Christmas Day 2009
Christmas With Gravy
Merry Kitchen Merry Table
My first Eldorado Christmas!

Went pretty well I thought.
OK, the cooking went well I thought - there was a certain amount of social discord caused by my insensitive attempts to import some familiar Christmas Eve traditions into my new family - like eating curries and watching our favourite black and white Christmas movies. Unfortunately whilst unilaterally promoting the virtues of timeless fantasies like Miracle on 34th Street (and yes I do mean the 1947 original directed by George Seaton - those remakes are just pitiful and unnecessary imitations) I (apparently) completely failed to appreciate the value of such modern classics as Love Actually, and more heinously still, the value of a negotiated settlement when stubborn families' traditions clash!

Maybe it has something to do with having so often invited everyone I know to "Kill me, for God's sake kill me if I ever watch Love Actually actually" I'm now quite worried one or other more disreputable acquaintance might take that at face value.

Anyway, and more importantly, the feasting was most excellent - Amanda, Rachel's sister and Alan (not Allen - sorry Alan), traditionally host the Eldorado Christmas Dinner and this year cooked for an astonishing 17 people.

Rachel made her very tasty signature prawn, salmon, melon and ham kebab starters. and we had the leftovers for tea on Boxing Day. That's the downside of not cooking your own Dinner - there's nothing to eat on Boxing Day. Or the day after. Or the day after that. Of course, you save on washing up!
There was no leftover seafood sauce though, so I whipped up a Marie Rose Sauce which went pretty nicely.

My own minor contribution to the gastronomic festivities was that bread sauce I've been working on, a rather tasty Christmasy version of my Carrots Ricard with Clementines, and the best damn traditional Christmas gravy in the world (if I do say so myself).

Although I'd been promised that there would be Bisto on hand for those hard-core Eldorado traditionalists afraid of food that doesn't come out of a packet there didn't seem to be any on the table - maybe because we'd ended up with so much of mine: it's astonishing how much juice comes out of a 20lb turkey.
Mind you, I didn't hear any complaining.

I like my cooking I do, but I'm not sure I could handle Christmas dinner for 17 guests without blowing a gasket. It took me two days to make my mere three dishes! I do tend to get caught up in the fiddly little details me, lose sight of the bigger picture, the bigger pots.
And my, there were big pots.
Where does Alan keep such big pots?

Christmas Gravy
The best damn Christmas Gravy in the world - this is a whole lot of trouble, but well worth the effort.
The problem with just using the juice from your Christmas Dinner Bird (turkey, goose or emu) is that the gravy ends up looking slightly anaemic, even it if does taste perfectly fine.

Making a dark, rich stock beforehand takes much of the trouble out of the gravy for that special dinner - you can even make the whole gravy a day ahead, and just reheat it, thinning with fresh stock, on the big day.

The benefit of such a lovely rich stock is that you need minimal flavourings to finish the gravy off (even if I did add a touch of port and orange!)

Serves a dinner party

1 pint dark chicken stock
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter
1 pint juices fresh from the Christmas Bird
juice of 1 Clementine
glass port
Fry equal quantities of butter and flour in a generous pot
You can fry the butter and flour up in the Christmas Bird's baking tray scraping up all the delicious crispy bits if the tray is free.
Around 1 tablespoon flour per pint of stock works well if you like your gravy rather thin,
2 tablespoons if you like it a bit thicker like me,
3 if you're making wallpaper paste.
Gradually whisk in the dark stock, a few spoonfuls at a time to start with, then more generously when the roux has loosened up.
Whisk in the juice of a Clementine (or a Satsuma or other Mandarin orange).

You can chill the gravy at this stage and finish it off a day or so later.

To finish the gravy, reheat and then whisk in any strained juices syphoned off from the Christmas Bird, adding some of the vegetable water if you like (the dark stock can be a little overwhelming) and a nice splash of Port to finish off (other flavours are available).
Decant and float your gravy boat.
If you make the gravy ahead of time, be sure to plan the amount of flour appropriate for the finished volume and make the first round extra thick.

If you aren't quite sure how much you will be making you can always make extra roux and save some of it after you've added the first few portions of stock. Then if your finished gravy is too thin, you will need to whisk it back into your saved roux, a little at a time as for making gravy normally.

This didn't merit the Georgina Seal of approval I'm afraid
Marie Rose Sauce
sauce veg
The classic version of this sauce uses lemon rather than lime juice, tomato ketchup rather than purée and omits the cream.
Other more upmarket versions also add brandy, cayenne pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic.

I have an ingrained resistance to over-processed ingredients, and though I suppose that marie rose sauce is the epitamy of over-processed produce I didn't think my Heinz-free version was all that bad.

juice of a lime
1-2 teaspoons tomato purée
4 teaspoons mayonaisse
drizzle double cream
Whip up the ingredients. Pour over your prawns.

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