

Return to the Robinson's Guide to Thanksgiving by clicking here.

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Cornish Hens With Wild Rice Stuffing & Mushrooms

Cornish Hens

6 Robinson's Prime Reserve Cornish Hens

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons chicken fat or olive oil

½ cup chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Cornish Hens

1. Preheat the oven to 450

2. Mix the butter and fat or oil together. Loosen the skin around the breast and thighs of the birds with your hands, being careful not to tear it. Force half the butter mixture under the skin and rub it all over the outside of the birds. Then season inside and out with salt and pepper. Place cornish hens, breast sides down on a rack in a roasting pan.

3. Roast for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn the bird breast side up and lower the heat to 350. Pour the ½ cup chicken stock into the roasting pan.

4. Cooking another 30-50 minutes, basting frequently. Cover the breast loosely in foil if it is browning too quickly.

5. The hens are done when the point of a knife inserted into the thigh are clear rather than pink.

6. Transfer the cooked birds to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving. While the birds are resting, degrease the pan juices and deglaze the roasting pan with a few tablespoons of chicken stock and add to the sauce.

Serves 6


Wild Rice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

Several sprigs fresh thyme

2 ounces dried wild mushrooms such as morels,porcini, chanterelles or a mixture, soaked in 2 cups warm water for 30 minutes, drained and chopped. Liquid reserved

2 cups rinsed and drained wild rice

4-5 cups chicken stock

Salt, freshly ground black pepper, and Tabasco Sauce to taste

1 pound sliced white button mushrooms

2 cups frozen green peas, thawed

Wild Rice

1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic, and thyme over medium heat until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and cook five minutes more. Stir in the rice and cook 1 more minute.

2. In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Pour 4 cups of it over the rice and bring back to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the rice is done. Add more broth while cooking as necessary.

3. In a large skillet sauté the shitakes in the remaining tablespoon of butter until done. Season and stir in the thawed peas. Cook a couple of minutes to heat through and set aside. When ready to serve, reheat the vegetables, reheat the rice and mix together.



1 large shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

Reserved mushroom soaking liquid plus enough chicken stock to make 2 cups

3 tablespoons heavy cream

1/4-1/2 cup port, Madeira, and/or cognac

1/2 cup grated parmesan

1-2 tablespoons optional butter or truffle butter or truffle oil

Minced chives, chervil and or parsley to garnish


1. In a medium saucepan, reduce the stock with the shallot and garlic by half. Add the liquor and reduce some more. Add the cream and reduce until 1 1/4 cups remain.

2. Strain and return to a clean pan. Stir in the parmesan and optional butter.

3. Pour 1 cup over the rice and stir. Keep warm.

To Serve: Spoon 1/6 of the wild rice in the center of each of 6 heated plates. Set 1 cornish hen, breast side up, on the rice and pour a little of the remaining sauce around. Garnish with minced herbs and serve at once.


Beef Wellington

Beef Wellington is a bit more complicated than a Crown Roast of Pork, but most of the components can be prepared a day or two in advance. A real showstopper, Beef Wellington is ideal for a small group or made as multiples (maybe one as a centerpiece for each table) for larger gatherings. The golden puff pastry, appreciated anytime the weather is cool, turns any dinner into a memorable occasion. You can find the recipe for this dish in The Entrees. I find that making this dish with Robinson’s Prime Reserve’s famous beef tenderloin makes this meal even more spectacular!

Though one of the most famous party dishes of the 60’s and 70’s, Beef Wellington is now relatively forgotten. But it deserves reviving. Few taste treats beat tender fillet of beef, first browned, then wrapped in puff pastry and roasted until golden. And when sliced, one discovers surprise layers of mushroom duxelles and ham or foie gras tucked between meat and crust. For a more provincial result, try layering sautés of peppers, onions, and/or fresh fennel below and above the beef.

