Monday, December 2, 2013


                                    CHRISTMAS IS COMING SOON


Part 1 

By the time this article reaches you, thanksgiving is history for 2013, sure hope you had a great celebration.
So what’s next, Christmas is around the corner, one of the scariest events for many home cooks to look forward to.

Planning a menu, get your supplies, trying not to break the bank, preparing a guest list, all lovely subjects to get your brain cracking.
It is my personal opinion that when you have guests on a once a year occasion like Christmas, do not cook something you have no experience with. Cooking a dinner you are familiar with, will almost certainly result in a dinner table full with happy people.
The reason why I think that way is that we all tend to overdo our Christmas celebrations, we plan to make too many dishes, side dishes, snacks and desserts.
By doing so we end up in the kitchen most of the day and forget that Christmas is actually also for us, the chefs.
Christmas is a family gathering for everybody to enjoy. 
First remember that you are at home and you cook Christmas dinner for family and friends.
So your menu planning should be based on beating the clock, not breaking the clock, getting all worked up and placing oneself out of enjoyment of the family gathering Christmas should be.
Let me help you a little bit and give some tips how to make your Christmas dinner a lot easier.
Traditionally Christmas dinners must have a roast, the choice of which type of roast is all yours, a leg of lamb, goose, turkey, game or whichever roast you are comfortable with.
The highlight of your dinner should be a big platter with a roast for everyone around the table to share.
Now here is your first time saver, instead of making individual plates with vegetables and potatoes, and have the plates scattered all over the kitchen because you are not a restaurant and also likely not equipped to accommodate individual plating for a large group of people, place all your vegetables and potatoes around your roast, it looks great, grand and impressive as a centre piece.  
Let’s say you have chosen to cook,           
Whole Roast Turkey with a Sauce of mixed Berries and Port Wine
Garden Herbs infused Roast Potatoes
Assorted Garden Vegetables
Roasted Chestnuts
Christmas stuffing 
Many of the components in this menu can be made in advance, let’s have a look.

Potatoes, choose Russet or Maris Piper potatoes, leave them whole, wash and boil in water with salt for ten minutes, rinse under cold water, peel the skin off, cut into the size you like, a bit chunky is nice for a dish like this. Drain and cool.
Place the potatoes in a vacuum bag, add some olive oil, a few sprigs of rosemary and parsley. 
Vacuum and store in your refrigerator.
You can do this two or three days in advance, the oil and herbs will give a lovely flavor to the potatoes during the storage time.

Now the vegetables.

Say you choose carrot, parsnip, Brussels sprouts and red cabbage.
After cleaning and cutting to shape, keep the vegetables chunky as well, cook,

Carrots and parsnip Blanch 12 minutes  - cool in ice water
Brussels sprouts Blanch 8 minutes  - cool in ice water
Red cabbage Cook 1 hour with your spices, e.g. vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, bay leaf, red wine, salt and sliced apples. Cool (no ice water)
After the vegetables are cooled, drain and vacuum pack, store in your refrigerator
You can do this also 2 to 3 days in advance. NO FREEZING.
If you are not too comfortable vacuuming the red cabbage, store this item in a container, it will be fine or even better, because the flavors have time to develop, for 3 to 4 days. You can however vacuum the red cabbage, stay in front of your vacuum sealer and when the liquid comes  half way up the seal strip, press seal. It works but be careful. 
Buy pre-cooked chestnuts, like the canned type.  

The sauce. 
You can perfectly use frozen mixed berries for this, add 100 grams sugar and half a cup of port wine to 500 grams of berries, bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Mix with a whisk. If it is too thick, add a bit of water.
Store this also in a jar, you can vacuum many components, but there are some that a not so suitable for vacuuming. Do ensure that your jars are very clean, best is to boil them a few minutes before use.
The sauce will stay fine for a few weeks, similar to marmalade or jam.
Major advantage, besides a relaxed Christmas day for yourself, is that you can make a mistake, if major you have plenty of time to redo the item.   
Well you are almost done and it is not even Christmas eve.
Last but definitely not least, the turkey.

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is well thawed, depending on the size this may take up to 2 days.
Season the turkey by placing cut oranges, rosemary, salt and pepper in the cavity.
Do this 1 day in advance, cover the turkey with cling wrap or a wet towel and store  in your refrigerator. Remove from your refrigerator on the morning of serving, this allows an even temperature in the bird and with that a better finished result.
I believe that is works better to have the stuffing separately cooked from the bird, unless you have a de-boned turkey.
Everybody has his/her own preference for a stuffing, so choose one you like.
Prepare the stuffing preferably one or two days in advance, so the flavors can develop as well.
If your stuffing is fairly firm in consistency. Vacuum, this works perfect with bread and also meat based stuffings.     

Christmas day:
You wake up without the feeling that you have a tough day ahead, feels good right.

You can still spend a bit of time on some snacks, the not to be missed sausages with bacon and maybe a starter and a dessert.
Based on your cooking time and the roast you have chosen, when you have chosen a turkey like in the sample menu, plan such that the turkey is 45 minutes ready prior to serving time .
Remove the turkey from the oven and cover with aluminum foil.
Remove the potatoes from the vacuum bag, place your potatoes in a baking tray, drizzle with some olive oil and roast in your oven for about 30 minutes at 325 F.
Heat some oil in a frying pan add the carrots and parsnip, season and fry for 5 to 10 minutes.
Fry the Brussels sprouts with the chestnuts similarly in another frying pan.
If you did vacuum the red cabbage, the easiest way is to heat the whole bag in a pot with hot water for 15 minutes or so. No scare that it will burn.
You can heat the berries sauce in the microwave, you need this item warm, not boiling hot.    
Now you are ready to serve.
Place the turkey in the centre of a large serving plate, half of the parsnip, carrot, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and the roast potatoes on one side and the other half on the other side of the turkey.
The stuffing on the cavity side and the drained (do not forget to drain off excess liquid) red cabbage on neck side.
Place your sauce in a separate bowl.
WOW. Success guaranteed.

Written for PMG 
By Professional Chef Marinus Hoogendoorn 


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