Covid might have put a dent in our Christmas plans this year, but a quintessential Christmas dinner is still very much on the cards. Head chef tutor at five-star hotel The Grand York‘s esteemed cookery school, Andrew Dixon is here to ensure our festive feast is as delicious and memorable as possible. From turkey roasting to rustling up the perfect gravy, see below for his top Christmas dinner tips.
Andrew Dixon’s Guide to Cooking Christmas Dinner
How do you ensure the turkey is perfectly cooked?
Turkey, like all poultry, needs to be cooked to a core temperature of 75°C and once cooked should be left to rest, uncovered, for a minimum of 30 minutes. It can be common for people to put foil over the top, but this will only dry out the meat. Once you’ve rested the turkey, only the surface will have cooled, so you will only need to warm this for 3-4 minutes in the oven if needed.
Which is better: the turkey crown or full turkey?
It’s completely personal preference, however I prefer to take the legs off the bone and stuff them! This can be done the day before Christmas, then rewarmed on the day. I’ll then cook my turkey crown with plenty of sage and garlic butter to give a perfectly festive flavour.
How do you create the perfect roast potato?
Blanch your potatoes in heavily salted water until just cooked, then drain in a colander and toss to achieve fluffy edges. Then, heat your roasting tray in the oven with both duck fat and unsalted butter until hot, add your potatoes and top with fresh thyme, rosemary, and crushed garlic. Turn each potato until they’re covered in the duck fat and butter, then place the tray into the hot oven for around 30 to 40 minutes. Once they start to brown, turn on a regular basis.
What are great meat and vegetarian alternatives for turkey?
If turkey isn’t to your liking, my personal favourite alternative meat is a rib of beef, cooked rare, or a nice Christmas goose. For the vegetarian or vegan alternatives, a root vegetable wellington with a port wine gravy always goes down well as a festive alternative.
Tips for creating a perfectly rich gravy?
Using the tray your turkey has cooked and rested in, drain off any fat and deglaze with a good glass or two of red wine, shallots, garlic and sage. I’d then reduce this by three quarters and add chicken or turkey stock, and reduce to a coating consistency. Once reduced, pass this through a sieve, discard the flavourings and enjoy your perfect gravy!
How should you manage your time when cooking Christmas Dinner?
Preparing ahead of time is invaluable. On Christmas Day the only things I cook are turkey, pigs in blankets, gravy and potatoes, everything else will be prepared in advance. So, whether it’s stuffing, cranberry sauce or any other sides, I’ll prep these ahead of time.
Another great tip is to cook your vegetables (excluding potatoes) the day before. You can do this by cooking until almost cooked, then plunging into ice water to cool down rapidly. Alternatively, you could opt for an easy roast vegetable medley and put them all in the oven on Christmas day to roast with minimal fuss.
Any must-have pieces of kitchen equipment?
I’d always recommend having a meat thermometer – this way, you can ensure that the star of the show, the turkey, is perfectly cooked to 75°C.
Any further tips for creating the perfect Christmas dinner?
Don’t leave anything until the last minute; start your preparations two to three days before the big day. For the perfect stuffing use good quality sausage meat and mix with dried cranberries, cooked chestnuts, confit onions, garlic and freshly chopped parsley and sage. Cook by rolling into balls or place into a lined bread tin and bake until golden and crispy.
For a faultless bread sauce infuse one star anise, two cloves, a teaspoon of mixed spice and a small finely diced onion into a pint of full fat milk by warming over a medium heat. Add 250g of white bread (crusts removed) and stir into the warm milk until the bread breaks up. Season with salt and pepper and blend the sauce to a fine puree and add more milk to thin if needed.
By preparing well in advance, you can enjoy a stress-free Christmas day and spend time with loved ones rather than in the kitchen!