What elevates a home-cooked meal to a Christmas feast for the ages? Flavour and finesse. That’s counting everything from the perfect bronze on your roast to silverware and snowflake doilies on your table. Here’s a speed date with six chefs who have planned so many elaborate spreads for the festive season, they could teach your turkey to make a turkey.
Vah-chef on YouTube
Not being Christian myself, I have spent a lot of time researching what Christians from all over the country like to eat at this time of year. Surprising, I discovered everything from paruppu payasam in Chennai to ladoos in Andhra Pradesh. Me?
I love turkey biryani.
I’m used to a community-style set-up with lots of Christmas cheer. Instead of turkey, I prefer a leg of pork or sometimes pork belly, paired with wintery flavours like cranberry and orange. My mother takes on the dessert, which is usually baked apples soaked in rum, with a dollop of fresh cream.
We spent a good decade in Melbourne, so I would put a desi spin on our turkey to remind our kids of their roots. That usually ends up being a turkey in a pistachio-spiced gravy alongside a pork pandi curry that takes me straight back home to Mangalore.
Koushik S aka the Mad ChefEatitude Gourmet Technologists
I get my turkey brought down from a farm well ahead of time, and pull out all the classic stops on the menu. Eggnog, bread and butter pudding, Christmas cookies going around… and we deck the dinner table with everything from silverware to snowflake doilies.
To take the pressure off, I also have a team of little helpers (my kids) whipping up a mean salad.
Living far from home for so long, Christmas dinners have always been more about the people than the food. I’ve hosted intimate gatherings of six people at home as well as 60 guests at a time. We do turkey in cranberry sauce, cinnamon candles, champagne… the works! I’d say start planning your menu a good week in advance and start cooking two or three days ahead. It would be wise to buy your turkey two or three weeks in beforehand. There’s nothing worse than returning home empty handed on Christmas morning because all the turkeys are all sold out!
Executive Chef, Taj Coromandel
I love cooking at home to a vintage playlist of Kishore Kumar songs, while putting together a pot of my mother’s mangsho jhol (mutton curry) — a favourite from my days growing up in Kolkata. Although, being a chef, I can sip on eggnog, and prep my turkey and platter of brie and camembert for friends with just as much enthusiasm.
You may end up insulting a chef if you use this phrase outright. But um, we took the risk.
● Cooking your stuffing separately helps cook your turkey faster and more evenly
● Slather butter on the skin of the turkey for a gorgeous bronze crisp
● If you’re too tired after braving that marathon turkey roast, try a shortcut pudding that won’t have anyone the wiser. Combine store-bought pudding and a few softened scoops of vanilla ice cream, with a generous splash of rum, and allow to set overnight in your freezer.
● Parboil your potatoes the night before so that they only need 15 minutes in the oven on your big night.
by Sonali Shenoy