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A Quest for the Perfect Home-Cooked Christmas Dinner

There is lots to love about Christmas but for many, a home-cooked Christmas dinner tops the list. Let’s make no mistake, even for the seasoned chef cooking a delicious home-cooked dinner whilst juggling the Christmas festivities can be seriously hard work. At KCA we believe the perfect Christmas dinner is one that is not only delicious but also allows you to spend the most time with your loved ones. In our quest for the perfect home-cooked Christmas dinner, we have created a guide to help you create delicious results whilst saving you time on Christmas Day.

Be Prepared

Reading this blog is a good place to start, however, you can never be too prepared when it comes to cooking any big meal. First of all, it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the recipes you are cooking, their cooking times and the ingredients you need. From here, we recommend creating a plan in writing so that you can co-ordinate the preparation and cooking of each of the elements. Simply work backwards from the time you would like your guests to sit down for dinner and allow a little extra time for good measure.

Freeze your Gravy & Trimmings

A good way to free up time on the day is to prep as much as you can in advance, literally every element from your Christmas meal can be prepared ahead of time and frozen providing that you follow the right freezing, thawing and cooking methods. Generally speaking, canapes, gravy stocks, homemade stuffing and bread sauce hold up very well in the freezer so you can prepare these items well in advance of the big day.

The Perfect Christmas Turkey

The perfect Christmas turkey is juicy, delicately seasoned and full of flavour. We’ve put together some tips for stuffing and glazing your turkey, along with tricks to ensure your bird is beautifully tender.

 

Stuffing the Turkey

Stuffing the turkey with the right ingredients is essential to add flavour and moisture to the bird. However, if you’re wondering whether you should cook the stuffing in the bird or outside, we recommend roasting your stuffing separately as it adds extra cooking time to the bird. As for the type of stuffing, that’s really up to you – we love this apricot and pistachio stuffing from BBC Good Food.

We share our recipe which uses complementary ingredients that will add new depths of flavour to the meal without overpowering it. We should note that this is based on a 12 – 15lb turkey so adjust the ingredients accordingly and remember not to over-stuff.

  • Stuff the cavity with a liberal helping of fresh thyme, sage, parsley with a hint of rosemary
  • Add three cloves of garlic and 2 quartered onions
  • Add 1 quartered apple and 1 halved lemon for a subtle flavour and additional moisture
  • Finish with a generous amount of salt and pepper inside the cavity

 

Flavoured Butter

There’s nothing better than a well-seasoned, glossy turkey for both appearance and taste. Our simple recipe for flavoured butter delivers on both of these. 

  • Mix together 226 grams of softened unsalted butter with 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • Add the juice from 1 large lemon
  • Add 3 pressed garlic cloves
  • Mix in ¼ of a cup of roughly chopped parsley
  • Season with sea salt and black pepper

 

Cooking a Juicy Roast Turkey

Turkey tends to dry out so it’s imperative that you retain and add moisture. If you are fortunate enough to have a moisture setting on your oven, such as Miele’s Moisture Plus function, you can use this to add bursts of steam throughout the cooking process. For those with a steam combination oven, try cooking your bird at 60% humidity for the full duration of the cooking time. If your oven doesn’t have any of these features, you can help retain moisture by stuffing the turkey with oranges and fresh herbs, adding not only flavour but much-needed moisture.

Another reason that your turkey can be dry is overcooking. The instructions on your turkey will tend to air on the side of caution suggesting cooking times that will often result in a dry turkey. Before cooking your turkey, leave it out of the fridge for a few hours as this will help with the cooking time. When cooking your turkey, it needs to reach a core temperature of 73°C to be food safe. If your oven has a cooking probe, it’s advised that you cook your turkey to between 68°C – 70°C before removing it from the oven. The turkey’s core temperature should continue to rise an additional 4°C with residual heat during the resting period, ensuring your turkey is ready to eat. If you don’t have a probe and you think your turkey might be done, you can prick the thickest part of the leg with a skewer and if the juice runs clear your turkey is ready.

A Scrumptious Chicken & White Wine Gravy

This delicious gravy will pair perfectly with your turkey. To save time on Christmas day, make the gravy ahead and pop it in the freezer where it will last for up to 3 months. Simply defrost the gravy in the fridge on Christmas Eve. To reheat it, pop it in the microwave for 4 minutes or heat it in a saucepan on the hob. For extra flavour, add the turkey juices from your baking tray on the day.

  1. Roast chopped carrots, onion and 5 chicken wings in a roasting tin with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes at 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.
  2. Remove the roasting tin and put the tin on the hob over medium heat. Add 1 large glass of white wine. De-glaze the tin and scrape off any caramelised bits that may be stuck to the tin.
  3. Remove the stock from the heat and transfer it to a saucepan, adding the 1 tbsp of cornflour. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes. As it boils and condenses down, use a fork to break up the vegetables and chicken.
  4. Strain the gravy through a fine sieve into a container suitable for freezing
  5. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Allow the gravy to cool completely, cover and transfer to the freezer.

Quick & Delicious Veggies

Prepping in advance can really take the stress out of cooking a large home-cooked meal. Many people choose to peel and prep their vegetables the night before to save time, just remember to keep them submerged in water overnight. Another quick and delicious way of cooking your vegetables is to blanch them in advance. Blanching the veg the day before is a great way to save you time on the day. For blanched carrots and parsnips warm them through in the oven and vegetables such as red cabbage and peas can be cooked in the microwave with the seasoning of your choice.

Perfect Roast Potatoes – with a steam oven or combination steam oven

If you are lucky enough to have a steam oven, our appliance partners Miele alongside their Executive Chef, recommend that you steam your potatoes at 100°C for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked, not parboiled. Remove your potatoes from the oven and give them a shake to fluff them up. Then add the potatoes to a roasting tray with the fat of your choice (duck, goose or olive oil) and place the tray in a 220°C preheated fan oven until piping hot. Next, transfer the potatoes to a roasting pan, and evenly coat with the oil. If your oven has a crisping function, set this feature. Failing that, you could use a combination steam oven set at 0% humidity. Cook the potatoes for a further 45-55 minutes until they are golden and crispy.

Perfect Roast Potatoes – on the hob and in the oven:

Preheat your oven to 250°C/230°C Fan/gas mark 9. Heat duck fat or 100ml of olive oil in a roasting tin for 20 -30 minutes until very hot. When prepping your potatoes for this method, peel and cut each potato into 3, cutting off each end at a slant to create a wedge. Add the potatoes and pour over enough cold water to cover them. Add salt and bring the potatoes to a boil, as soon as it reaches a rolling boil, lower to a vigorous simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and shake energetically to fluff up the edges. Making the edges of potatoes rough will give them a perfectly crunchy crust. Sprinkle in 2 tsp flour and give another shake or two so they are evenly and thinly coated. Now carefully transfer the potatoes to the hot fat, evenly coat them with fat and spread them in a single layer making sure that they have plenty of room to cook. Put your potatoes back in the oven for a further 45 minutes, turning them every 15 minutes until golden and crisp. Finish your perfect roast potatoes with Himalayan sea salt.

So, there you have it. A detailed guide to help you to prepare the perfect Christmas meal for your family. We hope you’ve found these tips helpful and that they help you to free up more time to spend with your family on the big day.

From everyone at KCA, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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