Season's Eatings: The Christmas Feast

Well hello!! I've neglected this poor blog for long enough so it's nice to have time to post again. I hope everyone had an excellent food-filled holiday. I certainly did and had a great time cooking up a family feast on Christmas Day. It was actually the first time I made a whole turkey and to my relief, it worked out and we weren't stuck having pizza delivered for dinner.

Want to see it?

Ok. Don't laugh.

Errr, I know. This bird isn't particularly sexy, and it isn't going to be gracing the glossy pages of Food and Wine magazine anytime soon. But what it lacked in looks it made up for in taste. It's inner beauty that counts, isn't it? The turkey was filled with cinnamon steeped apples, onions and herbs before it was roasted. The aromatics steamed and flavored the meat so perfectly I don't think I will ever stuff a turkey with normal stuffing. Herb butter was also rubbed under the skin, which seeped into the meat and made it extra juicy. Delish.

Of course, the turkey was served with the works (cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, roast vegetables and mashed potatoes). Unfortunately we got too excited to eat and the meal was quickly devoured before I got any photographic documentation. But the recipes are included below for reference.

The meal was topped off with a Buche de Noel. The cake is a traditional Christmas dessert made to look like a log used in winter solstice rituals. This rendition was made with a delicate flourless chocolate cake roll, inspired by roulade leontine. The inside was filled with hazelnut buttercream. The outside is usually covered with chocolate buttercream and textured by dragging a fork through so that the surface imitates tree bark. I wanted to pull out all the stops though, so I covered the top with flakes of dark chocolate bark. (To make the bark, temper about 1/2 lb chocolate and spread it thinly over a parchment lined baking sheet. Allow to set and break into pieces). To add to the disguise, the "log" was garnished with little meringue mushrooms. When it was finally all assembled, it looked like this:

Missing a little something though, right? Like, SNOW!

That's better. All in all, the Christmas feast went quite well. And good company only makes good food better.

(Recipes after the jump)

Good Eats Roast Turkey
  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil


2 to 3 days before roasting:
Begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F.
Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.
Early on the day or the night before you'd like to eat:
Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.
Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan and pat dry with paper towels.
Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey's cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.
Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.
Cranberry Sauce

12 ounces fresh cranberries
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water

In a medium sized saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Stir in the cranberries and cook until the cranberries start to pop (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and place sauce in a bowl. Cranberry sauce will thicken as it cools.

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Defatted turkey drippings plus chicken stock to make 2 cups, heated
  • 1 tablespoon Cognac or brandy
  • 1 tablespoon white wine, optional
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream, optional
In a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan, cook the butter and onions over medium-low heat for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Don't rush this step; it makes all the difference when the onions are well-cooked.
Sprinkle the flour into the pan, whisk in, then add the salt and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock mixture and Cognac, and cook uncovered for 4 to 5 minutes until thickened. Add the wine and cream, if desired. Season, to taste, and serve.
Sausage, Cranberry and Apple Stuffing

Recipe here

Hazelnut Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Makes 3 to 3 1/2 cups (Use 1/2 recipe for Buche de Noel)

4 large egg whites at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cups hazelnuts (roasted, skins removed, ground)

Whisk together egg whites, sugar, water and cream of tartar in a large stainless steel mixing bowl. Set in a wide, deep skillet filled about 1 inch deep with water. Make sure the water is at least as high as the depth of egg whites in the skillet. Beat the egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until it reaches 140 degrees F. Then, beat on high speed until mixture reaches 160 degrees, 2 to 4 minutes.

Remove bowl from skillet, add vanilla, and beat for 3-5 minutes to cool. The mixture should hold glossy marshmallow-y peaks. In another bowl, beat butter until creamy. Beat in large dollops of meringue into the butter until it is all combined. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in ground hazelnuts

Store frosted cake for at most 2 days at cool room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze for up to 6 months. If the frosting curdles, melt about 1/4 of it, add back to the mixture and rebeat it.

Chocolate Cake Roll:

6 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
3 tablespoons water
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 350°F. Oil a 15- by 10- by 1-inch shallow baking pan and line bottom lengthwise | with a large piece of wax or parchment paper, letting paper hang over ends by 2 inches.
Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm.
Beat yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended. Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into melted-chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake in middle of oven until puffed and top is dry to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack. Cover top with 2 layers of damp paper towels and let stand 5 minutes, then remove towels and cool completely. Loosen edges with a sharp knife.
Sift cocoa powder over top of cake layer and overlap 2 layers of wax paper lengthwise over cake. Place a baking sheet over paper and invert cake onto it, gently peeling off wax paper lining. (Don’t worry if cake layer breaks; it will hold together when rolled.)

Meringue Mushrooms: Recipe here
Recipe credits:
Turkey-Good Eats and Food Network
Gravy-Barefoot Contessa and Food Network
Cranberry Sauce-Toni and Allrecipes.com
Chocolate Cake Roll-Gourmet Magazine and Epicurious
Meringue Mushrooms-Joy of Baking
Images property of beets and bites

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