Burns Night Winter Dinner Celebration

Burns Night Dinner Celebration
Burns Night is a historic Scottish dinner celebration that can be adapted to a cozy, romantic dinner on a dark chilly winter night

BURNS NIGHT

Romantic Scottish Dinner Celebration


I had never heard of Burns Night until I came across a chapter in a European book featuring Burns Night as part of "a year of festivities for families and friends." I have to admit, my first impression of Burns Night was that it's a romantic dinner for two in front of the fireplace on a cold winter night. Burns Night is actually a historical celebration of the life of Scotland's widely revered national poet and lyricist, Robert Burns, whose most famous work is "Auld Lang Syne," published in 1788. The traditional Scottish Burns Night celebration centers around the poetry of Robert Burns, whiskey and a main course of haggis and clapshot. My simplified American version of Burns Night features a warm, cozy ambiance, a menu honoring Scottish comfort food and a nod to the history and influence of Robert Burns. Burns Night is perfect for snowbirds with a menu of simple ingredients steeped in tradition and offers an interesting alternative to the typical dinner party.


I'd like to make a few observations of the authentic European Burns Night celebration compared with my Americanized version of Burns Night. The proper celebration is held on or near Robert Burn's birthday, January 25, but my take is go ahead and host Burns Night anytime during the winter. Setting up a cozy table next to the glow of a warm fireplace and having a relaxing meal for two or more people is not only romantic, but memorable and distinctive. If no fireplace is available, improvise by placing the table in a cozy corner of your living room. Scottish plaid tartans, dim warm lighting, a white tablecloth and napkins, flowers or greenery and flickering candlelight make a cozy ambiance. Creating an unusual backdrop appealing to all senses is key to emulating the feel of the Scottish Highlands. Why not create your own Burns Night in the midst of the December holidays, on New Year's Eve, an anniversary or any special occasion when darkness falls early on chilly winter nights.

Your menu should offer several courses and closely resemble the simply delicious traditional comfort food of Burns Night, of which haggis is always, always the focal point. After all, Burns' poem, "Ode to a Haggis" is traditionally read aloud to guests when the haggis is ceremoniously brought to the table by the cook, accompanied by a lone bagpiper or Scottish music.

Haggis is a Scottish delicacy composed of minced sheep organs, oatmeal, onions and seasonings served in the lining of, well, let's just say, don't ask too many questions. Because Americans are typically less comfortable eating organ meats and more importantly, because haggis is impossible to buy in the United States (unless you have access to sheep lungs, which are banned from sale), my version of the Burns Night entree features crumbled sausage, mashed potatoes and turnips with a whiskey cream sauce.

A few facts about Burns Night -- it was first held in 1801, five years after Robert Burns passed. Celebrations can be elaborate, loud and festive with many guests or quite intimate and cozy. The meal starts with a prayer of Burns' poem, "Selkirk Grace." The haggis is "piped in" with pomp and circumstance, then a whiskey toast is made to the haggis -- which is why a shot of whiskey is presented on the dinner plate. Burns' poetry, songs, dancing and toasts to the lassies and lads are central to the authentic celebrations, which always ends with guests joining hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.

Creating your own version of Burns Night may inspire you to learn more about Robert Burns, his poetry and Scottish culture and cuisine. I adapted my recipes from the simple, yet rich recipes on page 164 and 167 of Pippa Middleton's book, "Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Families and Friends."


Burns Night Menu

Authentic Burns Night Menu

Scottish Winter Soup Cullen Skink Snowbird Recipe
Scotland's most famous soup is amazing with a creamy thin broth, cod or smoked haddock, leeks, sweet onion, Yukon Gold potatoes, corn

Starter: Cullen Skink Soup

Main Course: Haggis and Clapshot (Neeps and Tatties) with Whiskey Sauce

Dessert: Cranachan (Raspberry Cream Parfait) or offer a cheese course


My Americanized Burns Night Menu

Starter: Scottish Winter Soup (Cullen Skink)

Main Course: Sausage Crumbles, Mashed Potatoes and Turnips (Clapshot / Neeps and Tatties) with Whiskey Sauce

Dessert: Raspberry Cream Parfait (Cranachan)


 

