Food

Easy Christmas Dinner

Does the thought of cooking Christmas dinner bring you out in cold sweat?

Don’t panic, I have a great solution. This is a meal that a friend and I prepared for Thanksgiving a couple of weeks ago and I am going to do it again for Xmas Day. It was pretty easy to do, and most of it can be prepared in the morning – or even the night before – and popped into the oven leaving you free to play with your new toys.

When we shopped for our Thanksgiving meal, we were stumped by our local supermarket’s lack of a whole turkey. There were turkey escalopes, turkey breasts, turkey legs. But no whole turkeys. Hmm. Tricky, but we decided that doing stuffed turkey breast would work too.

I combined a few different recipes for the stuffing as I am not keen on the traditional sage and onion, particularly not from a packet. I liked the idea of apricots, as in this recipe, but used pork mince instead of sausage and left out the almonds. I used fresh breadcrumbs which takes about 5 seconds in the food processor. I think for a dish like this, it would make a difference.

The stuffing takes about 15 mins to prepare. Once you have done that you open the turkey breast, put the stuffing in then wrap the breast around the turkey. Pop it into a oven proof dish, on a layer of vegetables (onions and carrots are fine), rub butter or olive oil into the meat  and cover with strips of bacon. This keeps the meat from drying out. This is a great website for calculating defrosting and cooking times of turkey.

My brother is a chef and I always follow his rule of preheating the oven on highest setting and turning it down to the required cooking temperature when I put the bird in the oven. Cover with tinfoil and leave to cook while you prepare the veg and have a glass of wine.

Potatoes – parboil the potatoes, which means cooking in salted water for 10 minutes then drain and give them what we Scots would call “a wee shoogle”. Shake the roasting tray to rough up the surface, as this makes them crispier on the outside.

Green beans – my friend wanted to make the beans as her mother would normally make them, using this recipe. She doesn’t like mushrooms so left them out, and I cannot say that we missed them. We used frozen beans, and the time to prepare this was maybe 20 minutes.

You could prepare the stuffing, green beans and potatoes the night before if you wanted to have more time with the family on Xmas Day.

Take the turkey out occasionally and pour the juices over the top of the bird to ensure that it stays nice and juicy.  The last 45 mins of turkey cooking time should be done without the tinfoil, so that the bird gets a nice cripsy finish.

Pour some olive oil, butter or fat from the turkey into a roasting tray and heat well before carefully sliding the parboiled potatoes in, shaking the tray to cover them with the oil.

Test that the turkey is done by piercing the breast (or thigh, if cooking a whole turkey) with a skewer or knife. If the juices run clear then it is ready to come out of the oven.

Make the gravy from the juices that are left in the roasting tray when you remove the turkey – skim the fat off then add a couple of spoonfuls of flour and about a litre of chicken stock, bring to the boil and allow to thicken. You can add a splash of red wine to the gravy.

 

 

 

(it is not a great pic because it was just snapped quickly with my iPhone. Sometimes even bloggers forget to take pics)

 

I like to write down my timings when I am cooking something like this. Working backwards from when the turkey will be done. When you have worked out your cooking time, add 20 mins for the turkey to rest. That is the time you want to serve.

Here is an example, for a stuffed turkey breast – weight including stuffing 3kg

 

10:30
Preheat oven to highest setting.

Prepare stuffing by mixing ingredients. Rub turkey with butter, cover with bacon. Place on bed of veg.

11:00
Turkey in oven. Cooking time 2h 10 mins. TURN HEAT DOWN (really, don’t forget this bit or you will have charcoaled turkey)

Put potatoes on to parboil for 10 mins. Shake when they are done to fluff them up a bit.

Mix onions, flour, breadcrumbs and roasted onions in bowl. Cook beans for 5 mins, then drain. Melt butter, add garlic, cook for couple of mins then add flour. Cook for one minute, add the chicken broth and simmer. Reduce heat and add cream. Cook till mixture thickens, about 8 mins. Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions.

12:30
Remove tinfoil from turkey so that it browns

Heat the oil for the roast potatoes

12:45
Put potatoes into oven

13:10
Check turkey and remove from oven if done. Rest for 20 mins, covered in tin foil.

Put green beans into oven

Make gravy

Warm plates and serving dishes

13:30
Serve

 

The advantage of this is that you are mainly using the oven. The pots from the prep of the veg and potatoes are washed and put away, so you have three roasting dishes to wash up and that is it. Do warm the serving dishes and plates so that everything stays hot.

You have about an hour in the morning to prepare everything and then the half hour before serving, so you don’t feel that you are stuck in the kitchen all day.

I also found that using a turkey breast instead of a whole turkey meant that carving the finished roast was much easier, so cutting down on the stress of trying to serve everything as hot as possible.

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS

For the Stuffing 

  • 60g dried apricots, chopped
  • 125g bacon pieces, chopped and fried
  • 1 large onion, chopped and fried
  • 2 sticks celery, thinly sliced
  • 100g brown breadcrumbs
  • 250g pork sausagemeat
  • 75g almonds
  • 2tblsp chopped parsley
  • egg
  • 1tsp salt
  • ground pepper

 

Green beans:

For the topping: This has to be prepared in advance, by roasting the onions. You can save this part by buying roasted onions and mixing with flour/breadcrumbs.

  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 30g)
  • 2 tablespoons  bread crumbs

For beans and sauce:

  • 1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth (240ml)
  • 1 cup double cream (240ml)

 

Turkey

Veg (carrots and onions, or any root veg)

Potatoes

Bacon rashers

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