1 fillet of beef (approximately 21⁄2 to 3 pounds)

2 tablespoons brandy, cognac, or Armagnac

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme

4 cups finely minced white button mushrooms (porcinis, chanterelles, morels, or a mixture can be substituted)

1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped

3⁄4 cup pâté de foie gras or 1⁄2 pound prosciutto or Serrano ham, very thinly sliced

1 cup diced fresh fennel bulb, sautéed with 2 tablespoons butter, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar for 20 to 30 minutes, until soft and beginning to caramelize (optional)

1 cup diced red bell pepper, sautéed with 1 tablespoon butter, salt, and pepper for 15 to 20 minutes, until beginning to caramelize (optional)

1 pound frozen puff pastry, thawed but still cool

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Trim the fillet of beef neatly, removing the ends, and brush it with the liquor. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours if refrigerated.

2. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the vegetable oil in a skillet large enough to hold the meat over high heat. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and the dried thyme, and brown it well on all sides. Lower the heat if the oil is in danger of burning. When the meat is nicely browned all over, transfer it to a platter to cool. Once cooled, refrigerate it until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. When cold, remove the butcher’s string from the meat.

3. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and onions and sauté until the onions are soft and golden. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Cut the foie gras into slices about 3⁄16 inch thick. Use the slices to make a layer to cover the chilled meat, or wrap the chilled meat in prosciutto. Spread the mushroom and onion mixture over the foie gras or ham. If desired, make a layer of sautéed fennel and/or peppers on top of the mushrooms. Set the meat aside while you roll out the puff pastry.

5. Dust the cool pastry on both sides with flour, and place it between 2 large sheets of kitchen parchment paper to keep it from sticking to the rolling pin. Roll into a rectangle approximately 13 by 17 inches. If at this point the dough is too sticky to continue, place it in the freezer or refrigerator for a few minutes until it firms up. When it is no longer sticky, place the rolled dough on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Center the fillet on the rectangle of dough and wrap the dough up around the meat and pinch together the long seam running from end to end. Now fold the ends up over the meat and press down to seal, or if there is not enough dough for that, just pinch the ends together well. Turn the dough package over so the seam is underneath and use a knife to cut some small slits in the top side of the pastry to let the steam escape. The meat can sit in the refrigerator for several hours at this point.

6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Using a pastry brush, paint the top of the dough with the egg-yolk mixture, and continue baking until the crust is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the meat registers 122 degrees for rare, 130 degrees for medium rare. This will take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes.

7. Remove the meat from the oven, let it rest for at least 10 minutes, then slice and serve. The meat can rest for up to 45 minutes and be served tepid or rest a little longer and be served at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8 generously

Steak Diane

Steak Diane is a lost favorite from the 50s and 60s that is still great in the cool months. A famous and flaming chafing dish special prepared tableside, the drama will still wow your guests now, more than half a century later. However, if incendiary shenanigans are not your thing, the recipe is no less tasty when put together behind closed doors. Quickly seared steak sauced with a zesty combination of garlic, onion, meat stock, Worcestershire Sauce, mushrooms, fresh herbs and a little cream can’t be beat. Needless to say when using Robinson’s Prime Reserve steaks for this recipe, featured in The Entrees, this recipe is not only a spectacle in the making but also one for the taste buds!

Four 6-ounce filet mignons, pounded between two pieces of waxed paper to a 1⁄2-inch thickness

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1⁄2 cup minced shallots

4 teaspoons minced garlic

2 cups very thinly sliced white mushroom caps (optional)

1⁄3 cup cognac or brandy

4 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

4 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 drops of Tabasco sauce or other hot red pepper sauce, or to taste

1⁄2 cup heavy cream (optional)

3 cups beef or veal stock, reduced to 1⁄2 cup (optional)

1⁄4 cup finely minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Season the pounded meat on both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Place a skillet large enough to hold all the steaks in one layer without touching over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter. When it has melted and the foam begins to subside, add the meat and cook for 2 minutes on each side, or until the meat is the desired doneness. Transfer the steaks to a plate and cover to keep warm.

3. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and just beginning to color. Add the mushrooms, if using, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes more. Remove from the heat.

4. Warm the brandy in a small pan. Add it to the sauce and ignite with a long kitchen match. Return the pan to the heat, and stir. When the flame has burned out, add the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and Tabasco sauce.

5. At this point, either add the meat back to the pan and stir over medium-low heat just to warm through, or add the cream, mix thoroughly, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the veal stock and simmer for 1 minute. Return the meat and any accumulated juices to the pan and turn the meat to coat with the sauce.

