Christmas Tips from L'ortolan Michelin s L'Ortolan
Where do you start with last minute Christmas tips. We all have our different ways of cooking our Christmas lunch, whether it be Turkey, Venison, Goose or even a Nut Roast, there are several little pointers that can help even the most novice of cooks. Some tips may just seem common sense, but time and time again we discover from our masterclasses that there are things we take for granted in the kitchen because we are immersed within food day after day.
This is probably the simplest, tip for a smooth and easy Christmas day.
It's all in the preparation.
You needn't be a slave to the stove on Christmas day, hidden away from the family merriment. Nearly every item of your lunch can be prepared to some extent in the days before, most of them even cooked the day before. The key to cooking like this is to simple undercook everything slightly, and cool it down as quickly as possible, whether that be with ice or any other method. The quicker you can cool them down, the more of the flavour you will lock in. Unbelievably this even goes for your roast. Yes that can be cooked the day before too! Having everything cooked beforehand does mean that you need to take slightly more care when heating them back up on Christmas day, and you will need to ensure they are piping hot before serving, but this will take so much pressure out of the actual cook, leaving time for an extra glass of fizz or two.
Next, onto the dreaded sprouts.
Nightmare's up and down the country of the little green balls, boiled to death, that only seem to come out for Christmas day. Our top tip when buying your sprouts, is to look for the ones sold still on the stalk. You may need to go to your greengrocer for this, but it makes a huge difference. The other bonus to getting them on the stalk is they come with the amazing, slightly larger, leaves still attached at the top called sprout tops. For chefs, these are a prized ingredient. The evening before, remove the leaves and sprouts from the stalk, and simply cut in half, top to bottom. Gone are the days of having to spend hours crossing the bottom. Then, the secret ingredients to making your sprouts taste great, bacon and chestnuts. We use recooked and peeled chestnuts, sold in 500g packets, which you can also readily get from supermarkets at this time of year, or again, your greengrocer should be able to get them all year round. Dice your bacon, smoked or not, and fry until crisp in a small amount of oil. Add in your sprout halves and tops and fry on a medium high heat until they start to turn golden, add in a few nice knobs of butter and crush in a few handfull's of chestnuts, and continue to fry on a medium heat until the sprouts are al-dente. Finish with a nice pinch of sea salt flakes and a few spoons of boiling water. The water will turn the butter and bacon fat into a wonderful glaze making the sprouts nice and shiny.
Our third and final tip to boost your Christmas lunch is all about cranberry sauce. We've all had cranberry sauce with our roast before, but its so simple to make at home, and tastes so much better. The zingy red berries lift nearly all slow cooked meats giving them a burst of freshness.
Our recipe is as follows:
- 400g Fresh Cranberries
- 150g Demerara Sugar
- 50g Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 Star Anise
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 Orange Zest
- 100ml Orange Juice
- 10g Sea Salt
Place the sugar into a pan and take to a light caramel. If you are using a probe, it will be between 166°c and 170°c. Immediately add your cranberries and spices to the pan and stir. The sugar will start to set up as a few solid caramel shards almost immediately. This is normal. Just lower the heat slightly and keep stirring until your berries have burst and start to soften. Then at this stage you need to peel your orange, adding this to the pan, along with your juice, vinegar and salt. Cook over a low heat until a loose jam consistency. Allow all to cool to room temperature. We leave our spices and zest in the sauce until literally just before serving so they can impart a much better flavour as they slowly release. This sauce will last in the fridge for up to a year , providing it is stored correctly.
Happy cooking this Christmas!