How to ace your Christmas lunch
Worried about your turkey timings? Pondering over your potatoes? Here's 12 tips to help you nail it on the day, courtesy of The Hind's Head's Michelin-starred head chef Pete Grey.
If Christmas lunch has your reaching for the sherry in sheer panic, then help is at hand. It is after all just a pimped up roast dinner and according to the Hind’s Head’s Head Chef Pete Grey, organisation and time is key. Stand down, you won’t need a kitchen that looks like a science lab.
Pete has worked for Heston Blumenthal’s Michelin star pub for nearly six years – and was appointed Head Chef in November 2o17. He’s a good northern boy, growing up near Wakefield, has worked for Tom Kitchin and Adam Simmonds, loves a cookery book and is just one of life’s top blokes.
Here are his top tips for producing the killer Christmas roast. So here you go, tidings of great joy for anyone who hankers after perfect roasties and can’t be bothered to wrestle for hours with a turkey.
HIND’S HEAD TIPS FOR THE PERFECT XMAS DINNER
- Start 3 days before. People are too ambitious, and there’s simply not enough time to do all the prep for a big Christmas lunch, while sipping fizz and all the other distractions of the day. Source your turkey (local farmers are best), know what you’re serving with it and make a shopping list. To reduce cooking time, ask your butcher to debone the turkey – keep the bones for the gravy.
- You don’t have to do this, but at The Hind’s Head we brine our turkey to add flavour and moisture. You can do the same by submerging your bird in a clean container with water and 10% salt, then throw garlic, rosemary and thyme. Pop a lie on it and leave for at least 6 hours later (or overnight), then rinse the meat and wash in fresh water, before leaving it open to dry in the fridge.
- Day 2, make your gravy. Using your turkey bones, add onions, garlic, leaks and carrots and Heston from Waitrose Chicken Stock (it really is the best, Heston wasn’t giving him a Chinese burn). Reduce down and then add splosh of red or white wine (optional here but essential in life). When you come to reheat on the Christmas Day, take your cooked chipolatas from the roasting dish and drop those bad boys into the gravy for a few minutes to add flavour.
- Prep all your veg on Christmas Eve, too. Peel the root veg and blanch them. We cook our roast potatoes 3 times, but I’d recommend at least twice. Par-boil your spuds (Maris Piper is a good choice), rough them up and put them in the fridge overnight – little pockets are created so when the hot fat (beef or duck fat are my faves) get into them, they’ll crisp up a treat.
- No need to stuff the stuffing where the sun don’t shine. Just make it into a sausage, wrap it tightly in foil and bake in the oven. When it comes out you can slice it like a salami. This will lower the cooking time of your birdy, as it takes longer with the stuffing in the cavity.
- If you’re making you’re own, do it 2-3 days in advance. Try using pork, herbs, breadcrumbs, prunes and egg. Make your sausage, wrap it tight and leave it in the fridge until the big day. Alternatively, buy Paxo. It tastes good, does the job and comes without the faff. If you’re feeling adventurous, stuff your deboned legs with your stuffing mix, wrap in clingfilm, poach, rest, pop them in the fridge and pan fry before serving.
- Pimp up the humble spout. The best way to eat sprouts is to treat them like cabbage by separating the leaves (get one of the kids to do it) and cooking them in butter with smoked bacon, chopped chestnuts and seasoning. Don’t overcook them, they take just 5-6 minutes in the pan.
- There’s no need to cook your turkey for hours and hours and hours and stuff butter down the turkey skin and all that jazz. Baste the outside of the turkey in plenty of butter, allowing 15 minutes per 450g, plus a further 20-30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7, basting regularly from one hour onwards. No need to turn the turkey upside down to cook it – all that does is flatten the breasts. (Frankly there’s enough of that problem in the Muddy house without encouraging it further).
- Use a temperature probe to test the meat – if it’s 65C in the thickest part of the bird, she’s cooked. It’s that simple.
- You don’t need to leave your turkey to rest for hours. All you need is 20 minutes under a clean tea towel and you’re good to go.
- Making you’re bread sauce? Blitz white breadcrumbs in a food processor. Stud an onion with cloves, then put it in a small saucepan with the milk, bay leaf, peppercorns on a low-med heat. Once the milk is warm, remove the pan from the heat and allow the milk to infuse for 20 minutes. Strain, return to the pan and add the breadcrumbs, butter and cream and my secret ingredient, ground mace. Warm gently for 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Job done.
- Buy the fun extras. Heston’s from Waitrose Black Forest Pannettone and Golden Delicious Christmas Pud; brandy butter, custard, cream; a set of golf clubs, cuddly toy, and an electric blanket if you can remember the order on the conveyor belt.
The perfect pour?
You can rely on The Hind’s Head’s chief sommelier Lowri Jones to come up with the goods. On Christmas Day she’ll be drinking Domaine Perraud Mâcon-Villages Chardonnay 2018 from Burgundy in France. It’s perfect for turkey and has perfumes of white flowers and stone fruit. It’s also complex and weighty thanks to some oak ageing.
An off dry (slightly sweeter) alternative is Little Beauty Limited Edition Pinot Gris from New Zealand. It goes particularly well with a roast, oozing floral and stone fruit aromas – think jasmine, apple blossom, apricot, white peach and a hint of spice. Yum!