Christmas Dinner – Turkey

In England, the evolution of the main course into turkey did not take place for years, or even centuries. At first, in medieval England, the main course was either a peacock or a boar, the boar usually the mainstay. The turkey appeared on Christmas tables in England in the 16th century, and popular history tells of King Henry VIII being first English monarch to have turkey for Christmas. The tradition of turkey at Christmas rapidly spread throughout England in the 17th century, and it also became common to serve goose which remained the predominant roast until the Victorian era. A famous Christmas dinner scene appears in  A Christmas Carol (1843), where Scrooge sends a large turkey to Bob Cratchit’s house.

  • 2 teaspoons rubbed sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 pinch dried thyme
  • 1 (16 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 orange, peeled, sectioned, and cut into bite-size pieces

Preheat an oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Combine sage, salt, and thyme in a small bowl. Rub half of the sage mixture all over the turkey, then place the turkey in a large roasting pan. Set remaining sage mixture aside. Bring butter, orange juice, orange marmalade, honey, and orange sections to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until thickened, stirring occasionally, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the remaining sage mixture. Brush the turkey with the glaze.

Put the bird in a covered roasting pan, you know the type, that enameled monstrosity that Grandma uses. Bake the turkey in the preheated oven for 5 hours and 30 minutes, basting every so often. I say this because I just don’t find that basting makes a whole lot of difference, and just releases the heat from the oven.

An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, near the bone should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove the turkey from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area 10 to 15 minutes before slicing.

Letting the meat rest is the most important part of getting good slices of turkey. If the bird don’t rest, you don’t get good carving.

So, let us all rest… and have some turkey with friends!

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Ham – Nigella Lawson

Christmas time is a great time for a nice country ham. But the store bought hams tend to be too salty for my taste so I take Nigella Lawson’s advice. Instead of soaking the ham to get rid of excess salt from the smoking process, I cover it with cold water in a large stock pot, bring it just to the boil, then throw out the water and put in fresh cold water. I then add the rest of the ingredients and bring it back up to the boil again and start the cooking time from this point. Check with your butcher though, if he says that the ham doesn’t need soaking at all then you’ll be ok without this step, unless you’d like to get rid of some of the salt anyway.

To calculate cooking time work on  30 minutes per lb plus 20 minutes. The meat should be loosening from the bone slightly without crumbling completely to pieces when it is cooked.

  • Ham weighing about 4lbs
  • 1.5 pints apple juice or cider
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 10 peppercorns
  • bunch of herbs (thyme, parsley, rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

After you have got rid of excess salt as above, put all the ingredients except the sugar into a big pot, cover with cold water and bring to boiling point. Add the sugar now. Turn the heat down so that the water is simmering not too energetically and cook for the allotted time as above. If you are going to eat the gammon hot you can serve at once. If you want it cold, leave to cool in the stock to retain moistness in the meat. Once it is cool take the ham out of the stock. Cut the tough rind away from the fat and smother the fat and meat with your chosen glaze ingredients.

Glaze
My favourite glaze is a mix of grainy mustard and dark brown sugar, two tablespoons of each mixed together. Sometimes I squeeze in some orange juice or use honey instead of sugar, then I usually put in a teaspoon of mustard powder too to thicken the glaze. Experiment with your favourite flavours. Mustard is always a good one for ham though. The glaze should be fairly thick, so it doesn’t run straight off the ham again. Put the glazed ham under the grill/broiler for ten minutes or so to set it.

Always cook yourself a bigger ham than you actually need as the leftovers are so good you’ll be happy to eat them all week!

Traditional Christmas Goose

A favorite amongst the Irish, Germans, and English is the traditional Christmas goose.

Filling the cavity with fruit, not only gives the roasting goose a wonderful flavor and scent; it also makes your kitchen smell divine. Also, carefully pricking the skin is the secret to a beautiful crispy finish.

  • 1 (10-12 pound) young goose, fully thawed
  • 1 1/2 gallon cold water
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Stuffing

  • 1 apple, peeled and quartered
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 orange, quartered
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Add the 1 1/2 gallons of cold water to a container, or stockpot large enough to fit the goose and brine mixture. Add the salt, sugar, and peppercorns, and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Unwrap the goose and remove anything in the cavity. Rinse and trim any excess fat from the neck and/or tail end of the goose and place into the brine so that it is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.

Remove the goose from the brine and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle the goose cavity generously with salt and pepper. Put the onion, apple, orange and lemon into the cavity. Place the goose, breast-side up, in a large roasting pan with rack, to keep it at least 1 inch off the bottom. If you dont have a rack, I’ve often cut apple rings and used that to keep the goose off the bottom.

With a small sharp knife prick the goose skin all-over, especially where you can see and feel fat under the surface. Be carefully NOT to piece the flesh, only the skin and fat. This will allow the fat to drain during the cooking and make for a crisper skin. Salt and pepper the goose to taste, and add 2 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.

Roast at 350 degrees F. for 2 1/4 to 3 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees F. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 25 minutes before carving. Its very important to rest, especially around the holidays.

