Stress Free Christmas Entertaining
Words: Daniel Nowland
Obviously, it being December, I feel compelled to talk about Christmas dinners! Personally, it’s one of my favourite meals of the year, and it’s always a dilemma between sticking to what I know and love, or trying something a little more adventurous.
Assuming, like me, you are a sucker for tradition, I will offer a few tips to take some of the stress away to make sure the cook in the house also gets to enjoy Christmas morning.
For me, the first thing to consider is getting the timing right. Eat too early and it will consume your whole morning, eat too late and you’ll likely have no room for supper. We tend to eat at around 4pm, which gives us time to enjoy a good breakfast, not rush the lunch, and then still enjoy a late night buffet on Christmas night.
Choosing your main centerpiece for Christmas day can be a tough choice! My personal advice is to choose the one you will enjoy the most — and don’t overwork yourself by attempting to roast several different meats, as usually this causes more stress and probably won’t result in a more enjoyable meal.
My favourite Christmas day meat is a rolled turkey breast and thigh joint. Turkey thigh meat is the most flavoursome part of the bird, and although darker in colour, it cooks beautifully rolled up inside the breast meat, giving you the best of both worlds. As these joints come rolled and tied, they also take up much less space inside the oven than a whole bird with its various limbs protruding from your roasting tin!
If you are cooking a roast dinner for a group this Christmas (as I always do!), I can offer the following tips to minimise hassle and stress:
* Make your gravy several days in advance. A good gravy can make or break your dinner, and if you get it perfect a few days before, it’s one less thing to worry about. I like to add a touch of cranberry jelly and good balsamic vinegar to mine to make sure it packs a punch.
* Equip yourself with a meat thermometer. Your turkey should be cooked to 72℃ in the centre, but hotter than this and it will start to dry out. Check it regularly, and once it reaches 72℃ in the thickest part, take it out, cover it, and rest it for as long as necessary. This will keep it juicy and tender, and some piping hot gravy will help if it cools too much.
* Part cooking and then roasting your veg is a great way of freeing up space in the kitchen, and reducing the number of pans to wash. I often partly boil veg on Christmas eve such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc, fill some roasting tins and they are ready to slide into the oven on Christmas day. Good olive oil, fresh herbs and seasoning can be added to the veg before baking to make sure everything is tasty.
* Don’t boil your sprouts!! Most people don’t like sprouts because they are too often boiled and bitter. My favourite method is to finely slice them, and then quickly fry them with a little butter, cider vinegar and seasoning. Just three or four minutes in a pan and they will be bright, crunchy, sweet and delicious.
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