Christmas is all about satisfying your inner child as well as your belly. So, I have combined the two and, in a truly childish fashion, I have compiled the top 10 tips for the perfect Christmas dinner à la Best Western Hotels.
Foreword: My apologies to all who are offended by the word ‘Xmas’ (myself included) but this was the only way I could get ten letters!:
X is for…. Ok, so there aren’t a great deal of hotels beginning with X to start me off here, and x- rays or xylophones aren’t the most festive of topics. But X is the 24th letter in the basic, modern Latin alphabet (bear with me on this one) and the 24th December is Christmas Eve (tenuous link) and the day before the main event. Use this day to prepare, prepare, prepare by reading up on these handy tips!
M is for Meat aka the main event on Christmas day. Why not choose an alternative traditional meat this year? Can my tip from the BEST WESTERN Monkbar Hotel tempt you away from turkey?
Goose makes the perfect Christmas meal – stuff it with citrus fruits (oranges, clementines and lemons – just quartered) and thyme, then roast it breast downwards on a wire rack over a deep pan to catch the fat which is divine for roast potatoes! Turn it over after 30 minutes then glaze with honey and salt then roast for a further hour. Cook slowly for the last hour so it doesn’t dry the bird out. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, and then carve ….. simply delicious!
A is for the BEST WESTERN Ambleside Salutation Hotel who believe in the finer details this Christmas. Head Chef Mike has thought of everything right down to the garnishing for your Christmas pud:
Lightly brush some small bunches of red currants with egg whites and dust with icing sugar.
S is for the BEST WESTERN PLUS Stoke on Trent Moat House Hotel, our saviours from dreaded dry turkey this Christmas.
Top tip number four: regularly baste the bird. Using this method, the only extra thing you will need for this is a piece of muslin. Head Chef at the hotel mixes fresh thyme, garlic, sea salt and pepper with butter to create a smooth mixture that can be spread evenly, all over the turkey crown however you can also add other flavors like grated black truffle, white truffle oil or lemon zest. Cover the crown in muslin and tie in place with string. Start cooking at a lower temperature: most of the cooking can be done in a low oven at around 120°C, increasing to 160-180°C towards the end. You get moister meat if you cook lower for longer. Baste over the muslin every 20 minutes while cooking and, as you do this, the muslin acts as a wick, holding the moisture and leaving you with a juicy and succulent main course. To get the skin brown and crispy, simply take off the muslin 20 minutes before the end. If this wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, another tip for good crispy skin is instead of covering the turkey in bacon from the beginning, add it after the skin has crisped up.
D is for drowning your food in glorious gravy. Never mind northern boys, northern girls love gravy even more! BEST WESTERN The Gables Hotel, Bristol have advised that to get a sweetness and rich flavour when making your Christmas gravy, add a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and also a few springs of thyme. Then, just before serving, finish it with a nice teaspoon of redcurrant jelly to make the gravy extra delicious.
I is for the BEST WESTERN Inverness Palace Hotel. The Head Chef has the right idea with his top tip for Christmas Pudding with Brandy Sauce: “Always put twice the amount of Brandy in the sauce to what the recipe recommends!”
True Scottish spirit!
N is for the BEST WESTERN Normanton Park Hotel, Oakham. Catalin Nastase, the Head Chef at the hotel, champions frozen sprouts over fresh sprouts. ‘Sprouts gain extra flavour through a frost and what better frost than a freezer!’ To cook when defrosted, take off the outer green leaves and fry them in generous amounts of butter, wait until bubbling and then throw in one layer of sprouts across the base until they are slowly singed on the outside. Very tasty indeed…
N is also for the BEST WESTERN New House Country Hotel, Cardiff. Our hotels will do anything to get you to eat your greens this Christmas as Gareth Phillips, Head Chef, gives us another tip on how to serve your sprouts: “to make your sprouts tasty and give them a bit of ‘zing, par’ boil then fry them gently in some melted butter with some tasty pancetta then serve
E is for Edinburgh, the Capital of Scotland. The BEST WESTERN Bruntsfield Hotel, winner of a Gold EatScotland award, has provided me with this recipe for apricot and tarragon stuffing:
4oz fresh white breadcrumbs
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
3oz melted butter
0.5 tablespoon of black pepper and salt
Mix all ingredients together and then bind with egg, butter and lemon juice. You can put the stuffing in a turkey or cook it separately.
R is for the BEST WESTERN Rombalds Hotel & Restaurant, Ilkley and Romano potatoes – a good floury potato to use for your roasties according Paul Laidlaw, Head Chef at the hotel.
Once the potatoes feel soft, drain and lightly shake whilst still in the pan. Heat some duck fat with orange peel and a good pinch of mixed spice and pour over the potatoes that have been decanted into a roasting tin. Cook in a hot oven at 180 degrees C for about 40 minutes until golden….
So there you have it – 10 top tips!