My sister’s been bugging me, I mean hinting for the last couple of years that I should take over cooking the turkey dinner for Christmas. No, thanks! Not this year anyway. Let me explain why. First of all, I’ve only had dinner parties for family and friends a hand full of times and each time, I always bite off more than I can chew. I’m fine cooking for David, but add a few more people and a couple more dishes to the menu and I become frazzled. I always make the mistake of trying to cook too many dishes and then usually none of them end up turning out perfectly. I could never time it properly so that all the dishes are done at the same time and nothing gets cold.
And then there’s my feelings of inadequacy in the kitchen. As you may know, my mom is a chef, not a famous one by any means, but still one. She’s known for her cooking and she knows what she’s doing in the kitchen. How do I cook for her or any other more experienced cook (like my mother in-law) or even my foodie friends without feeling insecure about my food? I always wonder: do they really like it or are they just being nice? Finally, and perhaps the most important reason why I’m not cooking Christmas dinner this year, is that I’ve never roasted a turkey before or any other bird for that matter. And I’m certainly not going to try for the first time on this all important family get together! That’s just too much pressure!
So instead of making Christmas dinner for the whole family this year, I’m going to practice on David with a juicy roast chicken with lemon and rosemary potatoes. And for dessert, a fresh out of the oven warm apple pie, with a buttery, flaky crust. What do you think? Am I ready for next year’s Christmas dinner?
Merry Christmas, everyone! Hope you all have a wonderful holiday, full of good food with family and friends!
Roast Chicken with lemon and rosemary potatoes (from Jamie Oliver):
- 1 x 2kg/4½lb free-range organic chicken
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2kg/4½lb potatoes, peeled
- 1 large, preferably unwaxed, lemon
- 1 whole bulb of garlic, broken into cloves
- a handful of fresh thyme
- olive oil
- a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs, leaves picked
- optional: 8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
- Rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of salt (I use about 1 tbsp) and freshly ground black pepper (~30 grindings). Do this in the morning if possible, then cover the chicken and leave in the fridge until you’re ready to start cooking it for lunch or dinner.
- Preheat your oven to 190ºC/375ºF/gas 5.
- Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil.
- Cut the potatoes into golf-ball-sized pieces, put them into the water with the whole lemon and the garlic cloves, and cook for 12 minutes.
- Drain and allow to steam dry for 1 minute (this will give you crispier potatoes), then remove the lemon and garlic.
- Toss the potatoes in the pan while still hot so their outsides get chuffed up and fluffy – this will make them crispy when they roast.
- While the lemon is still hot, carefully stab it about 10 times.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge, pat it with kitchen paper and rub it all over with olive oil.
- Push the garlic cloves, the whole lemon and the thyme into the cavity, then put the chicken into a roasting tray and cook in the preheated oven for around 45 minutes.
- Remove the chicken to a plate.
- Some fat should have cooked out of it into the roasting tray, so toss the potatoes into this with the rosemary leaves.
- Shake the tray around, then make a gap in the centre of the potatoes and put the chicken back in.
- If using the bacon, lay the rashers over the chicken breast and cook for a further 45 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the potatoes are golden. (You can tell the chicken is cooked when the thigh meat pulls easily away from the bone and the juices run clear.)
- Remove the bacon from the chicken and crumble it up over the potatoes.
- Remove the lemon and garlic from inside the chicken, squeeze all the garlic flesh out of the skin, mush it up and smear it all over the chicken, discard the lemon and rosemary and carve the chicken at the table.
Old fashioned apple pie (adapted from Michael Smith):
for the pastry:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 sticks (1 cup) frozen butter
- 12 tbsp ice water
for the filling:
- 6 or 8 large Honey Crisp or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
- juice from half of a lemon
- egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water)
- white sugar
- Whisk the flour, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.
- Using a standard box or potato grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour and toss lightly with your fingers until it’s thoroughly combined.
- Sprinkle in the ice water and stir with your fingers, mixing and firmly kneading until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Divide dough into 2 pieces; making sure that one half is slightly larger than the other.
- Wrap in plastic wrap, flatten and chill for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight. Resting tenderizes the pastry, making it easier to roll.
- Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm slightly, just until it’s pliable.
- Lightly flour your hands, the rolling pin, your work surface and the dough.
- Roll out the larger pastry piece into a circle large enough to slightly overlap the edges of a 9-inch glass deep-dish pie dish. As you roll, for ease of handling, lightly flour the dough every time its diameter doubles, then flip it over and continue rolling.
- Transfer the dough to the pie dish by folding it into quarters then unfolding it in the dish.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C).
- Toss the apple slices with the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice.
- Add the apple mixture to the bottom crust.
- Roll out the remaining smaller piece and carefully place it over the top of the pie.
- Roll and crimp the edges of the dough together, tightly sealing them.
- Brush egg wash on the top crust and sprinkle with sugar.
- Poke a few vent holes into the top of the pie and place on the bottom rack of oven.
- Bake for an hour or so, until the crust is golden and the juices are bubbling.
Notes and Tips:
For the chicken, I have yet to try it with the bacon, just because I didn’t have any on hand. I used frying chicken, which was ~1.3kg and took a total of ~15 minutes less to cook than suggested above. 2kg of potatoes is a lot! I normally just use 5 or 6. For the pie, I used 2 Granny Smith with 2 McIntosh and that was plenty.