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There Never Was Such a Goose... or Ham, for That Matter (November 30, 2009)

Oh what to serve this year? Whether it's a dinner party, family gathering or just friends in for cocktails, we've got the answer, and you're going to love this lineup.

The appetizer comes from the delightful, year-round really, Holiday Baking by Sara Perry. While these tend to be wintertime recipes celebrating the six major events of the season – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year's – they're wonderful dishes for any event, anytime. She has added simple tips for baking with kids as well; these recipes are as fun to make as they are to eat!

Perry, who lives in Portland, Oregon, is a successful cookbook author, radio restaurant commentator and columnist for the Oregonian newspaper.

Brigitte Moran, Director of the Marin Farmers' Market Association and the Marin Agricultural Institute, sent us the new North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook with more than 100 farm–fresh recipes from area farmers and ranchers. It's great book with dishes by the people who actually produce all this bounty. Put it on your shopping list.

Moran comes by her love of food honestly. She's a heady mixture of French, Canadian and American DNA; her family immigrated to Marin in 1961 to partake of the American Dream, and as a chubby French girl she spoke no English and ate weird food at school; lunches often were homemade French baguettes with real butter and a French chocolate bar; after-school snacks were not Toll House cookies; her maman made crepes with Nutella and dished up creative dishes from yesterday's leftovers. These days, she and her husband and children live in San Rafael, California, where in 1989 she and a friend founded the Downtown Farmer's Market, and she's never looked back!

Diane Morgan, author of The Thanksgiving Table and The New Thanksgiving Table, gives us the only two books you'll ever need on the subject. You'll get the history, the regional traditions, all the trimmings and side dishes, and a whole chapter devoted to the star of the table, The Turkey! But wait, there's more! For a change, we've given you her Jack Daniel's basted ham instead; it makes a welcome and wonderful change from the usual menu. In her books, Morgan lists directions and equipment needed for every step, from basting and brining to soup and stuffing, and goes on to give you detailed planning tips for the big day.

Whatever you celebrate at this time of year, you'll want the books by this award winning teacher, cookbook author and freelance food writer. Morgan too, lives in Portland, Oregon, and you can take a look at her website at

Easy Christmas is an oxymoron to most of us, and who among us wouldn't want the eponymous book on the subject! Easy Christmas: Classic Recipes for the Perfect Christmas, from publisher Ryland, Peters & Small, is a small perfect collection for flawless holiday meals. You'll find everything you need, from a handy Traditional Christmas Dinner Time Planner through Brunch and Light Bites, Entrees, Sides and Sauces to the important section, Sweet Things. Entertaining? Check out the Party Food recipes before you invite the guests! This is the stocking stuffer to ask for this year!

And where is it written that dessert has to be a pie? Certainly not in Lou Seibert Pappas's delicious new collection, Crème Brûlée. Pappas, author of Ice Creams & Sorbets, Pancakes & Waffles and several other books in the same sweet vein, has given us the definitive collection of this decadent dessert. You'll find sections devoted to Classic and Creative, Fruity and Fabulous, Chocolate and Nutty and ending up with Savory. Hope someone gives you a blowtorch for Christmas; you'll be needing it for this book!

On today's menu:

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Stilton Pinwheels with Walnuts and Honey

Oh, everyone will be here to help decorate; and we're ready for the celebrations at last. Oh, there's the doorbell, honey... could you open it, get ready to pour, and pass these divine little morsels of flavour to everyone. What a great start to the season! And it's our secret... they're so easy! From Holiday Baking by Sara Perry.

Makes about 6 dozen pinwheels

  • 1/3 cup (2¾ ounces) Stilton or other blue cheese, at room temperature.
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 sheet purchased frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 cups (about 8 ounces) walnut halves, picked over
  • Honey for drizzling
  1. In a mini-processor or by hand, mix together the cheese and cream cheese until blended.
  2. On a lightly floured pastry cloth or board, unfold the pastry sheet according to package directions. Cut in half lengthwise.
  3. Carefully spread half of the cheese mixture to cover one piece of pastry, but leaving a 1/4–inch border on one long edge. Beginning with the long coated edge, tightly roll the pastry, forming a long jelly roll-style log. Moisten the border with water and pinch the edge to form a secure seam. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour or until ready to bake. Repeat with the remaining piece of pastry and cheese mixture.
  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or leave ungreased and set aside.
  5. Remove one log at a time from the freezer and unwrap on a cutting board. Thaw slightly. Measure and mark 1/4-inch increments and slice with a serrated knife. Arrange the pinwheels on the baking sheet, at least 1 inch apart. Gently press 1 walnut half into the center of each pinwheel. Bake until the pastry is golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and, using a teaspoon or squeeze bottle, drizzle with a crisscross thread of honey. Serve immediately.

