Holiday Elegance on a Budget

There is no time like the holidays for pulling out all the stops. That said, with fancier food and additional guests, serving beautiful meals can be expensive. What budget-friendly menu choices are available that don’t sacrifice taste or quality?

Poultry is less costly than red meat and stretches beautifully when stuffed (see recipe to follow). Fish may be a traditional first course appetizer, but a fancy plated salad is often a more welcome and economical choice—with more food coming, guests are happy to have a lighter starter and something healthy to balance what can be an overly heavy meal.

They say people eat with their eyes first. Choose bright, fresh and bold flavors and colors to enhance and contrast; an attractively plated presentation costs no more than your creativity and attention, but will do wonders to elevate your holiday table and experience.


Photo: Baila Gluck

Roasted Turkey Roulade with Smoky Apple-Chestnut Stuffing

Yields 14-16 servings

Roasting a turkey breast with its skin helps it to retain its moisture during cooking. A roulade is French term that means “rolled up”; this dish not only boasts an elegant presentation with spirals of turkey filled with a flavorful stuffing, but it also stretches the turkey meat when serving a full table and works well to feed a large crowd on a budget (recipe can be halved). Be sure to use a meat thermometer to ensure proper doneness without drying out the turkey.

Turkey Roulade

2 (2-pound) turkey breast roasts (with skin), butterflied

¼ cup olive oil

4 ounces thinly sliced pastrami or beef fry

2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups peeled, chopped Fuji apples (1 very large or 2 small)

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1 (5.2 ounce) package whole peeled and roasted chestnuts, chopped

3 tablespoons apple liquor (or white wine)

4 slices day-old bread (crusts removed), cubed (about 2½ cups)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves

1 cup apple cider

Special equipment: 12 pieces (10”-12”) kitchen twine, roasting rack and pan

Cider-Sage Gravy

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot, minced

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup low-sodium chicken or turkey stock

1⁄3 cup apple cider

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

Lay turkey breast out on a flat surface or cutting board; pound to even ¼” thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pastrami or beef fry to the pan and fry until crisp and shriveled, about 5-6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, drain and transfer to a plate; chop when cool.

Add onion and garlic to the pan; sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Add apples and season with 1 teaspoon salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Continue to sauté until apples begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add chestnuts and sauté another 2 minutes. Add apple liquor and stir to blend until liquid is mostly absorbed, about 1 minute. Turn heat off. Add bread, chopped sage and reserved chopped pastrami/beef fry. Toss together until bread is moistened. Set aside stuffing to cool slightly.

Spread half of bread mixture over one turkey breast. Fold turkey tender (smaller flap) in over stuffing, then carefully roll breast up, tucking ends in if necessary so that skin is on top (seam should be on bottom). Secure with toothpicks. Using pre-cut pieces of kitchen twine carefully slide each piece under the rolled roast, tying each string to secure the roast at 2-inch intervals. Carefully place tied roast on a rack in a medium roasting pan. Rub a little olive oil all over skin. Repeat with remaining stuffing and breast.

Place in the oven to brown for 15-20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F. Add cider to the bottom of roasting pan; cover with foil. Cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour or until inserted meat thermometer reaches 158°F internally. Remove from oven; allow turkey to rest for 15-20 minutes; internal temperature will continue rise by 5-8 degrees.

While the turkey rests, prepare the gravy. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sauté for about 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Sprinkle flour over shallots and quickly stir to blend, cooking for another minute. Add stock, cider, mustard and vinegar. Whisk to blend. Bring to a boil and then lower to medium heat, simmering gravy until mixture becomes thickened (should be able to coat the back of a spoon), about 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper and add salt if necessary. Remove from heat. Stir in sage.

Transfer rested turkey to a cutting board and using a sharp carving knife, remove twine and carefully slice roulade crosswise. Arrange slices on a platter and serve with gravy.

Cook’s Notes:

– This sweet and smoky stuffing can also be used with individual pounded thin chicken breasts.

– Stuffing can be made two days ahead.

– You can ask your butcher to butterfly the turkey roast.


Photo: Baila Gluck

Caramelized Squash & Pomegranate Salad with Creamy Apple Vinaigrette

Yields 6 servings

Beautiful color contrasts and fall flavors make this the perfect salad to incorporate the holiday simanim at your yom tov table.

Squash Salad

2 baby acorn squash, scrubbed, halved, seeded and sliced into ¼” semi-circles (or 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons honey

1 package mixed baby greens

Seeds from ½ pomegranate or 1 package pomegranate arils

¼ cup finely chopped red onion

½ cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Creamy Apple Vinaigrette

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1½ tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons apple liqueur

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon dried thyme

1⁄3 cup mayonnaise (heaping)

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 500°F. Adjust rack to highest setting (about 3-4 inches from the heating element).

Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spread squash evenly on sheet. Drizzle oil over squash and season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread out in an even single layer. Drizzle a small amount of honey over squash to taste.  Roast for about 15 minutes—squash should be tender (easily pierced with a fork) and slightly caramelized.

Remove from oven and cool slightly.

To prepare the dressing, combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “s” blade. Process until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble: Toss greens in a large mixing bowl with a few tablespoons of the dressing until coated. Divide greens amongst salad plates. Arrange a few pieces of the warm squash in the center of the greens. Top with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds and red onion. Drizzle a little bit of dressing over the top. Garnish with toasted chopped pecans.

Variation: Use 3-4 pears instead of squash. Core, dice and roast on 450°F according to above directions.

Naomi Ross is a cooking instructor and food writer based in Woodmere, New York. She teaches classes throughout the country and writes articles connecting delicious cooking and Jewish inspiration. Her first cookbook, The Giving Table, was recently released.

This article was featured in the Fall 2021 issue of Jewish Action.
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