Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas
I’m fortunate to have my family living near by here in France, were not to bothered really about English traditions as we have embraced the French life, with one exception Christmas.
Each year we take it in turn to host the Christmas lunch, this year its the turn of my youngest son Michael. Mikes got a hectic time ahead, he moves into his new house on the 18th of December and then has lunch to prepare for 11 on Christmas day. I always provide the turkey, I buy a young bird around March/April time and pamper it, feed it well then just before Christmas the family come over and we preper the turkey for the oven. Not surprisingly this does upset me as by then it has a name and I’ve spent 9 months looking after it, but Im a realist, as a meat eater I know where my dinner has come from, I’m also sure that my meat had a better life than most animals that end up on the table.
My task this year is the desert, this is the easiest, go buy a cake, job done. But I’m not leaving it there, the French eat some strange foods but find Christmas cake and more so Christmas pudding strange. But I haven’t given up, this year my daughter in law Celine’s parents are joining us, I think I may be able to find converts there to a proper English pud, my cake is made, I will make another pudding, we ate the last one, new recipe had to be tested. I’m also planning to cook a French favourite macaroons. So the idea is a Cafe Gourmond, a little slice off bought cake, maybe a choux bun, a small slice of Christmas cake, a macaroon and something else, whith pud being offered later, with real thick custard not the rubbish French Creme Anglais.
Find my Christmas Pudding Video at CHRISTMAS PUDDING
Last year I was preparing the starters, This is my favorite job also Paul likes to be involved here. Four different starters on one plate
I’ve made a video for an example of Christmas Starters at CHRISTMAS STARTERS
I try to keep things traditional in the idea but add a modern twist, but I do think that tastless and wet frozen prawns should be left back in the ’70s, use fresh prawns you can add extra flavour by using crab sticks mixed in with your lettuce base, lump fish roe and anchovys add a lovely salty sea flavour.
So how to host a stress free and more relaxed Christmas lunch
Chrismas lunch usually starts with Buck Fizz Orange Juice and sparkling wine, or a Kir Royale, Creme de Cassis and sparkling wine, Tequila Sunrise Tequila, Orange Juice and Grenadine also makes a lovely Apperatif.
If you look at the starter video theres nothing there that can’t be prepared before hand, its probably not a good idea to build the starters but the sauces can be made, the prawns and the eggs peeled everything can be cooked or prepared the day or even a couple of days in advance. Surprisingly this also goes for the Christmas Turkey yes, cook your turkey the day before unless its important to you to present at the dining table a hot dressed turkey do what restaurants do. Cook your turkey a day or two before, then Christmas morning slice the turkey into portions, arranging a good slice of breast over white and dark meat on a oven proof (serving) tray pour water or stock over the meat and cover in foil, Your vegtables also cooked the day before, if for example your serving, carrots, sprouts, roast and boiled potatoes. Cook the lot the day before, the veg should still have a little crunch, veg once cooked should be cooled by putting in cold water (you may need to change the water a couple of times, you need to stop them cooking), then put in the fridge, boiled potatoes need to be cooled as well. Make your stuffing, make your gravy.
So just before you sit to eat your starter put the sliced turkey in a hot oven, if you have room put your roast veg and stuffing in the oven as well put a saucepan or two of water to boil. Finished your starter, heat your gravy, put carrots and potatoes into boiling water put a frying pan on the heat with a little butter add chestnuts and sprouts and heat them through. If you didnt have room for the roast veg and stuffing, put them in the microwave.
Time to serve, put your boiled veg into a serving bowl also your sprouts, if you microwaved your roast vegatables you can put them into the frying pan for a minute, remove your turkey from the oven, drain of the water or stock pour over a little gravy, put your roast veg in a serving dish and the stuffing on top of the turkey then plate up or take the serving dished to the table. Everything is hot, cooked and more importantly you decide when its ready to serve, its not a great idea to be checking if the turkey is cooked when your ready to eat it. Instead of cranberry sauce take a look at my video for chili and pepper jam here CHILI JAM
However its very important when asked « do you need a hand » to decline, unless someones in tune to what your doing they will just get in the way and when complimented on the easy stress free way you coped with what to some is a daunting task you can just say « oh its nothing ».
After you have eaten you can of course accept the offer to help to clean up and wash up before you eat desert.
We all look forward to Christmas cake and pudding but once we reach the desert stage are often to stuffed to even think about it, I suggest you have handy some macaroons ice cream and chocolate sauce.
Boxing day isn’t a holiday in France (except in Alsace and Moselle) so most people are back at work on the 26th which is why the French serve there main Christmas dinner on the 24th. This actually makes sense and having experienced a French Christmas meal I’ve often been tempted to dispense with the traditional English meal. It makes more sense to eat such a large meal in the evening, then after go to bed rather than fall asleep in front of the Queens speach. A lot more time is taken and the way the courses arrive a lot more relaxed, serve a starter then have a break off go the smokers people sit round nattering, the host hasnt moved so you know the next course won’t be arriving soon, no rush, we have all night, now the reason we only eat roast turkey at certain times, Easter Christmas and for my American friends Thanksgiving is no matter how you cook it it won’t be great, if the legs are cooked the breast is dry if the breast is cooked then the legs are raw the perfect roast turkey has been cut up into 2 breasts and 2 legs and everythink cooked to its own times. So the French use this opportunity to eat exotic meats they wouldn’t normally eat or be able to buy. Simple tasty meats like Wild Boar or Venison to Kangaroo or Ostrich. A fish course of simple fried white fish with a Tartare sauce but before all this a huge platter of shell fish, shiny delicious oysters crabs, lobster and whelks, platters like this are best ordered from the local supermarkets pick them up late on the 24th all ready to be eaten except the oysters which will need opening unfortunately this is where Frances Health Service sees a lot of customers, with knife wounds to the hand, be careful. I must make an oyster video !
Cheese is usually served after the main meal before the desert, which to me is the wrong way round it is a chance however to show that Chedder and Stilton are a superior chesses to those offered by the French. Desert may be a Cafe Gourmond 3 or 4 small portions of desert, a little Gateau, a Macaroon, a choux pastry ball with cream and chocolate a little ice cream served with coffee and of course the big French tradition After Eights.
Wine flows freely and who cares if were drinking Oakey Bordeaux with a fish. Just remember the sparkly to go with the shell fish.
But what ever tradition you follow I hope you have a great Christmas.