The Week Ahead

So far this month we have explored a week of Christmas cookies, and a week of holiday drinks. Now, heading into the holiday itself, I want to look at the various main dishes that make a ‘traditional’ Christmas feast, from a smoked roast goose, to glazed hams.

The week ahead will highlight a main dish and the culture from which it comes. From Germany the tradition of the roast goose, from England the roast turkey, from Ireland the ham, and the American roast beef.

As I gather my notes and start organizing my thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment here describing what your traditional Christmas diner is, or your favorite holiday side dish.

Until next week, stay well, and eat well!

Santa’s Little Helper – 05

An eye-opening white hot chocolate helps to make he season bright. This ‘little helper’ is a combination of white hot coco, espresso, and peppermint schnapps.

  • 1 pint milk
  • brewed espresso
  • 1 5 oz white chocolate bar grated
  • Peppermint schnapps
  • Whipped cream, for garnish
  • Peppermint stick, for garnish

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat until steaming, 3 to 5 minutes while whisking in the grated chocolate.  In a large mug, mix together the espresso and schnapps. Stir in the steamed hot coco. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and a peppermint stick.

Santa’s Little Helper – 04

Eggnog, a traditional holiday drink, whether sprinkled with nutmeg, or cinnamon, prepared with fresh eggs or egg-products, raw or cooked, made with bourbon, rye, vodka, or whisky, there are as many variations as there are holiday mixologists. My personal favorite fuel for this drink is pure Kentucky bourbon. It adds a cetain depth of flavor the just cannot be achieved using vodka.

  •  4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 ounces bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 egg whites

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Add the milk, cream, bourbon and nutmeg and stir to combine.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. With the mixer still running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.

Whisk the egg whites into the mixture. Chill and serve. I was going to include some fancy little disclaimer about consuming raw eggs, but then I thought ‘it’s the holidays’ let’s give the legalize a rest and live for the moment!

Santa’s Little Helper – 03

Taken from Mr Wood’s (WHB) English literature class…

“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavor to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!”  – Charles Dickens

What is this smoking Bishop of which they speak? It’s a holiday mulled wine. Here is the secret recipe to the literary treasure…

  • 5 Florida oranges not the navel oranges
  • ¼ lb sugar to taste
  • 2 bottles Duck Walk red wine or other “not too expensive” red wine
  • 1 bottle ruby port
  • cloves

Bake the oranges in the oven until they are pale brown and then put them into a warmed earthenware bowl with five cloves pricked into each. Add the sugar and pour in the wine – not the port. Cover and leave in a warm place for about a day.

To save on time, I put the wine, oranges, cloves and sugar into a large stock-pot and slowly warm the mixture for about a half an hour instead of leaving it in a warm place for a day.

Cut the oranges in half and squeeze them into the wine and pour it through a sieve. Add the port and heat, but do not boil.

Pour into mugs and serve ‘smoking hot’ whether Bob and Scrooge show up or not.

Santa’s Little Helper – 02

Santa’s little helper part two – my own version of the holiday Irish Coffee because there’s nothing like a little eye opener while waiting for the big guy to unpack the presents.

You will need:

  • A coffee pot
  • ground coffee for brewing about ten cups
  • Cinnamon
  • Jameson Irish Whisky
  • Baileys Cream Liquor
  • Whipped Cream

I start by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the coffee grinds for brewing a 10 cup pot of coffee. Once the coffee has brewed, I get the mugs.

Into each mug a pour a pony ( 1oz) of Jameson then add the coffee. Then, I add a jigger (1.5 oz) of Baileys and then top each with a shot of whipped cream from a can. It has to be the canned whipped cream, the creamiest one you can find. I use the Redi-whip and not the foo-foo no fat one either!

Now I often sprinkle just a touch of cinnamon on top before serving.

Santa’s Little Helper – 01

Santa’s little helper, part one – a citrus hot chocolate for the holidays. I enjoy making this as a dessert course for friends when they pop over for feeding. I don’t know of any local chocolate plantations but there are dairies in the area, like Elmhurst dairy right here in Jamaica! (http://www.elmhurstdairy.com/)

  •  Quart of whole milk
  • 5.3 oz Lindt chocolate bar
  • 2 cups triple sec

This hot chocolate starts with a quart of milk set on a low heat over the stove. Then I put a micro-plane grater over the pot and grate in a large bar of Lindt chocolate. I prefer to use the dark chocolate for this recipe as the dark chocolate goes nicely with the orange flavor. Once the chocolate is grated in, slowly whisk the mixture until smooth. Then, add in the two cups of triple sec.

Let all this meld together, then I pour this into Irish coffee mugs and top them with whipped cream and a strip of orange peel.

LI Christmas – Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well, as I end this week of Christmas cookies, no list of cookie recipes would be complete without Santa’s favorite cookie, the chocolate chip. I can’t recall when I heard that Santa loves chocolate chip cookies, but we’ll roll with that story.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ TOLL HOUSE Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and drop rounded tablespoon of cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Move a couple of the finished pieces to a small white china plate and place on the coffee table for a jolly fat man to eat… don’t forget the customary glass of milk.