How to ace Xmas lunch
Worried about your turkey timings? Pondering over your potatoes? 11 Michelin-starred tips to help nail it on the day.
A few years back Hero (editor of Ox and Bucks) did a Christmas Cookery course at Le Manoir de Quat’Saisons in Great Milton. And it turns out that even she can turn out a decent meal with a Michelin chef in support! Take it away Hero…
I’ve never made a roi or shaved fennel trout since that day but one thing that has stayed the course is Le Manoir’s top tips for producing the killer Christmas roast. So here you go, tidings of great joy for anyone who hankers after perfect roasties and can’t be bothered to wrestle for hours with a turkey.
LE MANOIR TIPS FOR THE PERFECT XMAS DINNER
1. There’s no need to cook your turkey for hours and hours and hours and stuff butter down the turkey skin and all that jazz I’ve been doing for years. Baste the outside of the turkey in plenty of butter, and for a 5kg bird, cook for roughly 1.5 hours at 180C, reducing to 160C after roughly an hour of that time, basting regularly from one hour onwards. No need to turn the turkey upside down to cook it – all that does is flatten the breasts. Frankly there’s enough of that problem in the Muddy house without encouraging it further.
2. Use a temperature probe to test the thigh meat – if it’s 65C for the breasts or 70C on the thigh, the turkey is cooked. It’s that simple.
3. It’s OK to leave the turkey to rest for the length of time you cooked it. The bones of the turkey act like a radiator. The meat will still be warm by serving time. Just put it in the oven for 10 minutes to give the breasts a slight reheat and you’ll be good to go.
3. Buy Albert Bartlet Rooster potatoes (they’re in Morrisons and Asda and all over the TV at the mo). They’re the best for roasting by a country mile.
4. Check that your oven is doing what it’s supposed to by checking with an oven thermometer. It’s no good putting your turkey on at 180C for an hour if it’s actually cooking at 150!
5. A common mistake is to use salted butter – make sure yours is unsalted, Président is a goodie. You’ll be seasoning separately which is why you don’t need to do it twice.
6. Use goose fat for your potatoes if at all possible and pan fry before putting into the oven – they’ll be as close to divine as a humble spud can get.
7. Don’t worry about which way up the foil goes. In the oven it’s main purpose is to stop the meat over-browning.
8. For the gravy, if you can’t be bothered to make your own stock (er, no actually), Heston’s dark beef stock at Waitrose is recommended. No matter that it’s for beef, it will give a great depth of flavour to your gravy.
9. Never mind that it makes you look a bit poncey, season from a height! It will give a better distribution of flavour.
10. No need to stuff the stuffing where the sun don’t shine. Just make it into a sausage, wrap it tightly in foil and bake in the oven. When it comes out you can slice it like a salami. This will lower the cooking time of your birdy, as it takes longer with the stuffing in the cavity.
11. Buy the fun extras. A proper baster, an oven thermometer, a temperature probe, a roasting tray that fits snugly, a set of golf clubs, cuddly toy, and an electric blanket if you can remember the order on the conveyor belt.