Unless you are planning on eating your Christmas lunch in a restaurant it is highly likely that, come Christmas morning, you will be up early, fretting over a large turkey. At a time when all you want to do is relax with family and friends, the responsibility for cooking such a large bird can hang like an albatross around your neck, causing stress and apprehension. Well, if that’s the case, maybe I can help.
Your first obstacle is a mental one. Any resentment over your role will inevitably spill out, souring the atmosphere and tainting the food, so you must give yourself willingly and lovingly to the task. Try to relax. Occasionally I get roped into playing golf. If I try too hard, I get uptight, and I’m rubbish. If, however, I take a deep breath, drop my shoulders, and think “who gives a ****”, then more often than not, I hit the ball relatively straight. It’s not an ideal metaphor, but I’m sure you get my point.
The second obstacle is logistics. Can I really cook for all these people? Will it be ready on time? Cooking for a large number of people is pretty much the same as cooking for two; it just takes longer to prepare. Break down your menu into small tasks. List them in the order that you need to tackle them, then methodically work your way through it, giving yourself plenty of time.
Your first job is to make the stuffing, which can be done the day before, as on Christmas morning your priority is cooking the turkey; once that is in the oven all other timings relate to that. I always remove the legs, bone and roll them, and cook them separately. This reduces the cooking time, ensuring the breast meat doesn’t dry out. It’s also a good idea to remove the wishbone, as this makes it much easier to carve. Your butcher should happily do all this for you. Weigh the breast crown and roast for 20 minutes per 500g at 180C, putting the legs in at the same time. Stuff the crown at the neck end, pulling the skin down to hold it in place. Butter and season the turkey, then pop into a preheated oven at 180C.
Now you can turn your attention to the trimmings. For perfect roast potatoes use King Edward or Desiree. Peel, quarter and place into cold water, bring to the boil and cook until a skewer can be pushed through. Drain in a colander, and gently shake to rough up the surfaces. Place them, curved side down, into hot vegetable oil and roast for about an hour, turning every 15 minutes. Whilst they are cooking wrap the chipolatas in bacon and peel the Brussel sprouts. Cutting a cross in the base helps them to cook evenly.
When the turkey is cooked remove from the roasting tray and insert a sharp knife into the thickest part by the wing joint (the juices should run clear, if they still look pink return to the oven for a little longer). Leave to rest for 20 minutes, covered with foil. Whilst it rests, pop the bacon wrapped chipolatas in the oven, cook the sprouts, and make your gravy in the roasting tray.
Have a great Christmas.
Chestnut, Onion & Sage Stuffing
- Finely dice 1 large onion and simmer in milk for 5 minutes.
- Process half a loaf of white bread to make coarse breadcrumbs.
- Stir in the onions, a teaspoon of mustard, a tablespoon of chopped sage, and 250g of roughly chopped cooked chestnuts.
- Mix in 100g of soft butter & 1 egg. Season to taste.
- Push the stuffing together and push into the neck cavity.
Vegetables: Jerusalem Artichokes, Red Cabbage, Celery, Parsnips
Fish: Black Bream, Herring, Lobster, Mackerel, Mussels, Native Oysters, Turbot
Fruit & Nuts: Apples, Pears
Meat: Partridge, pheasant, Turkey, Mallard