6. Adjust the seasoning and serve with the sauce poured over and sprinkled with the fresh herbs.

Serves 4

Duck a l’Orange

Though nineteenth-century French recipes often specify wild birds, Duck à l’Orange probably originated in Rouen, the center of French duck domestication. The practice of pairing citrus fruits with fatty meat is thousands of years old and ubiquitous, most likely originating in the Middle East. The sweetness of the fruit balances the fatty duck tastewise, and its acidity aids digestion. Jane Grigson (see page 90)—who certainly should know, as her Fruit Book is considered by many to be the definitive book on the subject—tells us, “Of all the meats enhanced by fruit, duck is the best.”

The Duck à l’Orange recipe and story appear in chapter four of Toklas’s book, tantalizingly entitled “Murder in the Kitchen” along with other mini tales of crime, death, and depravity involving carp, pigeons, and Frederich, the two women’s beloved Austrian cook. In brief, Blanchette, the couple’s Barbary duck, was so maimed by a neighbor’s bird-dog that Frederich felt the need to put it out of its misery—but not before sedating it with three tablespoons of eau de vie, which substantially improved its taste at table.

Plain roast duck with veggies and potatoes makes an easy and delicious family supper. For guests, however, I prefer to fancy it up. The classic preparations of duck with fruit—berries, apples, cherries, or orange as in the recipe that follows— are perfect for special occasions. And an added perk: This delicious, moist, and meltingly tender bird can be roasted in advance and reheated at mealtime without losing its just-cooked flavor.

Duck Stock

(or substitute 1 cup of duck or chicken stock):

Giblets, neck, and wing tips from the duck

1 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 small onion, halved with a clove stuck in one half

1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 sprig fresh thyme

1 small blade mace or 1 pinch of ground mace

1⁄2 bay leaf

Duck Stock

1. Put all ingredients in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water, and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the lid, strain, and discard the solids, then reduce the liquid to 1 cup. Set aside.


1 duck, weighing 5 to 6 pounds, rinsed and dried

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half

1 navel orange, peel left on, cut in 6 wedges

1 onion, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

Several celery leaves

Sauce and Finishing the Dish:
3 tablespoons sugar mixed with 3 tablespoons water

Freshly squeezed juice of 2 oranges and 1 lemon

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, other orange liqueur, or brandy

Zest of 2 oranges (bitter oranges if possible), cut into very thin strips

1 cup Duck Stock (see recipe above)

Watercress for garnish (optional)

Segments from freshly peeled oranges for garnish


1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

2. Rub the duck cavity with lemon juice and Grand Marnier.

3. Prick the duck all over—much more than seems possible—with a fork and rub it—inside and out—with salt and pepper and cut garlic, then put the garlic in the cavity along with the orange, onion, bay leaf, and celery leaves.

4. Place the duck breast-side down on a rack in a roasting pan, put a little water in the bottom of the pan, and roast for 1 to 11⁄2 hours, until done, turning halfway through and continuing to prick and baste with pan drippings every 15 to 20 minutes. Add boiling water to pan if drippings dry up.

5. While the duck is roasting, start the sauce. Caramelize the sugar with the water in a small saucepan set over medium heat. When a dark caramel is reached, remove from the heat, immediately add the citrus juices and liqueur, and set aside.

6. Place the thinly sliced orange peel in a medium saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

7. When the duck is done, transfer to a cutting board and keep warm. Pour the pan drippings into a cup and degrease. Return the degreased juices to the roasting pan. Place over medium heat, add the cup of chicken or duck stock, and stir, scraping up all the crusty bits from the bottom and sides of the pan.

8. Add the reserved caramelized sugar mixture, and simmer until reduced by approximately one half and a sauce consistency is reached.

9. Carve the rested duck and place on a heated platter. Pour some of the sauce over. Sprinkle with the blanched orange zest and garnish with watercress and orange segments. Pass the remaining sauce separately.

Serves 6 generously


There are many more recipes, such as Delmonico Steak and Potatoes, Pot au Feu and a duck dish with a delicious raspberry sauce are also favorite holiday meals that can all be found in The Entrees.

Return to the Robinson's Guide to Thanksgiving by clicking here.