Josh's Top 10 Christmas Dinner Tips - Part 1
There’s always a lot of pressure on those of us who are trusted to prepare the Christmas feast. Sure, your weekly roasts may be legendary - but the Christmas Dinner throws up a few challenges and seeing as it’s the most special meal of the year, so you’ve got to up your normal roast game: Extra guests, awkward dietary requirements, planning your cooking around the gift opening sessions, and a constant supply of Christmas booze all mean that the heat is on for the head chef on the 25th.
But I have a few tricks that I want to share with you, to help ease the pressure and allow you to spend more time round the tree with the family, rather than by the oven with the meat & veg.
1. Truffled Scrambled Eggs
Christmas time is about indulgence. It’s about eating well and drinking well. If you’re going to be on the Champagne from the early hours (and maybe even topping up from the night before), you’re going to need a hearty breakfast.
Scrambled eggs are usually my go to christmas morning meal - but I up the indulgence levels by finishing them with either fresh truffle, a good truffle oil, or even some truffle salt. Why not go one step further and use the eggs to match your chosen bird for lunch - duck or goose eggs are easily available, but turkey eggs are a bit more of a rarity at this time of year.
2. Brine your bird
You’ve finally decided what kind of bird you’re cooking this year, done your research, found a cracking supplier, had the delivery and all that’s left is to cook the thing! Don’t let all your hard work go to waste - nobody is going to care about that turkey’s wonderful life in a 10 acre field with all its turkey friends if you manage to turn it into turkey jerky.
Brining keeps the meat incredibly moist and seasons the bird throughout, rather than just on the surface. Brining that bird might be your best present you give family this Christmas!
On the 23rd of December, make a 6% brine (300g of salt dissolved into 5 litres of water should do for a 2kg bird). Add aromatics such as thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, cinnamon, peppercorns, a few halved lemons. Make sure all the salt has dissolved and the brine is fridge cold, then submerge the bird and leave in a cold place until the 25th. Rinse, dry and roast as normal for the best bird you’ve ever eaten!
3. Bring home the bacon
If you’re roasting a small bird like a duck, goose, or chicken, there’s no need to give it a bacon jacket. But a large turkey needs a bit of protection and basting - bacon will do both.
Just as you would never add a bit of orange squash to a delicious glass of vintage champagne, why would you cover your beautiful free-range organic turkey with smart-price bacon?!
Get a nice thick-cut smoked streaky bacon. It’ll have a better fat content and won’t get too crispy or burn - keeping your turkey well basted and stopping it from tasting like burnt pig fat!
4. Rest your meat!
Home cooks are often a bit scared of resting their roasts. Understandably, they are worried about serving luke-warm meat and for how long should you even rest meat anyway?!
As a rule of thumb, I rest large cuts of meat/whole animals for at least half the time for which they have been cooking. My 2 hour roast chicken will rest for a good hour before even thinking about carving. This allows the hot juices to cool down slightly and be fully re-absorbed by the meat.
As long as you keep the meat well covered with tin foil and a thick cloth, the heat will be retained. You’ll have more time to concentrate on all the trimmings, perfect your gravy, and make sure your own wine glass is topped up!
5. Liver Parfait
I like to make use of every part of the bird, and another way to make your Christmas feast even more extravagant is to make a liver parfait. I’ve never tried making turkey liver parfait but I’m sure it would be just as delicious as its
chicken, duck or goose liver counterparts.
You can either serve this is a starter on
Christmas or Boxing day, or go all-out and serve it as a luxurious side dish with he main event! Give it a special lift by caramelising the surface before serving, just like a créme brûlée. Heston’s recipe has yet to beaten, in my opinion!