Christmas Turkey and all the Trimmings! How those words fill me with dread. I'm sure you know why. It conjures up visions of: stale food kept under hot lamps, old people's homes, Bisto packet gravy, office parties, forced jollity, soggy Brussels Sprouts, paper crowns (both on the head and on the bird), dry turkey, and last and least, ready made packet stuffing.
It doesn't have to be like that. Cooking a Christmas dinner or lunch is not especially difficult; it just needs a bit of planning. Here are some nuggets of wisdom:
If at all possible, try and buy a fresh bird, and avoid a frozen specimen. If you've left it too late and are forced to buy a frozen bird, for God's sake make sure that it is properly de-frosted. Rub the turkey with butter, and season it with salt and pepper. Place rashers of bacon over the breast. Wrap the turkey in tin foil, so that there is air circulating around the bird. Being impatient, I'm a fan of the fast school of cooking. Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, gas mark 6) for birds weighing up to 6kg (13lb). Cook them for 26 minutes per kg (12 mins per lb). Once the turkey's properly cooked, let it rest for at least 15 minutes. Cover the bird with tin-foil, and a cloth while its resting. This will help to keep it moist.
For health reasons, it's not a good idea to stuff the turkey the night before. If possible, stuff the bird just before it goes into the oven. My chestnut and watercress stuffing is delicious.
I like to put chipolatas around the bird. Check them towards the end of the cooking period, to make sure they don't burn.
Skin your potatoes, and par-boil them for ten minutes. Drain, and put them back in the saucepan. Put the lid back on and shake the pan around so that they get fluffy. Another way to do it, would be to scrape them with a fork. Melt some goose fat (available tinned in supermarkets) in a roasting tin, and add the potatoes, making sure that they get covered with the fat. They'll take about 40-50 minutes in a hot oven.
Cook in a similar way to the potatoes, making sure that they are basted in fat before the go into the oven. I find that parsnips cook quicker than potatoes, and should take about 30 minutes. Make sure they don't burn.
Not everyone's cup of tea by any account. No need to make a deep "cross" in the root, and if you're going to boil them, make sure that they are slightly undercooked and crunchy. Put masses of sea salt into the water (this will help keep them green), and plunge them straight into the rapidly boiling water. To be different, try Brussels Sprouts in Riesling with Bacon.
I love this traditional English sauce, which is also excellent with game. Make sure it's not too thick. Here's the link.
Home-made si vous plait. Bisto's a dirty word. It's simplicity itself. Once you've removed the turkey from the roasting pan, you will see that there is a bit of fat and various bits of pieces left in the bottom of the pan. Keep the pan on the heat, and stir in a spoonful of flour. Whisk it into the fat, to remove any lumps. Cook the flour for a few minutes. Add a decent splash of wine and some stock, and let it bubble away. Add a spoonful of redcurrant jelly, and season with salt and pepper. I like to add a dash of soy sauce, which helps the gravy to turn a nice brown colour. If the gravy's too thick, add some more stock. Personally, I like my gravy to be thin. It's a personal thing.