Some time ago I put up the menu for what I had planned for Christmas dinner on my blog. You would think with all that notice to myself I would have not been rushing around at the last minute buying ingredients and realising I had forgotten things. Well, to a point I didn’t. It went a lot smoother that I thought it would. The weekend before Christmas I started preparing, down the shops getting any ingredients that would last and making the stuffing for the Christmas Stuffed Apples.
So the Sunday before Christmas with glass of Baileys by my side I started the real prep. Grating the Bramley apple, just the one, not 4 like I had bought. Well I wasn’t sure once you grated them how much apple you got. The raisins, currents and shopped prunes go in with some muscavado sugar and suet. At this point it was smelling Christmassy but the best was yet to come, a spoonful of mixed spice and a couple of cinnamon. Mmmmmmm the smell as I mixed it up conjured up mince pies and then a good measure of rum and brandy goes in. Man it smelt good. Mixed up some more and then into the fridge to mature for a week.
That was it for a few days apart from buying some more ingredients. Time to make the Onion & Cider soup I think on the 23rd. No French onions anywhere so I get a mixture of sweet and strong onions, that was fun chopping those up, at least it was just into slices. I fry them off gently then let them soften in their own juices. Meanwhile the soup stock is started. Oh know, why didn’t I read the recipe before. I have to make a roux. I hear so many horror stories about this. Okay my first ever attempt, Weigh out the butter and flour, melting the butter, time to add the flour. I hesitate, double check whisk is at hand. Is the cider ready to pour on top once the roux is done? Okay no getting away from it must add the flour before I burn the butter. In it goes, whisking away, it’s working, it’s actually working. The roux goes nutty brown and the cider goes on. More intense whisking……… no lumps. I start smiling. Right add the beef stock now and we’re half way there. Oh, another problem, I don’t have a pot big enough for all the stock. Hmmm, ah Mr mixing bowl come here. I actually put the stock in the mixing bowl and add the cider/roux mix to it. Give it a good stir and fill the pan up again with this soup mix. As it reduced I added from the mixing bowl. FInally the stock is of the consistency I need and the onions are soft so the rest of the cider goes in to boil them off. Oh look, half a pint of cider left. Chef needs another drink I think. I leave all this to cool and then to chill until needed on the day. I did check it before and corrected the seasoning, it tastes good even without the finishes touches.
Later I decide to make the sorbet. La Trou Gascon, an Armagnac sorbet. White wine, Armagnac, sugar, water and liquid glucose. How much more simple can you get. I cook of the sugar syrup and add the alcohol and allow to cool. In the freezer and checking a little later I start to worry about the alcohol volume as it’s very liquid. No problem, it’ll freeze overnight. So on Christmas Eve I drop the Wife off to work and get the last minute things like salad oh and peppercorns (how did I run out of those?), goose fat (how was I going to roast those potatoes?) and onions and spices to boil my ham – nothing essential then!
Christmas Eve brings more Bailey’s and prepping. Peeling veg and par boiling, leaving in cold water overnight. I wanted to enjoy Christmas Day and spend as little in the kitchen as possible. Anyone who spends Christmas morning peeling veg must be mad. It will last and believe me, tastes just as good. I check the sorbet, damn, still not frozen. I look at the recipe again – oops – didn’t add enough water so i add some more and mix it in. Checking again later it’s icing up nicely – phew. Oh and having a lick of the spoon after I mixed it up it tastes great. All that#s left is to make the stuffing. Two types this year, both with sausage meat and then adding chestnut & mushroom to one and sage & onion to the other. Quick and easy and able to go in the fridge overnight before cooking on the day.
