Around my house Christmas is all about food, and while Mrs. Claus doesn’t spend all her time baking cookies that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know her way around a kitchen. Over the next few days I’d like to share some of Mrs. Claus’ favourite recipes with you! Each one of these recipes is written in the voice of one of the incarnations of Mrs. Claus from my latest anthology, Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say.
From Mrs. Claus of “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Autumn is a time of change: a time when leaves turn and wildlife prepares to migrate or hibernate, a time of frenzied activity for the elves as they try to get Nick ready for his annual event, a time when women in wholly unnecessary activewear wax lyrical about spices cheaply available year round. (You people have no idea what it was like in the old days, when we traveled months to trade or… borrow spices.)
But the best part of autumn is gathering with friends to celebrate the rich harvest collected by that farm village you just relieved of its overstock. (No worries, bleeding hearts! We also relieved them of excess population, so they’ll be better able to survive on the stores they have left.)
One of my favorites is roast reindeer. Oh, don’t make that face. Yes, Nick has a team of eight which is quite the public face for the operation. They’re more famous than the Budweiser Clydesdales! But reindeer have always been a part of our culture and diet. Where do you think Santa’s fur trim came from? Uh-huh.
Besides, reindeer is good for you. It’s a very lean meat, so you don’t have to worry about fat and cholesterol and whatever else you people fret about this decade. And reindeer are free-ranging herds which serve a valuable ecological purpose, none of this disgusting feedlot business. Your reindeer probably roamed the forest eating lichen right up until its final day.
And finally, reindeer is tasty. It’s tender and milder than venison. It’s perfect for your guests. Remember, hospitality is important!
For an intimate gathering, I like to start with about 5 pounds (2 and a quarter kilograms) of reindeer haunch, which should feed two to three Vikings as a main course, but you can work with what you have available. You can certainly scale up if you have a shipful to feed, but remember that a whole reindeer takes longer to prepare than a small roast.
It’s best when wrapped in pork fat to keep it moist. If you happen to be visiting North America, pick up some American bacon, as the strips are perfect. Use about half a pound to wrap the roast, lay some rosemary sprigs over the bacon on all sides, and tie everything in place. If you have any extra pork fat, lay it on top to cap it all off.
Combine lingonberry sauce—mmm, lingonberries!—with a few peppercorns, some onion slices, and whatever honey you saved from mead-making. Set the roast on this base and, well, roast it on a low fire until it bleeds clear. For those of you using an gas or electric cooker, this will be about 275 F or 135 C for two or three hours, depending on your roast.
Meat is not a complete meal, so fill a pan with your favorite root vegetables. Don’t be afraid to use some New World varieties such a potatoes; caribou are found in North America, too. And you’ll have time while it roasts to make some buttermilk flatbread.
When you pull it out, like all meats it will need to rest to reabsorb the best juices. But like all meats, it will likely be raided by hungry hands. Keep your short axe ready for a quick defense as necessary, and it should be ready in about twenty minutes. Alternately, place the mead and drinking horns at the far side of the hall, to distract the diners and keep them busy elsewhere.
Make sure you keep a healthy portion of mead for yourself! Slice the reindeer roast thin when it’s ready, and serve with the lingonberry sauce and roast vegetables. Enjoy!
Excerpt from “Wight Christmas” by Laura VanArendonk Baugh:
Lik and I sat companionably in the dark, waiting. It wasn’t awkward;. I was a Valkyrie, a Chooser of the Slain, and he was the slain. We had more in common than you’d think.
“So, you were a valkyrja.”
“Am a valkyrja. I just don’t get called in to work as often these days.”
“And you married Santa.”
“Nicholas is what he goes by most often now. Yes.”
“But Nicholas was a Christian bishop, at least for a span of years.”
“Bishops…can’t have wives. Or sex.”
I nodded. “Frock-blocked.”
Lik’s explosive laughter boomed across the parking lot, shattering any pretense of concealment or stealth. He slapped his bare knee and threw his head back, laughing freely as any dead and drunk warrior in Valhöll.