Like they say in the glorified fight nights of old ... Welcome to the main event. Christmas Day cooking doesn’t need to involve any flurry combinations or knockout punches. For most, it’s a time of celebration when the key point is to spend time with those you love. For others, it can be a tough time for varied reasons. Either way, my goal with this week’s recipes is to remove the stress from the kitchen.
We are going to focus on the classics – turkey, ham and stuffing. The recipes are designed to utilize your oven effectively, helping you bring everything together at the one time, saving energy and avoiding stress in the meantime. Now, before we dive in, I’ll go through my five top tips for the dinner logistics. These are based on years of people asking/ringing/shouting/emailing me about it. So I’m delighted that from now on, I’ll just send them the online link to this article.
1. Make sure you are well stocked with tinfoil, baking parchment and tinfoil trays. Lining your oven trays with these before cooking will save you hours of washing up (I’ve been guilty of looking at that tray still “soaking” come New Year’s)
2. Portion control – you will have enough food. While I’ll be doing recipes with leftovers soon, you don’t want too many. We have enough food waste in the world and it’s an expensive enough holiday as it is.
3. Get cooking now. Things like cranberry sauce, puddings and even a really nice roast chicken gravy can be made from now on and stored in the fridge. In the case of the gravy, I freeze it down now and it’s one less job to worry about. I haven’t had anyone call me out on the difference between chicken and turkey gravy yet.
4. Equipment. There’s nothing wrong with using your microwave to save time, space and washing up, with certain dishes. Mashed potato, parsnip and carrot crush and gravy will all come out piping hot and delicious. They can be made in advance and kept in Tupperware ready to be reheated.
5. Seasoning. Once you follow the turkey and ham timings in my recipes, dinner will be absolutely safe to eat, so don’t stress if you’re not a confident cook. For everything else, a little dash of lemon juice, sprinkle of sea salt or a knob of butter will usually make good food great.
The first recipe is for the ham. I find baking the ham always offers a better result than boiling. I buy it bone-in and skin-on to avoid moisture loss. It bakes for three hours before a good hour’s rest to soak up all the juices again. This opens up the oven for the turkey crown. I also have a trick for adding a syrupy thick glaze. No in and out of hot ovens, basting boiling sugar glazes and a tray that needs a date with a powerhose after. It is ready to carve and serve after applying the glaze. Soy, honey and orange is a delicious combo by the way.
With the turkey, I only use the crown. It saves on space and waste. You can ask your butcher to remove the legs for you if you’d like and cook them separately. Brining is a fancy-named yet very simple kitchen process. It involves bathing the bird in a salt solution before roasting. For me, it’s the only way to achieve moist turkey. By only roasting the crown, rather than a whole bird, it cooks while your ham is resting and everything comes together at the same time. You’ll then have your oven free to cook your stuffing, potatoes and all the other garnishes.
I could probably take up the whole magazine with Christmas recipes for you to try, but I’m not allowed (this year anyway!). I’ll have brunch and leftovers ideas coming up in the next few weeks. For everything else, you’ll find some alternative recipes on my Christmas episode of Off Duty Chef on RTÉ television on December 21st at 6.30pm. Happy cooking and good luck!