So the big day. I wake at 2 a.m. wondering if I have got everything I need. I sleep. I wake at half 2. and so on until I decide to go to another room before my Wife kills me for waking her up constantly. I manage an hour’s sleep and at half 6 I’m more interested in opening presents (I am still a kid at 37). I go back to bed and coax my Wife into opening the presents in our stocking. Great stuff, the usual, socks, sweets, chocolate coins and some very cool Guinness memorabilia. By this time it’s half 7 and I’m hungry so downstairs ready for breakfast, putting the turkey in while I’m there. I whip up some scrambled egg, my recipe, no milk, eggs, butter and once cooking, a dollop of mayo and don’t forget to season. Some smoked salmon and think cut bacon finish it off. Helped down by Wolf Blass Yellow Label sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay with an English blackcurrant Cassis.
Presents are opened and I run into the kitchen. Checking the turkey which has been in for two hours now. My Norfolk Black Turkey, only delivered a few days ago and looking great. A quick basting and oven shut again to carry on cooking. It took just under 5 hours in the end with great crispy skin, clear juices running out. I only prepared it by covering with butter and then layering bacon over the butter, covering in foil. Then with an hour left I removed the foil and bacon. The turkey comes out and rests. Goose fat heating up in the same pan the turkey was cooked ready for the potatoes, par boiled the day before. Veg goes in, spouts just need heating up.
Cider is poured on the table with the veg almost done so we can sit down to the soup. I heat this up, letting it simmer for a few minutes. Whisking up an egg yoke with some creme fraiche I also put a part baked baguette, sliced, under the grill in the oven, drizzled with some olive oil. It browns up nicely and some grated gruyere cheese goes on top. Something’s missing…… what? I can’t think to the egg mix goes on the bottom of the dish and the soup is poured on top and then the bread on top. We sit, we eat. Wow, fresh and fruity from the cider. The onions so soft and sweet. Just realised, I forgot to mix calvados into the egg and creme fraiche. Oh well, too late now but it doesn’t take anything away from the flavour. Bowls are soon empty, a nice light start, the cider is pretty amazing. A French one (yes French, I didn’t think they done cider), light, slightly sweet, reminded me of an Aspell’s type of cider.
We take a break now, as the main finishes off cooking and I make the gravy. At last I have made a gravy using pan juices and stock and amazingly no lumps. I am quite surprised as every time I have tried this it’s turned out lumpy. Turkey carved and veg placed on the warmed plates. My home made stuffing added on top of the turkey and we’re away. This course served up with a Pinot Noir from New Zealand, Villa Maria 2008. Pinot Noir was a suggestion from the great Olly Smith and he got it spot on. The Norfolk Black is more gamey than most turkey and a red goes so well with it.
We take a longer break for now having polished off the dinner and we open the white wine, a Chateau Neuf du Pape white. Such a creamy white and so smooth. I find it strange describing a white as smooth and can find no other word really. Damn, we forgot the sorbet between starter and main, so we have it now as still wanting a break. This is an Armagnac sorbet, another Le Gavroche recipe and contains a lot fo alcohol. It is just simply divine.
Meanwhile the apples, now stuffed are in the oven.They only take 20 minutes and the smell is soon getting us hungry. I pull the apples out and they’re nicely caramalised from the icing sugar, I deglaze the roasting tin with some brandy and pour it over the apples, a rum cream on the side too. A bit of icing sugar for presentation and to the table. For those who find Christmas pudding too rich, this is perfect. The stuffing is rich and fruity and with the Cox apple around it adding a freshness to clean your pallet as you go. We all pour some run sauce over the top for our alcohol fuelled pudding. Helped down with a dessert wine, just a muscadet but one that I found not as sweet as most.
We sit stuffed. A success I think, especially as I ate everything also. It was a fairly easy day, as little time spent in the kitchen as possible so I was not flustered or stressed. Able to enjoy the meal as much as everyone else. The one rule I always go by whether making Christmas dinner or holding a dinner party of any sort is, prepare as much as you can the day before, if not longer before. You can then talk to your friends, enjoy the day and best of all, enjoy the food you have just cooked.
I didn’t want to overload this post any more by putting exact recipes on here. If you’d like more details please let me know on the contact page and I will email you. For the starter,desert and sorbet you can actually get these all from the Le Gavroche cookbook.
Happy New Year to you all.