Everyone loves the festive time of the year, whether it be the smell of mulled drinks radiating from one of the many pop up bar’s thought the streets of the Christmas markets or the rush and buzz of the city filling up with last minute shoppers trying to get loved ones that perfect gift. Me personally I love the anticipation of that amazing bird coming out of the oven on Christmas morning! Why do we only eat turkey at this time of the year? It’s a great alternative to chicken and for the health conscious among us very lean and healthy. Though this does beg the question of would it be so special on Christmas morning if we had it all year round?
Turkey seems the best place to start…
1. Turkey (as we say in Northern Ireland) or Terkey as pounced the scouse way… Cooking a turkey can be made so much simpler if doing a few steps. If you are buying a turkey from your butcher you can ask for it prepared so many ways now, the butcher will remove the giblets for you and prepare the bird for cooking. Butter is your friend when cooking a turkey. Make some incisions and stuff little pockets of butter into the flesh to ensure moisture is retained. Stuff the cavity with an orange, a lemon &* some thyme for fresh aromas and some amazing juices for your gravy later!
2. Gammon…This is a bone of contention in my kitchen as hailing from Belfast, we always have a cooked gammon on Christmas day along with our turkey. Being surrounded by the local Liverpool community in my kitchen on a daily basis I have been told that this is not the norm in a scouse household on Christmas. Anyways sometimes people are right and sometimes people are wrong…on this occasion I am right. Gammon is a great addition to your Christmas day meal and cooked overnight on a low heat in a dry cider and cola mixture will ensure the right level of moist meat inside with a crispy outer.
3. Stuffing… Stuffing is by far my favourite part of Christmas dinner. Traditional sage and onion stuffing can come alive with the addition of some walnuts and cranberries. Make the stuffing mix in a pot and press into a lined baking tin. Once cooked remove the foil and give another 10 minutes cooking to ensure a crispy bottom. I know in my household its always a fight to get the crispy bits of the stuffing.
4. Roast Potatoes… This can be a time consuming tip but you will get the most amazing fluffy centred and crispy outer roast potatoes ever. Triple cooked was a craze that took over the restaurant world a few years back and I still love triple cooked chips now. With this process the first two cooks can be done on Christmas Eve. Boil the roast potatoes for around 15 minutes until they soften slightly. Allow them to cool then roast them in some olive oil, salt and pepper at 140c for a half hour or until golden. Allow to cool then finish at 180c for around 20 minutes or nice and crispy on the outside.
5. Creamed potatoes – Buy a ricer, one of the best things available to commercial kitchens and now widely available for a small cost from most cookware stores. Once your potatoes are riced, beat in butter, double cream, salt & white pepper to your own taste. By beat in I actually mean whisk your potatoes until your arm is sore, there is nothing worse than lumpy potatoes. For a nice fresh hit, add in spring onions.
6. Carrot & Parsnip – A lot like the roast potatoes, the best thing to do is pre boil for a few minutes and allow to cool, when finally roasting, use a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of honey for a sweet finish.
7. Brussel Sprouts – Love them or hate them they always seem to end up on our plates at Christmas dinner. A great way to give them some punch is to par boil and pan fry them in a mixture of crispy pancetta and panko breadcrumbs. This adds a great Smokey flavour from the pancetta and a crunchy texture for the breadcrumb.
8. Pigs in Blankets – Buy a good quality chipolata sausage and wrap it in a nice smoked streaky bacon. I understand that we can buy these pre made but the flavour when you make them yourself is so much better and makes all the difference. Finish with a drizzle of honey and some sesame seeds for an extra flavour hit.
9. Gravy – Some people like their dinner to swim in the stuff so it need to have a lot of flavour. Use the juice from your turkey and add some stock. Allow to reduce on the hob, buy a good quality poultry gravy mix and add this towards the end. I like to add some fresh thyme to my gravy at the end to give a fragment aroma as it’s the last thing we put on the plate.
10. Left-overs – Christmas night and Boxing Day are both made for a leftover Christmas dinner sandwich. Turkey, gammon & stuffing with a cranberry mayonnaise is my favourite but there are lots of combinations. Another thing that sticks out when thinking of a leftover sandwich is from a popular American sitcom. The moist maker (a gravy soaked piece of bread in your sandwich to keep the meat moist) I have yet to try it but this could be the year.
Merry Christmas from myself and the entire team at Aloft Liverpool & NYL Restaurant & Bar