One of the very best aspects of living and working in the Greater Toronto Area is having the opportunity to mix and mingle with people from a vast array of cultures. Even better is sitting down to dine together, share recipes and cooking styles from their home countries—then adding those traditions to our own holiday culinary toolkit.
This year when we built our Festive Menu 2018, we thought about some of those interactions, what makes them special and why they’re always so memorable. What was it about experiencing scents, tastes and textures from foreign lands that gets us so excited? We then took some of that delicious influence and turned it into internationally-inspired dishes that you can build into your family’s holiday traditions—or as an addition to the buffet at your annual corporate Christmas party.
Holiday-themed inspiration from around the world
Our irresistible Caprese Pops—an Italian favourite with fresh cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, basil and balsamic reduction—and pot stickers (avocado and edamame gyoza with spicy tamari sauce) are just two examples of the multicultural culinary flare we added to the menu this year. Or how about our Seared Ahi Tuna Canape with Asian slaw, wonton crisp and wasabi aioli? These are just a few examples of the new items we have in store.
If you love faves from the Old Country you should try our Christmas Cutout Ravioli—perfectly-puffed pillows of tangy ricotta-filled pasta topped with slow-roasted tomato sauce. It’s a vegetarian dream for fans of Italian cuisine, made by Italians! Then there’s our Winter Wonderland Platters, which feature new favourites such as our House Specialty Porchetta with roasted red peppers and onions, garlic rapini and green onion aioli—think of it as another Italian-themed delight that also happens to work well with corporate luncheons and larger gatherings (the platters taste great when served at room temperature, too!).
For those of you who don’t want to venture too far from home, we’ve created a brand-new Holiday Poutine food station. It’s an interactive and highly festive take on a Quebecois favourite combining oven-baked potato wedges or golden fries with freshly-carved turkey, homemade stuffing, Quebec cheese curds, cranberry sauce and poutine gravy.
It may not be a foreign dish, but it’s definitely a great non-traditional addition to the usual festive fare.
And for the sweet-toothed among us (that would include everyone here at Kiss the Cook Catering), our new super-sized Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies are a must-try this holiday season.
But now that we’re officially into the early stages of the holiday season, we thought we’d put together a menu of Christmas dishes from around the globe that we’d love to serve at the ultimate Kiss the Cook Christmas event. Think of it as our version of an international culinary tour without ever leaving the Greater Toronto Area—and yes, it’s weighted heavily to desserts. What can we say?—sweet tooth!
So, without further delay, let’s begin our gourmet exploration of the world, holiday-style:
Fruit-topped pavlova, named after Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, is a fantastic meringue dessert filled with sweet goodness and crispy crust then capped off with whipped cream. It was invented either in Australia or New Zealand in the 1920s during one of the dancer Pavlova’s tours Down Under, but the exact origins are disputed. The Aussies and Kiwis are still fighting over ownership. What we can confirm is that the dish is amazing and would add sugary flare to any holiday dinner table.
Japan: Fried Chicken
Wait, what? Legend has it that back in the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken did a marketing blitz promoting a holiday party bucket. Japanese typically don’t eat turkey, so the Colonel’s marketing minions decided to start a new poultry-focused festive tradition. It worked, with a reported 3.6 million Japanese families sharing a bucket of the dirty bird on Christmas Eve each year as they await Santa’s arrival. Some sources say you need to book your bucket up to two months in advance, or risk missing out on your share of this 11-herbed-and-spiced festive fast-food phenomenon. While we have no qualms about making fried chicken for Christmas, we’ll stick to our own homemade version—brined and marinated in buttermilk overnight, then fried and seasoned to golden perfection. It’s the perfect salty-crunchy Christmas treat. And really, who cares about calories over the holidays?
Anyone who’s visited an Italian specialty store (or any supermarket in the GTA), or has Italian lineage (like me!), will recognize this famed Italian Christmas treat. Panettone is a cone-shaped cake that can be filled with various ingredients including juicy raisins, lemon, orange, nuts and chocolate. It’s often served with sweet wine or liqueurs such as amaretto at dessert, and the better brands almost always comes in a lavishly decorated box. In my house the arrival of the panettone was like an extra gift under the tree, even if it was usually devoured well before it could ever be put on display! We love it so much we even use it as a base for French toast at breakfast. Desserts don’t get more decadent than that.
