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Pear Noel
Pear Stuffing and Christmas Goose

Christmas with the Kissandtells.

Now that Mum's gone on to better things, it's down to Brother Kurt and his oddly-named family to carry on our venerable seasonal traditions. It turns out that Mum left some big boots to fill. Mainly with baking, (Thanks Suzannah!) but also ample sidepockets of goose ordering, Pringles stocking, and pork roasting.
Christmas Eve ritual: curry and a roast pork sandwich. Plus I really like Pringles. So sue me.
Fortunately brother Kurt (and his little helpers) took care of all that, which just left me with the onerous task of actually having all my presents wrapped by Christmas Eve, and not relying on being able to turn up late and spend the rest of the holy night wrestling with paper and sticky tape. Humbug!
I blame the kids. The Kissandtells are sadly afflicted with children, and as any fule kno: children ruin Christmas. Ah well, I suppose time heals all wounds. Eventually!

As usual I come bearing gifts of starter and stuffing and, new for 2013, the cheese board.
This Christmas I will be mostly stuffing with Pear and Sage. And since we don't have to cater for any pesky tarians this year it's also mostly meat :) It turned out quite well actually, particularly the extra dish of it we roasted separately. I'm slowly coming to accept that stuffing which comes out of the goose is doomed to mediocrity - it's always greasy, soggy, and underwhelming. Whereas baked on its own you can get a nice crunchy topping with plenty of good flavour and texture within.
Sigh, I suppose you can't fight tradition. Greasy, soggy stuffing it is.

My gravlax on rye crispbreads starter went down pretty well: just smear the crispbreads with a dose of crème fraîche horseradish sauce, pile on thinly sliced gravlax, top with a scattering of dill fronds and a few capers, and serve with a lime wedge.

Incidentally - the difference between sour cream and crème fraîche?
The French stuff is thicker, richer and less sour than the British version.
Much like their women.

Things we learned this Christmas:
  • Kurt's fan-assisted oven cooks a goose quite a bit quicker (and drier) than Mum's old gas oven, so our 10lb (before stuffing) goose was ready in 3½ hours at 165°C rather than the predicted 4¼. If we had been paying attention we would have wrapped it in tin foil earlier to limit the browning, and taken it out before it dried out. A bit.
  • Bread sauce swells as it cooks, so you need to make sure to choose a large enough dish. Also, you have to keep an eye on it and stir occasionally as you don't want it to brown on top. Add more milk if necessary - bread sauce cooks in less than an hour in Kurt's oven.
  • The Kissandtells don't appreciate exotic cheesery. Next year it will be Babybels, cranberry Stilton and those novelty flavoured mini-cheddars coated in thick wax.
  • Mum's baking recipes leave much to be desired - like any resemblance to the things she used to make. Sigh. Back to those Be-Ro cookbooks...

Pear and Sage Stuffing
meat side
Since Mum bought me my very own sausage machine I ground my own belly pork Just to be clear that's my own grinding I'm doing, not my own belly - Ed! for the sausagemeat in this stuffing, adding a glass of cognac to help preserve it until its big day.
If you're doing the same, bear in mind that you lose quite a bit of meat in the parts of the machine, making it somewhat inefficient, so buy extra.

The proportions aren't really critical - I mixed together everything but the bread, then added as much crumb as I needed to bulk out the stuffing whilst still holding reasonably together.
Don't overpack the stuffing into the bird, and don't forget to season the mixture generously.

Makes about 1½lb - more than enough to fill a large goose.

Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 pears, peeled, cored, roughly chopped
  • a little lemon or lime juice
  • handful parsley, chopped
  • small handful sage leaves, sliced
  • dozen chestnuts, peeled, chopped
  • 400g sausagemeat
  • about 300g fresh breadcrumbs
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 eggs optional for baking
  • a grating of nutmeg or mace
Method
Chop the onion moderately finely.
Choose 1 large or two medium, ripe pears. Peel, quarter, remove the core and chop roughly - not too small. Set them aside sprinkled with a little lemon or lime juice to avoid browning.
Chop a handful of parsley or two and slice a small handful of sage leaves. Maybe a dozen or two. Cut out the stems and thick spines from any large sage leaves and don't overdo the quantity - they have a very dominating flavour.
Cut small crosses into the flat sides of each chestnut's skin with a sharp knife, and simmer them for a few minutes to soften them up. Remove them two at a time and peel them carefully, removing the thin inner skin also. Discard any that are hard, black or mouldy. Chop roughly.

Thoroughly mix everything together.
Remove the crust from the bread I used a cheap white loaf and turn into crumbs by grating or pulsing in a blender. Gradually fold the breadcrumbs into the mixture, stopping if it seems like enough. Season generously with salt, pepper, and a little grating of nutmeg or mace if you fancy.
Beat an egg or two and add enough to the mixture that it is moistened, but not wet.
I would definitely suggest adding the egg if you plan on baking the stuffing in a dish, but if you're stuffing a bird then it's your call.
Loosely load your bird with the stuffing and don't be tempted to pack it in just to use it up. Roast the bird as normal (taking the total weight into account when calculating the cooking times). Alternatively lay the stuffing in a baking dish and bake at Gas Mark 4 for 30-45 minutes until crisp on top, or at the bottom of the oven while the bird roasts.
If you prefer you can also roll the stuffing into balls and cook them around the roast.
A pretty reasonable stuffing actually - coherent without becoming too greasy, if I had a criticism: it's a little on the bland side. Make sure to season generously.
I used about two-thirds of my un-egged mixture to stuff a 10lb goose, then added an egg to the rest and baked it in the bottom of the oven.

Although it was acceptable cooked in the bird it was definitely better baked separately.

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