Josh's Christmas Dinner Tips - Part 2
Continuing on from my previous post, here are 5 more Christmas Dinner tips to make this year’s feast the best one yet…
The crispy skin on the roast bird is always my favourite part of any Christmas roast.
But there's never enough to go around, and it usually ends up causing some kind of family feud!
Satisfy your umami urges by introducing another element to the roast - simply ask for some chicken skin from your butcher, and bake it between a couple of trays at 180 degrees until it’s golden brown and crispy. Once cooled, break into shards and sprinkle with chopped thyme and smoked salt, and you've just saved Christmas - crispy skin for everyone!
Prepare the trimmings!
All the best chefs know that cooking is all about the preparation. There are so many little jobs you can do beforehand that can make Christmas Day a breeze. With perhaps over 10 ‘trimmings’ to think about, the more you prepare before Christmas, the easier your day will be.
I always peel and cut my roast potatoes the day before, and leave them in a pan of cold water in the kitchen. No potato peeling mess and you can get them straight on to par-boil first thing. I also like to blanch all my greens in the morning, so that I can quickly re-heat and season in some hot salted butter, black pepper and a touch of lemon just before serving. They’ll be vibrant green and you will be safe in the knowledge that your veg isn’t going to be under/overcooked.
There’s no point making sure everything is perfectly cooked and seasoned, if you then drown it all in flavourless, lumpy, instant gravy with a bit of roasting juice floating on top. You should take gravy very seriously, and make sure you know exactly how you are going to go about making yours!
The key to a truly special Christmas gravy is to have a vegetable (shallot, garlic, carrot, celery, plenty of hard herbs) trivet underneath the bird, with a bit of good quality wine and the giblets added. Once all your roasting juices are collected, skim off the fat and use this to make a roux rather than butter for an even meatier flavour. I always finish my gravies with things like cranberry jelly or a sweet fruit vinegar (damson or blueberry) and plenty of finely chopped fresh thyme.
Bread sauce can often be the stodgiest and most pointless addition to a roast. But if you want to maximise the flavour, get hold of a really nice loaf of sourdough from your nearest hipster bakery and use this instead of just normal white bread. If you really want to pile on the winter pounds, then why not try a brioche bread sauce?! Just make sure you’ve got a defibrillator in the dining room…
Once the main event is all over and you’ve blown away your guests with a moist bird, decadent gravy, luxurious trimmings and maybe even the sprouts, it’s time for dessert!
Whether or not you have Christmas pudding beforehand, a strong cheeseboard is essential eating to take you into the evening; ideally by the fire with a bottle of port!
Buy a really good range of the best quality cheese you can afford - and plenty of decent crackers, grapes, celery and chutney. But PLEASE do one thing. Take your cheese out of the fridge at least 2 hours before you want to eat it. Cold cheese is like having unseasoned food - you’re missing out on so much flavour!
All these tips will help you make this year’s meal stand out from the rest and give you more time to really enjoy this special time with your loved ones.
Every year you learn something new - what other tricks and tips do you have to make this Christmas dinner the best ever?