Cooking Christmas dinner?
19th December 2018
The countdown is nearly over, the shopping is done, and now many of us are turning towards the big job of preparing the all important Christmas lunch!
For those joining us here at The Wroxeter we do all the hard work, we prep, prepare, serve and clear up afterwards…
But many of you will be cooking up the turkey for your family and friends - so we thought we would share some of our hints and tips to help you along!
Turkey can easily dry out so cook in plenty of butter, rubbed under the skin - fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lemon are excellent accompaniments, but do not overcook as this will contract the proteins in the meat and squeeze out flavour and moisture. If you are cooking a whole bird turn it upside down towards the end of cooking so that fat from the legs run into the breast. Leave the breast to rest in the fat at the end of cooking to reabsorb moisture and taste.
Always use the meat juices in the gravy - you can deglaze the cooking tray with wine to get all the tasty caramelised flavours from the tin into the sauce. The more water you add to the gravy, the more you dilute the flavour. Therefore add stock or wine. Rather than thickening with too much corn flour, reduce the stock and meat juices to thicken as this will remove the diluting water and intensify the flavour.
Use fresh herbs and sausage meat in the stuffing. Using a combination of chestnut puree for flavour and roasted chestnuts for texture is a good trick.
Pre boil roast potatoes until almost falling apart. Drain in colanders until all the steam and water has drained and evaporated. More water is less flavour and less crispy roast potatoes. Use a fluffy potato such as Maris Piper not a starchy potato - the rougher the edges the more fat can be absorbed. Lots of crispy flaky sides will create more crispier edges. Alternatively, when they are roasted, crack them all with a potato masher and put them back into the oven for amazing crispy roast potatoes. You can cook them in a combination of extra virgin olive and goose fat - or even truffle oil for an indulgent treat. Soak fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme in the olive oil and add at the last few minutes or they will burn during cooking. And make sure that the fat is heated up sufficiently before you add the boiled potatoes so that they sizzle when they hit the oil. Be careful not to splash yourself. Cook at 220 degrees for extra crispness.
Vegetables like sprouts will lose their flavour, colour and nutrition the longer they are in water as these 3 qualities are all water soluble. Therefore drop into rapidly boiling water for the minimum amount of time to retain vibrant colours, flavours and textures. Use more water than is required, as the temperature of the water will drop significantly when you add vegetables. More water retains the hotter temperature and requires less time for the vegetables to be in the water. Leave this until the last minute and serve immediately.
Root veg - Parsnips, butternut squash, carrots. Full of taste and colours. Boil first as with the roast potatoes but you do not need to fluff up. Leave them chunky or the ends will burn. You can throw in some chunky red quartered red onions to roast alongside the root vegetables - or chunky roasted beetroots for more colour and flavour combinations. Alternatively, towards the end be generous with local honey and sesame seeds to glaze.
The Bread Sauce
You can make your own bread sauce. Infuse milk first with onion and nutmeg and bay leaves before using and don’t be afraid to add more flavour and seasoning. Add double cream for a splash of luxury.
The Cranberry Sauce
Use fresh cranberries to make your sauce. Available everywhere this time of year and far superior to a jar of sauce. Add orange zest for a fruity zing or balsamic vinegar for a more piquant sweet and sour tartness.
Be adventurous and make some tasty bubble and squeak combinations with the honey roasted vegetables, chestnuts, goose fat crushed roasted potatoes, vibrant sprouts, fresh herbs and red onions. Pan fried and serve with your tasty meaty gravy or your homemade cranberry sauce.