Tony's wine recommendation:
10-Year-Old Tawny Port, LBV Port, Cream Sherry or Select Late Harvest Riesling


Winter Squash Gratin

Ron, the Englishman, is not particularly fond of vegetables, but had wonderful memories of a creamy squash redolent of chestnuts. Imagine his pleasure – and mine – upon discovering kabocha squash in our local markets. Commonly called Japanese pumpkin, kabocha has come to mean a general type of winter squash to many English-speaking buyers. It's delicious, and hey... in some cultures it is revered as an aphrodisiac. Ooooooooooh. Whatever. It's wonderful and this dish is a perfect match to any roast. From North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook by Brigitte Moran.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 cups peeled kabocha squash, butternut squash, or pumpkin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
  • 1¾ cups skim milk
  • 2½ Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cut grated fontinella cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place squash and salt in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray. Bake squash for 25 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Melt butter in a large nonstick skilled over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until tender.
  4. Whisk milk and flour together until combined and add to skillet. Bring to a boil and then cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, nutmeg, and pepper, stirring constantly until cheese melts.
  5. Gently stir in squash and pour mixture into a greased baking dish, about 1-quart size.
  6. Place bread in a food processor and pulse into coarse crumbs, measuring about 2/3 cup. Add parsley and garlic, pulsing once or twice to combine. Sprinkle bread mixture over the squash. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New World oaked Chardonnay, white Rhône, Viognier


Jack Daniel's Whiskey and Brown Sugar Crusted Ham

We always had a ham along with the turkey... or goose or duck; it happily shared center stage with the big bird. They're so easy; hams are sold fully cooked, the only task is to glaze the meat and warm it up! We can do that for sure, but make sure you have enough when you add this sinful Jack Daniel's mix – it's going to disappear fast!

Diane Morgan in The New Thanksgiving Table says if you're serving a large crowd, say, 16 to 20 guests, then consider buying a whole ham, which includes both the shank half and the butt half and weighs about 14 to 18 pounds. Morgan suggests the butt half or upper part of the ham because it tender and tastier than the shank half. She goes on to say ask your butcher for a slow-dry-cured and natural-wood-smoked ham with no water added.

Serves 10 to 12

  • One 7 to 9 pound bone-in smoked ham, preferably the butt or upper half
  • 24 to 30 whole cloves
  • 1½ cups firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1½ tsp dry mustard
  • 5 Tbsp Jack Daniel's whiskey, plus 1 Tbsp for the sauce
  • 3½ cups apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp water

Remove the ham from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake it so the meat can come to room temperature. Using a sharp boning knife, trim away any skin and all but 1/4 inch of the external fat from the ham. Set the ham fat side up, and make parallel cuts 1/2 inch deep and 1½ inches apart all over the ham. Give the ham a quarter-turn and repeat to produce a cross-hatched diamond pattern. Stick a clove in the center of each of the diamonds.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, mustard and 5 Tbsp whiskey into a paste and rub it all over the ham. Set the ham, fat side up, on a rack in a roasting pan just large enough to hold it without crowding. Set aside loosely covered with plastic wrap until ready to bake.

About 30 minutes prior to baking the ham, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.

Add enough apple cider to the pan to reach 1/4 inch up the sides, about 2½ cups of cider. Bake the ham, uncovered, basting at least twice with the pan juices and adding the remaining apple cider as needed to maintain a 1/4 inch depth, for 1¾ to 2 hours (about 15 minutes per pound) until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the ham but away form the bone registers 120°F.

Transfer the ham pt a carving board or warmed platter and cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let the ham rest for 20 minutes to allow the juices to distribute.

Meanwhile, pour the pan juices into a 4-cup heatproof bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the fat to rise to the top. Spoon off the fat and discard. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk in the maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Taste the sauce. If the flavor is concentrated and tasty, whisk in half of the cornstarch mixture and cook to thicken the sauce. If the sauce still tastes thin, simmer for a few minutes to reduce the pan juice and concentrate the flavors. Taste again, then whisk in half the cornstarch mixture to chicken the sauce. Add the 1 Tbsp of whiskey to the sauce if desired. Transfer the sauce to a warmed gravy boat.

Use a sharp carving knife to cut the ham into thin slices and serve immediately. Accompany the ham with the pan sauce.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Spätlese Riesling, off-dry Ontario Riesling, Tavel Rosé


Scandinavian Roast Goose

We always had a goose at Christmas, and to help celebrate the event, my Uncle David would bring a bottle of Wild Turkey...

And a good time was truly had by all. This version is by far our favourite; Scandinavians stuff the bird with apples and prunes, and serve a tangy red cabbage on the side, with perhaps boiled potatoes in sugar and sweet pickles. We stop at the red cabbage, but hey, it's the holidays! From Easy Christmas: Classic Recipes for the Perfect Christmas from publisher Ryland, Peters & Small.

Serves 6 (remember, a goose doesn't feed that many)

  • 1 goose, about 12 pounds
  • 2 cups pitted prunes, about 8 oz.
  • 1 lb tart apples, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 2/3–1¼ cup chicken stock
  • ¼ cup cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dry the goose inside and out with paper towels, then rub with salt and pepper and prick the skin all over with a skewer or sharp pronged fork.

Scald the prunes with boiling water, then stuff the goose with the apples and prunes. Rub the skin with salt.

