Christmas Day should be about enjoying time off with family, so as much as you can, get ahead. Vegetables like potatoes, carrots and parsnips can be peeled the day before and stored in the fridge overnight covered in cold water.
Always make more stuffing then you think you will need. Chances are you will probably end up eating it. It also serves the added purpose of using it up it in leftover turkey sandwiches on the 26th. My favourite stuffing recipe was given to me by my mum. Our version has lots of sweated onions and shallots, parsley and in recent years, roasted chestnuts and bacon. Just before serving we grate some lemon zest into the mix. We stuff the turkey with it and also keep some to roast on a separate baking tray. Where stuffing is concerned, more is always more.
Again, get ahead with this and make it the day before. This not only saves you time but will also give you a better sauce as the flavours develop overnight.
Try adding a little reduced port wine or brandy to the gravy. I love to finish this by whisking in a cube of butter before serving, giving you a beautiful, glossy gravy. Make sure you get all the cooking juices from the turkey incorporated into the gravy, especially all the crunchy bits that build up in the roasting tin. These are the best bits.
Alternative side dishes
Experiment with different side dishes. What about some glazed shallots? Pan fry shallots with a little vegetable oil over a high heat, then caramelise them with butter and demerara sugar. Deglaze the pan with a dash of sherry vinegar for shiny sweet shallots.
I must confess I have mixed feelings about Brussels sprouts, perhaps from having eaten too many soggy boiled ones over the years. Two ways I do love cooking with sprouts though are: thinly shred them and cook with butter, lardons and finish with some toasted breadcrumbs; or slice them in half and roast with some duck fat, garlic and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Whatever you eat on Christmas Day, whether it be a turkey, goose, duck or ham, remember to factor in time for it to rest and take into account that the meat will continue to cook from residual heat while it rests. Cover the meat with tin foil and leave it to sit while you get on with assembling the rest of the dinner.
Finally. If something goes wrong, try not to worry about it. After all, it’s only cooking – just have fun with it and enjoy it. I know I will.