Christmas was here, best time of year! Mistletoe and wine etc! But is Christmas dinner the best dinner that you can have?
I questioned that concept about 30 years ago and have not cooked on Christmas Day since. Even before then, I always experimented with what we would have on that special day. My first Christmas dinner ( one that I cooked rather than my Mom) I chose Suckling pig. However it, skinny little thing was too big for my minuscule oven, so had to chop it in two and I cooked the front end first. I duly stuffed his mouth with an apple and stuck him in the oven. As he roasted tears rain down his face, or so it seemed, have not cooked suckling pig since. So we have gone from various ideas, roast loin of pork, standing rib of dry aged beef, goose, duck, wild duck to Cajun Turkey ( Turkey which is deep fried, whole, cooks in no time at all, is not greasy as the boiling oil seals the bird very quickly and is as tasty as can be) however I have never roasted a turkey, with all the trimmings! I am not sure I would know where to begin.
So what do we have on Christmas Day. Well as it is a family day, all the family get involved, but it is very easy. We have home cured grav lax, which I cure in either gin or vodka and serve with sour cream wasabi créme, best smoked salmon, oysters, either freshly shucked or as in oysters Rockefeller , ( number one son is usually in charge of the shucking) boiled large shrimp/ prawns , cold meats such as Parma ham, fois gras with brioche, maybe home made Rillettes and some salmon pâté and an assortment of cheeses, Bleu D’auvergne, chèvre, tête de Moines, Camembert or Brie . We might also have Mont d’or, the wonderful cheese which, is so yummy when melted in its box and eaten with chunks of bread or simple plain boiled new potatoes.
So for the first time , as a newly extended family we were all together for our Christmas dinner, and we ate more or less what I have just mentioned. However, the next day newly wedded son and his beautiful bride took on the task of feeding us all. Not for them either was the traditional Turkey, but they had been watching Tom Kerridge on T.V and produced the most amazing roast turkey ever. Turkey breast beaten flat, stuffed with a mixture of ground pork/sausage meat mixed with herbs, spices , nuts and fruits. This is then rolled, tied up with string, wrapped in cling film and put in a low oven for about 2 hours. I have to admit to being very sceptical about the cling film in the oven ( although I have used it when making potato gnocchi and used in boiling water) so I waited with bated breath and WOW, it was moist and succulent and absolutely delicious. So apologies to Tom Kerridge, a brief synopsis is below with alterations to what we had available at the time.
It is served with a crumble topping which is made with mixture of
100 grams crushed pork scracthings
100 grams dried crisp crumbed bread
100 grams chopped pistachios
Some chopped dried cranberries, some thyme and some orange zest. We omitted the pork scracthings and the thyme, however added orange and lemon zest and chopped garlic confit.
The turkey is stuffed with sausage meat ( about 1 lb) , 5 onions chopped and sautéed until soft but not brown, chopped chestnuts about 4 oz ( the ones that you can buy vacuum packed, ie already cooked) fresh breadcrumbs, dried cranberries and junipers berries some black pepper. We also added crisped chopped bacon bits.
We had a turkey breast vacuum packed from Costco, which. Weighed 2.5 kilos, we unrolled it, bashed it a little and then spread a huge dollop of the stuffing on the turkey. Roll up the turkey, like a Swiss roll and place on a large sheet of cling film ( the type that is pre cut into set lengths will not work here). Completely wrap the turkey breast in the cling film and tie up with string, a bit like wrapping Christmas presents!
Heat the oven to 120 C. Take a large roasting tine and half fill it with boiling water, put a wire rack in the pan and place the turkey on this. Cover with aluminium foil, so in fact making a bit like a Bain Marie, the turkey does not touch the water. Cook for about 2 hours, check the inner temperature of the meat it should be 70C, remember this is poultry so important that it is cooked through. Rest for about 30 mins covered with aluminium foil. Meanwhile, make a date sauce, by sautéing 1 chopped onion with 1/4 cup chopped ginger, 2 chopped cloves of garlic,, when onions are soft add one cup of finely chopped dates, along with 2 tabs of balsamic vinegar. Simmer adding a cup of vegetable stock. Reduce, until the sauce is thick and yummy, taste and adjust the seasoning.
Brush a thick layer of sauce over the turkey and top with the crumble mix. Of course according to Tom Kerridge, you do not even have to make your own sauce as good old HP brown sauce does the trick! Yummy give it a try and for all those families who a) do not like brown meat or b) get tired very easily of inventing ways to use up turkey, then this one for you!
Meanwhile I have learnt tow new French words. Emmerdeur ( Emmerdeuse) and Crosne.
The former is one I can use to describe Himself, from time to time as it means “A pain in the neck” and the other, is a type of edible tuber, with mint type leaves. They are called thus in French after a town, where they were first grown in Europe. They taste similar to Jerusalem artichokes, can be eaten raw in a salad, or sauté in butter and garlic for a side dish, or cooked with potatoes in stock along with cream and garlic blended for a soup!
They are labour intensive in cultivation hence they cost a whopping €15 a kilo! (Actually having taken a photo of them, I must admit, they look like giant maggots!) they are only ever washed and never peeled.