Latin America: Tamales
From Costa Rica to Colombia and many countries in between, tamales are a hugely popular dish during the holidays across Latin America. Yes, they’re eaten pretty much all year and recipes vary widely across the region, but these are definitely a Christmas favourite. How do you make ‘em? Wrap corn dough in a banana leaf, stuff with meats such as pork, beef or chicken (optional) and add plenty of onion, potatoes, garlic and even raisins, then steam and enjoy!
Germany: Christmas Goose
Like turkey in North America, there are few traditional holiday spreads in Germany that don’t include a finely-roasted goose, cooked to perfection and served with all the trimmings such as sauerkraut, red cabbage and dumplings. And don’t forget the gravy. Legend has it the dish was originally served in November to celebrate St. Martin’s Day, but gradually made its way into Germans’ Christmas culinary repertoire. Traditional recipes call for the goose to be stuffed with dried fruits, onions and apples. This isn’t just a German tradition, of course. My Czech grandparents always had a goose on their Christmas dinner table, as well.
United Kingdom: Christmas Pudding
In the U.K. and Ireland, Christmas Pudding is a holiday staple dating back to medieval times. Also known as plum pudding, it blends dried fruits, eggs, suet and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg and brandy (or sometimes beer such as stout or porter). The cake is then steamed and served with warm brandy and a sweet topping such as lemon cream, custard or hard sauce. You can adjust the recipe to be as boozy as you like!
India: Allahabadi cake
The Christian population of India is relatively small, but many Indians partake in the holidays with a few culinary traditions of their own, one of them being Allahabadi Cake, named after the northern Indian city of Allahabad. Take a quick glance and you could easily mistake this delicacy for traditional English Christmas cake—that is until you bite into its sweet goodness. Made with eggs, butter, maida (a type of Indian flour) sugar, nuts, ginger and fennel and petha (a soft candy from the city of Agra), Allahabadi Cake is a welcome addition to any holiday menu.
Latkes are an ancient Hanukkah tradition, and are especially popular in Israel during the holidays. The fried potato pancakes are made with flour, onion, egg and seasonings and are often served with sour cream. They’re also sometimes accompanied by jelly-filled donuts called sufganiot, as well as tasty fritters. Hanukkah sugar cookies are another popular, complementary treat. In our view, there aren’t many things as satisfying and enjoyable as sitting down to a plate of perfectly-seasoned potato latkes for breakfast, lunch or dinner (they’re just as tasty any time of day or night). If you’re growing tired of creamy mash at the holiday dinner table, this is a fun potato-based alternative.
Northern and Eastern Europe: 12-dish Christmas supper
OK, so it’s a combination of dishes instead of a single item, but when it’s done right, this European tradition is second to none. The exact dishes served at this supper vary by country, but typically exclude meat, eggs or milk in a nod to the Christian Nativity fast. Instead, fish, vegetables and grains, not to mention various soups, are the main dishes, and the whole feast is finished off with various desserts. Herring or carp are often the fish of choice, while mushrooms, dumplings and sauerkraut are typical staples. We love the idea of putting our own Kiss the Cook spin on this old-school Christmas supper by serving it as 12 tapas-style dishes. Who says we can’t create a new tradition?
Let Kiss the Cook take you on a Holiday-themed culinary tour
Although you could take a restaurant tour of Toronto this holiday season and experience any of these amazing dishes—we’re so lucky to live in a city with such a varied selection of cuisine from around the world—that takes a lot of work (even if it might also be a lot of fun). Making these meals at home would be equally time-consuming.
That’s where we come in. We love researching new dishes and creating amazing flavours from across the globe, introducing them into our menu and making new favourites that put a glowing smile on our clients’ faces. So, why not be a guest at your own party and let us serve up a little multicultural flare at your holiday table? That leaves more time for egg nog, spicy mulled wine and spending time with loved ones—in other words, it’s the perfect holiday indulgence.
Contact us now to book your holiday party. Let our team do the cooking for your next festive family or work gathering!