By Mike Robinson of The Field
Monday, 19 November 2007
If the thought of yet another turkey dinner drives you to distraction, duck out with this old-fashioned but elegant Christmas feast. A big hearty Italian soup, rolled Christmas duck and Lemon posset.
December is a wonderful month; I defy anyone in their heart of hearts to say otherwise. The whole build up to Christmas and New Year is truly exciting (with the obvious exception of the adverts for kids' toys on the telly 24/seven). I love the buzz in the air and the wonderful atmosphere it creates in the restaurant. For those in my profession it is also a profitable time that keeps us going over the quiet months to come. I, for one, don't understand the current trend for pooh-poohing Christmas - you know what I mean: all my friends seem to feel they have to say how much they hate Christmas, how over-commercialised it all is and so on. Rubbish! I believe that the festive season is all about excess, about forgetting your woes and really letting your hair down and, of course, eating too much.
Food is always a major focus that brings us all together, especially the Big One: Christmas lunch/dinner. If I am cooking for lots of people I do turkey, but when it is just Mrs R and me (when you work in hospitality and have just made it through the culinary equivalent of a military offensive, you really appreciate a bit of quietude) we often look for something different. Last year I did a lovely rib of beef; this year I am going old- fashioned but quite elegant.
We start with a soup - this one I had in Friuli in Italy was a revelation: a world-class broth of pearl barley, bacon and pulses. I am quite sure that this has a wonderful name but I omitted to find out what it was. All I know is that it fulfils my requirements for a winter broth to the letter, plus it gets better over the following days and you can add turkey to it after the big day - perfect!
Following that comes a spiced and very seasonal meat - duck. I want to make this the day before, which rules out roasting. What I'll do is apply one of our restaurant techniques to the bird. This involves deboning, which is probably best left to your butcher, who will do it for you if you ask nicely.
The boned bird is stuffed and wrapped in muslin, then poached for ages in a vegetable stock. This cooks it perfectly yet retains all the flavour and moisture in the meat. Once out of the muslin, we wrap the bird in cling film and cool it, which sets the meat into a perfect roll. All we then have to do is cut thick slices, fry them to colour, roast for 10 minutes and serve ? easy.
To finish I have resurrected the mediaeval classic - lemon posset. This precursor to crème brûlée is delicate yet wintry and a perfect finish (with the obvious exception of Christmas pud ) to your special meal.
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