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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Entertaining in style: how to cheat in the kitchen at Christmas

Christmas in my experience means cooking and baking and cleaning. It is an exhausting time of year if you are the one responsible for everything. Over the years necessity has resulted in some clever shortcuts. It is not necessary to make your own pastry, let alone your own mince pies. Christmas cake? Does anyone eat it except the old man? Buy one, if you simply can’t imagine Christmas without a cake. But don’t even consider wasting the two hours it takes just to assemble the ingredients, it’s not a crime: buy a cake.

Hire a cleaner for the week before Christmas. It may cost you about £60 for a thorough clean but just think of the time and effort saved. The pleasure of having a fresh sparkly clean house to welcome your guests without you being bone tired and disgruntled makes the price as cheap as chips.

In October start stockpiling bottles of wine, brandy and other hard liquor, tins of biscuits, sweets and chocolate, pack your freezer with mince pies (the bought variety darling). If you are really organised make extra meals to freeze, so you have dinners available at your fingertips for those unexpected dinner invitations you issue at random when you are completely inebriated and full of goodwill.

The thing is, if you are a good cook, there is no reason at all to panic about Christmas. But if you can’t cook at all, the recipes that follow are for you; they are easy and quick and won’t send you mad with having to assemble 47 ingredients just for the gravy.

Here is the simplest recipe for Roast Turkey you’ll ever find, basically you just have to sling it in the oven.

Simple Roast Turkey

4 oz butter
2 large onions (chopped in half)
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 very large 12 - 13 pound fresh or frozen and thawed turkey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Large pack of stuffing (choose your favourite)
6 medium carrots, peeled and cut in two length way
Coarse salt and ground black pepper
Jerk chicken seasoning
White wine (for the pot and the cook)
Plain flour

This recipe should serve 12 not so hungry people but in our family this is sufficient for 6 healthy appetites.

Preparation time: 20 measly minutes.
Gravy cooking time: 6 minutes.
Roasting time: 3 hours. (ish)
Standing time: 15- 30 minutes.

Cooking Instructions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash your turkey thoroughly in water with a little lemon juice. Pat it dry with a very clean tea towel. Place onions, neck, and heart of turkey in bottom of roasting pan. Make up stuffing as directed on packaging. Add stuffing to front and back cavities of turkey, but do not pack it tightly. Push the butter under skin of turkey along with garlic, massage it in well. Sprinkle turkey with salt, pepper and Jerk Chicken seasoning. Fold wing tips under bird and place turkey breast side up on top of onions. Add carrots around turkey.
Place turkey in oven. You can breathe easy for a while, but periodically check and baste. After 2 hours, add 2 small cups of water (or white wine) to the bottom of the roasting pan.
Roast about 3 hours, or until instant read thermometer in thickest part of thigh registers 170 degrees F. Let rest at least 15 minutes to half an hour before carving. You too should rest, get a glass of wine and sing carols.
At some point you must make gravy. Its simple: Pour liquid from roasting pan into measuring cup. Discard onions, carrots, heart, and neck. Skim off fat from liquid and pour all but 1/4 cup back into roasting pan. For every 1/2 cup of liquid (what's in the pan and what is set aside as the reserved liquid) use 1 tablespoon flour. Stir that total amount of flour into the 1/4 cup of cooled, reserved liquid, and mix together well. Add a glug of white wine and a tiny bit of brandy to the liquid in the roasting pan and place over a medium heat. Slowly add the flour mixture to it, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add a teaspoon of mustard to spice it up a little.

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