Merry Christmas everybody!! I hope you all had a wonderful day, with lots of food, family and fun! (And also some sweet sweet presents).
We had our Christmas feast last night (Christmas Eve), as this was the only time the whole family was free. I went for a rather traditional menu, including some old favourites. You'll see, unlike previous years, I've finally managed to say no to bread sauce - no-one (including me!) actually eats it.
The Christmas Feast
Semmelknoedel (bread dumplings)
Goosefat Roast Potatoes
I was fortunate enough to have Christmas Eve off from work, so I was able to take my time making the dinner, and didn't have to rush or panic. In Nigella Christmas, Nigella has a military-operation style timetable to help you get a massive Christmas lunch on the table by 2pm. Compared to my menu, it includes more sides, 2 puddings and a separate vegetarian offering. Ahem! Uh, no thanks.
I started off at approximately 2pm by making the onion gravy, from Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. (He serves it with roast pork). Ordinarily I try and do a traditional turkey gravy (i.e. making a stock from the giblets, then adding the juices from the pan), but I didn't have much success with it last year. Plus I had no giblets.
The flavour comes from slowly cooking sliced onions for a good half hour, then adding flour, marsala, stock and mustard. Once it was cooked, I whizzed it up in a blender and set it aside.
I then had a short break with some Stilton rarebit and Nigella's Christmas Kitchen on Lifestyle Food.
Then, the stuffing. I have made Lidgate's Chestnut Stuffing a few times before, and enjoyed it, but there always just seems to be too much, and it is difficult to dig it out from within the turkey and share it. Thus it always goes to waste. And at $11 for a tin of chestnuts, (you need whole and pureed chestnuts for this recipe), I do not want to waste this stuffing!
This year, I decided to halve the quantities, and bake the mixture in 2 mini foil loaf tins rather than stuffing the turkey. I baked one alongside the turkey, and placed the other loaf in the freezer, possibly to accompany a future roast chicken. I now have half a tin of both chestnuts and chestnut puree in the fridge, and will probably make soup out of them.
We put the turkey in the oven at about 4:20pm. No brining, no stuffing. (I tried Nigella's brining method last year and the turkey still turned out dry!) We just put a lot of softened butter under the skin on the breast, and brushed it with a mixture of maple syrup and goosefat. At 200C, the 3kg bird took one and a half hours. Throughout the cooking time, I basted it frequently with German beer.
Next, we put the red cabbage on the stove (from a jar), parboiled the potatoes, and made the dough for the bread dumplings. These are absolutely essential for a German Christmas.
You chop up some white bread rolls, add salt, pepper and cubes of butter, a couple of eggs and some hot milk. The next step is to squish the whole lot together with your hands (not the most pleasant experience), and form them into giant balls. They need 20 minutes cooking in boiling water. This must be done at the last minute, so we had to wait until the turkey was out of the oven before cooking them.
And speaking of which...
I must admit, I felt a huge rush of pride when I pulled the turkey out of the oven. Look how crispy the skin is, how plump and festive it looks! Cooking poultry can sometimes be touch-and-go for me, so I was glad this one turned out so pretty. I think it's my best turkey yet.
Another issue I have with cooking poultry is that I sometimes tend to undercook it. This year, I had a meat thermometer to take the guesswork out of it! Nigella writes that a turkey is "cooked through when a meat thermometer, inserted into its thickest part, reaches 71C". I assumed that the "thickest part" was somewhere under the breast, as per the below photo...
The turkey got up to 80C, so it was done, if a little overdone. I later did some extra research and realised that "the thickest part" of a turkey is actually in the thigh somewhere. Oh well, either way, it was cooked! I wrapped up the turkey and the tray of stuffing in foil, and cranked up the oven for the roast potatoes. The pan juices for the turkey were wonderful - sticky and oily and delicious, but not at all burnt. I scraped them up and added them to the gravy for more goodness.
While the potatoes were roasting, we set the table, boiled the dumplings and reheated the cabbage and gravy.
And Christmas Eve dinner was served!
Ok, so I am a terrible carver, but still managed to get some good pieces.
My culinary goal for next year is to learn how to carve a turkey properly, like an American dinner-party hostess!
Check out the delicious chunks of chestnut!
Bread dumplings - lots of dough to soak up all the gravy.
Roast potatoes - I made too many so that I can have leftovers. Cold roast potatoes are divine.
Rotkohl - again, essential with Christmas dinner.
One plate! Looks small, I know, but fear not, I certainly went back for seconds.
Now, dessert. I started steaming my Christmas pudding just before we sat down to eat. They do take 2.5 hours, which gave us time to eat, to recover, and to open presents! (I also made custard after the presents).
You may remember I made 2 puddings last year, serving one up at Christmas dinner, and keeping the other in the fridge for this year. (The Roux brothers say you can keep them up to 5 years, and that older ones are "indescribably glorious").
I was a little nervous about a year-old pudding, but when I took it out of the fridge, it looked and smelled ok!
Year-old pudding - still looks ok!
I wrapped it in 2 layers of foil and steamed it, and at the end it looked like this..
And then tipped it out, and it came out (pretty much) in one piece. I managed to wodge the little stuck bits back in place and it still looked ok.
We ate it with custard and some Cloudy Bay 2008 late harvest Riesling (a gift we bought for my dad!).
Despite my reservations, my family seemed to love the pudding. I really liked the fact that it was a lot mellower than last year's pudding, more cakey and less boozy. I am now intrigued to compare puddings across the years. Perhaps a future project!
MERRY CHRISTMAS everybody!!!!!!!!!