Put the goose breast up on a rack in a roasting pan. Put in a cold oven, turn the temperature to 325°F and roast for 45 minutes. Add a little cold water to the pan and roast for 3½ hours or according to size (see note). Take care not to let the water dry up; add extra as necessary. The goose is done when an instant-read thermometer reaches 180°F. Alternatively, the juices should run clear when you prick the leg at the thickest part. Waggle the leg bone a little; it should move in the socket. Transfer the bird to a platter.

Lift all but 2 tables spoon of fat from the pan into a gravy separator or pitcher to lift off the fat. Pour the gravy juices into a small bowl and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Increase the oven temperature to 475°F. Return the goose to the roasting pan, pour 2 Tbsp cold water over the beast, and return the bird to the oven.

Pour the wine into a clean saucepan, add 1 Tbsp of the reserved goose fat, bring to a boil and reduce until syrupy. Add the gravy juices mixture and the stock and return to a boil, stirring constantly. Season well with salt and pepper and stir in the cream.

Carve the goose and serve with the gravy and sides.

Note: To calculate the cooking time required, allow 20 minutes per pound.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Oregon or New Zealand Pinot Noir, Amarone


Danish Red Cabbage

Ohhhhh, this is such a perfect side for not only the goose, but that ham as well! It's a tasty tradition in Europe where goose appears more often than any other bird; the sweet-sour tang is a perfect compliment to the rich, fat crackling meat and skin! Side dishes also help the bird go further when there's a crowd; this one is so good no one will worry about the sliver of meat. From Easy Christmas: Classic Recipes for the Perfect Christmas from publisher Ryland, Peters & Small.

Serves 4

  • 1 red cabbage, about 3 lb.
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus extra to taste
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 Tbsp vinegar, plus extra to taste
  • 1/2 cup cherry or blackcurrant juice

Cut the cabbage into quarters. Remove the stem and shred the leaves finely.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then stir in the sugar over gentle heat. Add the lemon juice and half the cherry juice, then bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and turn to coat in the liquid. Reduce the heat to low, then cover and steam until tender, about 2 hours, stirring frequently. Add more cherry juice if necessary. Remove the saucepan lid for the last 15 minutes, then taste and add a lump of butter and extra lemon juice if the cabbage is too sweet.


Spicy Pumpkin Crème Brûlée

Ok, so some traditions stand, and where would the holidays be without pumpkin. This is an ideal dessert to finish a glorious meal, and a nice change from the usual pie. The custards can be baked well in advance ready for a last-minute caramelizing. Some guests may enjoy the task of sprinkling on the sugar topping and watching it caramelize! We do! From Crème Brûlée by Lou Seibert Pappas.

Serves 6

  • 6 Tbsp chopped raw almonds oar pecans, toasted (see note below)
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup puréed cooked pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1¼ cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 6 Tbsp oven-dried brown sugar or raw sugar for topping (see note below)

Have ready the toasted nuts. Preheat the oven to 275°F. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/2 cup light brown sugar until dissolved. Whisk in the pumpkin, sour cream, heavy cream, cinnamon, ginger and five-spice powder.

Place six standard-size flan dishes in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Sprinkle with the nuts. Pour warm water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool briefly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet and evenly sprinkle 1 Tbsp oven-dried brown sugar or raw sugar over each custard. Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar.

Toasting nuts: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Spread the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until toasted. Transfer the nuts to a bowl.

Oven-dried brown sugar: Due to the moisture content of brown sugar, it is recommended to dry it before caramelizing. Spread light or dark brown sugar out on a baking sheet in a 1/2-inch layer and bake in a preheated 275°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until browned a shade darker. Let cool, place in a small resealable plastic bag, and crush it thoroughly with a rolling pin or flat metal mallet to make fine crystals. Brown sugar treated in the manner has an excellent flavor when caramelized.

Using a blowtorch: READ THE INSTRUCTIONS! Searing one dish at a time, hold the blowtorch about 4 inches from the top of the dish, moving the torch constantly so that the sugar browns evenly. Be especially careful if the custard contains alcohol, as it can cause the sugar to sputter.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Asti Spumante, Muscat Beaumes-de-Venise, Samos Muscat


We wish to thank the following for permission to use material and photographs:

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan. Text © 2008 Diane Morgan. Photographs © 2008 Leigh Beisch.

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for Holiday Baking by Sara Perry. Text © 2005 by Sara Perry. Photographs © Leigh Beisch.

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah for North Bay Farmers Markets Cookbook by Brigitte Moran with Amelia Spilger. Text © 2009 Brigitte Moran with Amelia Spilger. Photographs © 2009 Scott Ellison.

Raincoast Books, Vancouver and Chronicle Books, San Francisco for Crème Brûlée by Lou Seibert Pappas. Text © 2005 by Lou Seibert Pappas. Photographs © Alison Miksch.

Thomas Allen and Son, Toronto and Ryland, Peters and Small, London and New York for Easy Christmas: Classic Recipes for the Perfect Christmas. Text © Susannah Blake, Maxine Clark, Linda Collister, Alice King, Kathy Man, Jane Noraika, Louise Pickford, Ben Reed, Sonia Stevenson, Fran Warde, Ryland Peters and Small 2006. Design and photographs © Ryland, Peters and Small 2006.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

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