Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Traditional Christmas Dinner Menu At Our House


Traditional Christmas Dinner
at Our House

Of course I realize that whatever tradition you hold will be your traditional Christmas dinner. What follows is what I would call our traditional dinner menu which our family have shared for about as long as I can remember.

The Turkey

The centerpiece of course is the perfectly roasted turkey which has been filling the house with an inviting smell for the last hour or two.

Over the years I have found that the extra paid for a fresh bird is worth the few extra dollars when compared with a frozen bird. That is not to say I have not been pleased with the results of the frozen fowl, but simply have found the fresh to be more tender and without a doubt more juicy. Freezing and thawing takes something from any type of meat, and the turkey is no exception.

Cooking times will vary depending upon the size of bird chosen and also whether you cook it stuffed or unstuffed. The brand of turkey we buy has a cooking guide printed on the package which I have always found to be accurate. Of course this is also dependent upon the accuracy of the temperature in your oven. A few dollars spent on a thermometer placed in the oven helps determine how accurate your oven dial setting is.

In the end, it is always good policy to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the thigh meat when you think the bird is done. If you have stuffed the bird be sure to remove the stuffing completely and don't leave it sitting in the turkey as it cools down.

The size of turkey I use is usually in the 14 - 16 pound range and from fresh I have always found it to be perfectly cooked in about 3 hours and 15 minutes. Before putting it in a preheated oven I lightly brush it with either butter or vegetable oil and generously season the skin with salt and pepper. I have seldom found it requires basting when cooked for the 3+ hours at 325 degrees. I should mention, I do not stuff our turkey.

I always leave the turkey, covered lightly with foil, on top of the stove to 'rest' for about 20 - 30 minutes before carving as I find this tends to 'set' the meat and make for easier cutting. The meat tends to fall apart if I attempt cutting it straight from the oven.

Garlic Cheese Potatoes

The other requirement for our traditional Christmas Dinner are garlic & cheese potatoes which make a suitable addition to the roast turkey.

I usually do this dish the day before and finish it in the oven for about 45 minutes before I expect to put the turkey on the table.

In a large pot I put as many cut up potatoes as I think will be enough for Christmas dinner and also leftovers for boxing day. A good rule of thumb is one large potato per person and then one more for good measure. By large I mean a baking size Russet. To the potatoes and salted water I add several ( up to your taste) cloves of peeled garlic which cooks along with the potatoes.

When the potatoes are done I mash them while they are still very hot being sure not to throw out the garlic with the pot water. I will also add some butter at this time to smooth the potatoes and then will quickly mix in 2 well beaten eggs. You have to do this quickly or you will wind up with scrambled eggs, which is not the desired effect. I have not found it necessary to use either milk or butter as the egg seems to give the potatoes a good consistency and also provides some 'lift' when the potatoes go into the oven.

At this point I mix in a very generous portion of sharp grated cheddar cheese, and I do mean generous. When this is well blended I spoon the potatoes into a greased 9 x 13 glass dish and finish the top with a light coat of butter and some more cheese sprinkled over the top. A light sprinkle of paprika also provides a nice finished color to this dish if you like.

This dish can be made the day ahead and kept in the fridge until needed. I take it out of the fridge about two hours before going into the oven so the glass dish is not going from ice cold to a hot oven in one move. I am told you can go from fridge to oven with Pyrex but I have never personally tried it, as I have always felt a broken glass dish is not the perfect companion for Christmas Dinner.

In a 350 degree oven the potatoes (which are already cooked) are usually heated through within 45 - 60 minutes. You can tell they are done when the potatoes begin to 'rise' and the top is a nice golden color with the cheese well melted.

The Veggies

Usually the vegetables to accompany our Christmas dinner will include brussel sprouts (not everyone's favourite), brown sugar glazed carrots, baked sweet potatoes and green snap peas. While not really a veggie, there is of course whole berry cranberry sauce for those liking it with their turkey.

The Trimmings

Some might think the lack of gravy unforgivable, but I have found that with the cheese potatoes smothered in butter and the juicy fresh turkey that gravy is not really necessary. I will use the pan drippings for gravy on boxing day which I use on my leftover turkey casserole which uses up a good portion of the leftover turkey.

Since I do not stuff our turkey, but the meal would not be complete without dressing I have taken in recent years to using the store bought, stove top stuffing, which while it is not as good as home made we find an acceptable substitute.

The meal is washed down with either a white wine or our new favourite, white cranberry juice.

Dessert

On the off chance that anyone can still move after our Christmas feast, there will always be a choice of mince meat tarts, pecan tarts, shortbread and nanaimo bars for dessert.

A Turkey FACT

It has been scientifically proven that turkey contains a good source of portein and is an unusually high source of vitamin zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

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