Alex Bond, Chef and owner of Alchemilla restaurant in Nottingham, shares some of his expertise and tips to help make your Christmas day stress free so that you can enjoy the day with your family and friends.
As Alex said: “For most cooks, the biggest worry is that they will spend the day melting in the kitchen with a partially cooked turkey whilst their guests get ever more hangry waiting at the table. However, with some good preparation you can take the pressure out of cooking Christmas dinner and ensure that everyone has a wonderful day.”
As Alex continued: “Obviously on my free days I want to spend as much time with my family as possible, so this year we are hoping to have a lovely relaxed Christmas Day with just my wife and little girl. It will be the first holiday that I have taken off since we launched the restaurant in August and I am really looking forward to the break.”
So, what does a chef cook at home for Christmas dinner? As Alex explains: “I am traditional when it comes to Christmas Day and this year I will be making a roast turkey with all of the trimmings. One way that I get ahead is by prepping the vegetables on Christmas Eve and making the sauces and accompaniments in advance.”
Alex’s Christmas Day menu will include a Roast turkey sourced from Johnny Pusztai at JT Beedham butchers in Sherwood, traditional pork and thyme stuffing, sausages wrapped in bacon along with homemade gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, braised red cabbage, roast potatoes in goose fat, roast parsnips and carrots and pan-fried brussels sprouts with chestnuts and Johnny’s bacon. To follow we will be having a Christmas pudding with brandy butter.
Prep the veggies ahead
Alex gets ahead par boiling the potatoes on Christmas Eve, draining them and then roughing them in the pan to ensure a crispy coating when you have roasted them in goose fat the following day.
The Brussels sprouts can be trimmed by removing any old outer leaves and a cross cut in the base of each, keep these in a plastic bag in the fridge for the next day.
Alex also makes his braised cabbage, cranberry and bread sauces ahead.
Alex advises buying a turkey with the giblets which should be removed and used to make the gravy stock. A good rule of thumb is to allow the bird to come up to room temperature an hour before placing in the oven and once it is cooked allow it 30 minutes resting time. He also brines the bird on Christmas Eve. For a 4-4.5kg turkey mix 800g of kitchen salt with 10 litres water in a clean container and stir until the salt has dissolved. Submerge the turkey in the brine, cover with a lid or foil and leave in a cool place for 9 hours or overnight. Remove the bird from the brine and submerge it in cold water for 1 hour, changing the water at 15-minute intervals. Dry the turkey well with kitchen roll
On Christmas day morning, take the turkey out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature for at least one hour before cooking. You will need to work backwards from the time that you want to eat, but for a 4.5kg turkey I would allow at least 4.5 hours plus time for the oven to get to temperature. Preheat the oven to 210°C, fan oven 200°C or gas mark 6.5. With clean hands, work the skin away from the flesh of the bird and rub 100g butter between the skin and the flesh, being careful not to tear the skin. Rub any remaining butter over the skin of the bird. Season with salt and black pepper. Set the bird on top of three sliced onions, two sliced carrots and three sliced leeks in a roasting tin; add 50ml of dry white wine and cook in the oven for 30 minutes to colour the skin. Meanwhile melt 100g butter in a small saucepan and add a few sprigs each of rosemary and thyme.
Now the turkey has browned, reduce the oven temperature to 130°C, fan oven 120°C, gas mark 0.5. Baste the turkey with the herb butter and cook until the thickest part around the neck or thigh reaches 70°C. Continue basting every 45 minutes (when the butter gets used up, use the cooking juices in the roasting tin to baste). This should take 3 to 3 and a half hours, depending on the size of the turkey and the type of oven. It is important to check that the turkey is cooked by cutting into the thickest part (between the breast and thigh) to check that none of the meat is pink, and the juices run clear.
Remove the turkey from the oven and allow to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving. Reserve the pan juices and vegetables for making the gravy.
With these few easy hints and tips, you can ensure that Christmas Day 2017 is a little less fraught and a little more festive this year.