Burns Night Main Course

Sausage with Clapshot (Potatoes and Turnips / "Neeps and Tatties")

and Whiskey Gravy

Potatoes and Turnips (Clapshot) Ingredients

2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, quartered, then halved

1 1/3 cups turnips, peeled and quartered, then halved

Burns Night Clapshot
Try a traditional Scottish comfort food entree of mashed potatoes and turnips, served with whiskey gravy. The crumbled sausage emulates haggis

6 T. unsalted butter

1/4 cup fat free half and half*

1 t. garlic salt

1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper

1/4 t. dried parsley or 1 T. fresh parsley or chives (garnish)

Sausage Ingredients

12 oz. package sausage (seasoned or plain)

1 shallot, minced

1 t. fennel seeds

3/4 t. garlic salt

1/4 t. fresh cracked pepper

Optional: garnish with one tablespoon toasted oatmeal (in a nod to haggis) and dried or fresh parsley

Whiskey Gravy Ingredients

2 T. whole mustard

2 T. whiskey

2 T. butter

2 T. flour

3/4 cup fat free half and half*

1/2 t. garlic salt

 

Note: regular half and half or cream may be substituted in lieu of fat free half and half

 


Suggested Brands: Jimmy Dean® Reduced Fat Premium Sausage, Yukon Gold potatoes


Preparation

Sausage Crumbles

Toast oatmeal in a small sauce pan over medium heat until golden brown. Stir frequently, remove from heat, set aside in a small dish and let cool.

Saute crumbled sausage in medium skillet until browned. Drain excess grease. Add seasonings and minced shallot, stir until combined and shallots are softened. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Potatoes and Turnips (Clapshot)

Note: It may seem simpler to cook the turnips and potatoes in the same pot, then mash with an electric mixer. However, I tested the process both ways and it does make a difference in texture to follow the recipe exactly as written, then mash with a fork. I prefer the method as shown here.

Peel turnips and cut into quarters, then in half.

Cut unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes into quarters, then in half.

Bring two separate medium pots filled 2/3 with water and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat.

Add cut turnips to one pot and potatoes to the other pot.

Reduce the heat and boil both vegetables until fork tender, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Drain the water from potatoes and turnips, keeping each vegetable separate from the other.

Add half and half to the potatoes.

Add butter to the turnips.

Mash the potatoes with a fork. Repeat for the turnips. The texture can retain some chunkiness and doesn't need to be pureed.

Gently combine the potatoes and turnips into one pot. Stir in seasonings and keep warm.

Whiskey Gravy

Gently heat whiskey over low heat in small saucepan until alcohol evaporates.

Add butter and flour, whisking until smooth.

Add seasonings and whole grain mustard, whisking until combined.

Burns Night Table Setting
No fireplace? Set up a table in a cozy corner with an emphasis on tartan plaid and various textures plus flickering warm low lighting

Stir in half and half in small batches and whisk until smooth.

Reduce heat and keep warm.

Assembly/Presentation

If available, use a chef's ring to hold the shape of the potato-turnip (clapshot) mixture. Place chef's ring on a plate, then scoop clapshot into the chef's ring and fill to the rim.

Pull chef's ring up above the edge of the mixture and scoop sausage mixture on top.

Garnish with toasted oatmeal and parsley or chives.

If not using a chef's ring, place a portion of potato-turnips on the plate, top with sausage mixture and garnish with toasted oatmeal and parsley or chives.

Spoon whiskey gravy in a circle around the edge of the clapshot.

Add a shot of whiskey to the plate.

Repeat for each serving.

Serve warm - don't forget to toast the "haggis"

 


Servings:

Two or three -- there will be extra sausage crumbles and whiskey gravy


Serving Suggestion:

--As the main course for Burns Night

--Main course for lunch or dinner


Equipment List:

Burns Night Dessert Berry Parfait
A traditional Burns Night dessert, Cranachan is a refreshing Scottish berry parfait with toasted oats and whipped cream with whiskey and honey

--two medium pots

--one small sauce pan

--one medium skillet

--colander

--whisk

--measuring utensils

--cutting board

--knife

--fork

--spatula

--A 3" diameter chef's ring is recommended for stacking the entree, but not required


 

"My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go."

--Robert Burns, Scottish Poet and Lyricist, 1759 - 1796



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *