Cooking a Christmas dinner is one of the most stressful challenges for any home cook. It's the closest that many of us ever come to facing the weight of expectation that exists in a professional kitchen. Deliver, and immortality awaits: reverential treatment from all the family, and freedom to spend the evening reclining with a glass of something potent - your work for the day done. Fail, and you comprehensively ruin the day for everyone. No pressure.
One man typically not associated with pressure relief is Gordon Ramsay. The world's sweariest chef is usually more likely to give a cook an aneurysm than a friendly word of encouragement. However, whatever you may feel about Ramsay, he is undoubtedly a master in the kitchen. Therefore, any advice he has on Christmas dinner should be heeded. Here are a few of his most useful tips for a stress-reduced cooking experience.
1. Don't do it all on the day
So vast is a typical Christmas feast, that the greatest challenge can often be balancing the cooking of many different elements at once. Ramsay's first tip, therefore, is to spread out your workload over the days leading up to the main event. Sauces and some roasted veggies can be made a day or two in advance, giving you more time to spend in your family.
2. Brussel Sprouts can be delicious
For picky eaters who turn their nose up at anything green, Ramsay has a particularly straightforward solution. Par boiling sprouts for two minutes, before pan frying with pancetta will make them irresistible to even the most mistrustful veggie hater. The pancetta gives a "rich, meaty flavour" to the sprouts, turning them from a supporting cast member into a total star of the dinner table.
3. Bacon makes everything better
It's not just vegetables that should get the bacon treatment at Christmas time. In order to protect your carefully nurtured bird from burning in the final stages of cooking, bacon should be draped over it. Not only is this a preventative measure, but it will also add to the final flavor of both turkey and gravy. Any invitation to add bacon should be welcomed with open arms.
4. Curry your roasties
In a Christmas curveball, Ramsey proposes a particularly rogue ingredient for roast potatoes. Turmeric is most well known as a crucial ingredient in Asian cooking. However, Ramsay suggests that dusting across potatoes prior to roasting not only gives them a fantastic golden colour, but also a deep "earthy taste". Including turmeric in your cooking will certainly help your Christmas dinner to stand out.
5. Be patient
After slaving away for hours at the oven, the temptation to hack into your handiwork can be overwhelming. However, in order to ensure a tender, moist turkey, the bird should be allowed to rest for at least two and a half hours before carving. This will prevent the meat from toughening up and drying out and will ensure that it is far easier to carve when the time comes.
While he may not be easy to picture in a cuddly Christmas jumper, Gordon Ramsay certainly has some bright ideas when it comes to Christmassy cooking. If you've been desperately searching for a way to make the whole experience more bearable, he may well have the answer.