THE TRADITIONAL Christmas dinner in most Atlantic Canadian homes, as elsewhere, centres around turkey. Few will argue the fact. It's what is tucked inside the festive bird that offers variety. While the hands-down favourite is bread stuffing seasoned with summer savory, in some pockets of these eastern shores a time-honoured potato stuffing is still the number one choice.
Oysters may creep inside the cavity in PEI, but in Lunenburg County, NS, home of the giant cabbage, the aroma from the oven has a hint of sauerkraut.
Another regional cabbage dish that often accompanies the holiday bird is hot kohl slaw: thinly sliced cabbage is boiled with an apple, a little cider vinegar and a bit of dried tarragon. But more generally popular are the standard root vegetables-carrots, parsnips and turnips.
And to have turkey without mashed potatoes is unthinkable in Canada's major spud-producing provinces, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
Cranberries grow in the region too, and grace the holiday table in a number of ways. More than just a condiment, these tart ruby-red berries once ended the festive meal in a delicious Mock Cherry Pie. To share it with you, we've borrowed from a recipe attributed to PEI's favourite daughter, Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.
Tradition also dictates the meals served on Christmas Eve. In Acadian homes, meat pie was, and still is, traditionally served after midnight mass. The Alexander family of Mattis Point, in western NL, adds a native twist to the pie, tucking moose and rabbit meat between the crusts. Veronica Alexander, now a chef at Ocean View Motel in Rocky Harbour, NL, shares her family's recipe.
Perhaps there's no other dish more anticipated during the holidays than seafood chowder, in one of its many forms. The choice can run from lobster to scallops, clams to oysters, mussels, crab or shrimp, or a combination that includes finfish, usually cod, haddock or halibut. Many chowder aficionados are particular about what main ingredients go into the pot. And hang the cost; it's the festive season.
In some homes lobster gets the nod, as the boiled or steamed crustaceans are taken from the pot to be enjoyed by people gathered informally around a newspaper-draped kitchen table. Those who are lucky may even find on their plate a left-handed female lobster, which some say is the tastiest.