When the holidays draw nigh, Welch’s Stop & Shop, located at 11333 West 95th Place in St. John, is deluged with orders for turkeys, but that’s not all—more and more home cooks are choosing alternatives to the traditional roast bird.

Creative Cuts

“Our hams, which we have made and cured for us, are big sellers for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says Ed Welch, a partner in this third generation family business founded in 1953. “A lot of people serve sauerkraut and our Polish sausage, which we make fresh daily for holiday meals.”

Welch’s sells both regular and smoked Polish sausage that’s made in-house in one of the two smokers on the premises (one is large enough to hold logs and the other uses wood chips). Both impart a smoky flavor that accents the taste of meats they sell.

For beef lovers, Welch says they offer prime rib, roasts and steaks cut to order. And though they’re not made on-site, Welch says they can order “turduckens,” the Louisiana dish said to have been invented by the master of Cajun cuisine, Paul Prudhomme. Rich in flavor and spice, this unusual dish is exactly what it sounds like: a boneless chicken stuffed inside a boneless duck inside a boneless turkey, usually with a cornbread or other traditional Southern-style stuffing inside.

From Traditional to Vegan

“We actually have a vegan turkey option on the menu during the holidays,” says Teresa Connell, a cook at Tiger Lily Café, located at 1505 South Calumet Road in Chesterton. The restaurant offers traditional, vegetarian and vegan dining options. “We do it like the traditional turkey dinner but our rolls are made by our vegan baker and instead of chicken broth for making the gravy and stuffing, we use vegetable broth.”

Also on the menu around holiday time is Tiger Lily’s pork roulade—a pork roast which is pounded very thin and spread with a layer of chopped apples and onions accented with sage. The filled meat is rolled up, and slowly braised before being sliced and served.

In the bakery at Tiger Lily Cafe, vegan baker Sue Novak also prepares vegan pumpkin pies.

“They’re very similar in texture and flavor to non-vegan pumpkin pies,” she says. “But we use organic pumpkin puree and substitute coconut milk for cow’s milk. Regular pumpkin pie filling is thickened with eggs, but since we don’t use eggs in vegan cooking, we substitute cornstarch to make it thick.”

Complex Flavors

Tammy Pham, executive chef and owner of two sister restaurants—Siam Marina in Tinley Park, Illinois, and Asparagus, located on Broadway in Merrillville—suggests making her duck confit: braised duck served with sautéed bok choy, topped with mango-blood orange sauce.

In this recipe, the confit, traditionally a French dish, also incorporates the flavors of both Pham’s native Vietnam as well as Thai cookery, with the addition of soy and oyster sauce, bok choy (a type of Chinese cabbage commonly available in supermarkets), Chinese five spice powder, and mango puree. In all, it reflects the Asian and European culinary legacies found on menu items at both her restaurants.

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