It is with great excitement that I write this last recipe for The Student before Christmas. Why? Because Christmas food is great. There is a certain set of smells that go with Christmas; cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, rich turkey and bold gravy, stuffing, pigs in blankets…The list goes on. But how do you do them perfectly? We’ll leave turkey cooking because it is covered in almost all magazines at this time of year; instead we’ll talk about some elements that can be elevated to a whole new level, including the turkey sandwich.
Firstly, the humble brussel sprout. Despite being loathed beyond measure thanks to meek imitations at schools and restaurants, in my humble opinion the sprout is absolutely delicious. In the restaurant we peel them, blanche them (boil very quickly) for 3 minutes and then sauté in butter and chopped chestnuts. However, my favourite method is thanks to an American friend of mine, who cooks them in lots of butter and poppyseeds till soft and caramelised. I promise, you will never taste a better sprout. Simply take 100 grams of sprouts per person, shred with a good knife or a food processor. On a medium heat, melt a good knob of butter till it’s foaming, then add the sprouts in batches. Fry till soft, seasoning well with plenty of salt and pepper. If you want, sprinkle on poppyseeds; it adds a nuttiness and a crunchy texture. Keep them warm whilst you fry all the sprouts. If you want to be a super keen ‘brussel scout’ (sorry), add some bacon lardons and chopped hazelnuts.
Gravy. Escoffier, the father of French and British cuisine said of stock; “Indeed, stock is everything in cooking, at least in French cooking. Without it nothing can be done.” So lets make some proper turkey gravy. Most turkeys are provided with the giblets, so start by frying them in oil. Then add a large splash of wine (or beer), half an onion, a carrot, peppercorns and lots of stock. (See below). Simmer for a few hours till reduced by half. Strain and add cornflour (mixed into water) to thicken. You’ll be left with rich, glossy gravy which is perfect for any feast.
“Someone ate the only good thing in my life!”, “You threw my sandwich away…My sandwich? MY SANDWICH!” Ross Geller from Friends was rightly upset when his post-thanksgiving sandwich was partially eaten by his boss, as would be any one else in possession of a correctly concocted turkey sandwhich. Disclaimer: I’m not a huge fan of turkey. And yet, in a sandwich it is unbelievable. So how do you make the perfect turkey sandwich? Start with the bread. There are three camps here; bloomer brown, Scottish breakfast rolls or the fancy baguette. It’s impossible to choose between them, personally. They are all perfect in their own way. So I’ll leave that up to you. They must be well mayonnaised, and for both sides provide a hearty spread of cranberry sauce.
Now add the turkey meat. Non-negotiable: 2 slices of white meat and 1 slice of dark. A slice of stuffing is also a great addition. Ross was especially upset because his sandwich had a ‘moist maker’ (a slice of bread dipped in gravy). You’re most welcome to use this if you are so inclined. After a lot of thought, the best salad item for this sandwich is definitely rocket. It stays crunchy and adds a peppery note that will cut through the sweetness and sharpness of the cranberry sauce.
Before signing off for the Christmas break, we must talk about stock. Stock is best made by going to a butcher and asking for bones. The butcher will be more than happy to give away a waste product, and they make the best stock by far. Of course if you roast a chicken, you have the bones there for you. To make good stock, simply roast/fry the bones till browned, add a lot of water, half an onion, a carrot and simmer for at least 2 hours, 3 ideally. Strain, freeze and you’ll have an endless supply of top quality stock. Add it to your spag bol or chilli to make it extra rich, or use it to make killer gravies like the one above. All in all, stock is the bread and butter of cooking, so use it to its advantage! It’s free, after all.
Image Credit: Edward Simpson: Flickr