Putting the pressure on

Most Christmases I get to do a nice line in sides.

Back in Sydney the weather is usually hot and sticky enough to make you feel like you’ve just had a hug from a child that’s manhandled a honey sandwich. 

There’s a big crowd for Christmas eve. There are pink daiquiris. A ham branded with fat diamonds and studded with cloves. Probably a big pink fish. Sometimes there’s a turkey, usually eaten coldish. These will be very capably taken care of by my step father, who’s a pretty dab hand in a kitchen ( if you ever come for tea, be sure to request his paella, or something cooked in one of his claypots- you won’t regret it).

I’m one of many put on sides. It should be a calm place to potter about, but I still feel the pressure.

Last year we went international. There was a slippery capponata, murky with chilli and a touch of organic cocoa. The bulk of it came from some griddled vegetables of the deadly nightshade variety.  It gave the ham a sassy kick (and the leftovers weren’t half bad with slabs of ham and cheese on toast).

There was a salad of roasted cauliflower, given a fake tan care of some cumin, having a hug with some labna and almonds.

There was a green tangle of shredded asparagus with cherries and pistachios. The combination came care of Mirazur, just outside of Monaco. I loved it. I’m not sure if anyone else really did, but I didn’t really care. Sometimes the best gift you can give at Christmas is to yourself.

For sauces there was a glossy aioli with roasted garlic and some french mustards.

There were plenty of other contributions to the table, but these were the ones chiefly under our direction.

This year it’s a little different. For one, it’s going to be cold. It was so cold on Saturday in London that I wore my ski suit down to the Borough Markets.

I may have looked ridiculous, but at least it kept my vitals protected. Particularly when The Hungry One launched a snowball attack on the way home.

Don’t worry, I got him back.

This year I’m in charge of the main event. We’re keeping it simple and classic. Roast turkey for lunch. Pudding for dessert.

No pressure, I thought.

I’ve started fine tuning my turkey cooking research. Yes, there will be a brine. For 24 hours I think. Probably salt, with some aromatics. I think one of the drawers in my fridge will be large enough to double as a flotation tank. A poultry salon if you will.

I’m torn on whether to play with a wick- to cook it under a cape of butter drenched muslin, basting it through the fabric. It seems a little like a body wrap. I had one of those in Thailand. I didn’t enjoy it. I broke free after 20 minutes in claustrophobic, sweaty desperation. I’m not sure if I’m willing to subject my turkey to the same treatment.

I thought I had a handle on  the stuffing (a little under the breast, the rest cooked separately). Probably involving chestnuts and hazelnuts. The cavity will house some citrus. We’re going to go with a fresh cranberry sauce. And maybe a giblet gravy. I thought I had a handle on it all.

Then the guest list shifted a little.

There will only be five of us. Which is fine- perfect- intimate- lovely.

But five suddenly becomes intimidating as all hell when the fifth person at the table is one of the chefs from a little restaurant in Bray.

We asked for some advice on cooking the bird. He asked if we had a water bath big enough for the turkey. We have a bath, sure. But it lives in the bathroom.

He’s been volunteered to look after the accompaniments; a potato dauphinoise and some roasted brussel sprouts.

I think I might do some back stage shifting and negotiating in the next couple of days.

This Christmas is one meal where I’m perfectly happy to be sidelined.

Or maybe watch, just very quietly from the couch.

{ 1 Comment }
  1. Eeeeek! I'm nervous for you – but I also have no doubt you will rise to the occasion. Plus I'm sure there's a poultry pun to be had here…

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