Christmas Dinner was a little different this year. Well actually, if you really want to know, it hasn’t followed any regular pattern since December of ’04. As that was the last Christmas as a healthy, cancer free family. But I digress, this year was different because I prepared dinner. Not just for the homestead, but for the entire Taylor-Deppisch household. That’s right, my present to Sarah’s family was food.
Having never prepared such an important meal for a large group, I only hoped I could live up to family standards. With my turkey preparation pretty much aced a few years back, I decided to cook two turkeys for the big meal. After all, this would allow me to flavour each bird differently and make things a little more exciting. As a big believer that all birds should be brined, I mixed sugar, salt, star anise, green cardamom, and whole black peppercorns into the bird bath. A night in the garage worked perfectly, as it was cold enough without freezing.
With the oven at the condo not big enough to comfortable sit two roasting pans, I concocted a crazy plan to cook directly on the racks. Sounds crazy no? You wouldn’t be far of, as most of my google searches didn’t come back with anything promising. With my head down though, I jammed my regular roaster and a heavy foil roaster side by side. Of course, even without the birds right in the pan, I still filled them with celery, carrots, onion, salt & pepper, and olive oil.
Besides a bit of extra smoke at one point (mostly because some fat hit my oven stone), it worked out really well. I tied the birds and included a nice big hook so that I could easy lift them from the racks with a heavy fork. At 500 degrees for 30 minutes to get the outside crisp, I turned it down to 350 and set the time for 2 and 1/2 hours. In the mean time, I started to prepare everything else.
Sweet potatoes were sliced into big chunks and then given a coat of Olivado Avocado Oil (something I’m testing out right now) and salt & pepper before being slow roasted for 3 hours. After there time in the heat, I made a rustic mash that turned out so good. I don’t know how people put sugar on their sweet potatoes, as these babies were so sweet after their journey. For stuffing, I grabbed a loaf of old Yukon Sourdough from Prairie Mill, as well as two good sized ciabattas that we had lying around from Sunterra. Starting with a nice slow melt down of celery and onions, to which I added to some fresh herbs, and homemade turkey stock. Into the mix of toasted bread chunks, before putting in the oven for 45 minutes at 350. Yum!
As I was preparing everything else, I took a moment to probe my birds and found them down after 80 minutes! I was not prepared for them to cook so fast. I figured with two 11 pound birds taking up so much oven space would require at least 2 hours. Apparently I was wrong. I know brine’s speed things up a bit, but can the extra airflow I created by cooking them on the rack be that big of a factor. The glorious skin was so crispy when I removed them to rest, that I almost started to eat it.
Asparagus was easy and last minute; under the broiler with some butter, salt & pepper, and fresh lemon. I also cooked two fillets of salmon en papillote with herbs, lemon and asparagus. I warmed a tourtière from Old Country Meats, while Sarah’s mom was kind enough to prepare mash potatoes, broccoli, and the family favourite, perogies. As well, I picked up two kinds of buns (whole wheat, white) from Prairie Mill to complement the meal. And boy what a meal it was.
The mix of proteins, delicious homemade gravy, sourdough stuffing and mashed vegetables was awesome. After a day of cooking I scarfed down two plates and easily added 10 pounds to the waistline. I’d like to think the meal was a success, and Sarah’s family was kind enough to pass on their happy tummy words. How about you? How was your Christmas din din?