The thought of cooking Christmas dinner fills most of us with dread. It’s the highlight of Christmas Day and everybody wants it to be superb. But there’s no no need to panic because renowned chef Marco Pierre White has come up with some top tips for cooking the finest roast potatoes and timing the turkey perfectly.
The perfect roast potatoes
For my potatoes, I cook with clarified butter, which is very simple to make. Slowly heat 7oz/200g of chopped, unsalted butter in a pan. Discard the surface liquid (milk solids and water). The remaining golden liquid is clarified butter. Alternatively use duck/goose fat or sunflower oil.
Nine medium-sized potatoes will serve six people comfortably without being wasteful.
An hour before you plan to serve, put the chopped potatoes in a saucepan of unsalted cold water. Place on a high heat, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
Meanwhile, put the clarified butter/fat into the roasting tin for the potatoes. I also sprinkle in a chicken stock cube – this provides seasoning so there is no need for salt. Heat the fat in the oven at 190C/gas mark 5.
At the first sign of cracks in the potatoes’ edges, remove them from the heat and drain. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and carefully place the hot potatoes into the fat, which should come up the edge of the potatoes. Baste them well with clarified butter or your turkey baste and return to your oven.
Do not touch the potatoes now until they are ready to be served. Turning them may break them. Just leave them be.
Timing the turkey perfectly
Size matters where turkey is concerned. A massive one won’t cook evenly. I buy one that weighs about 4.5kg, which will feed six with plenty to spare. Don’t stuff the bird – cook the stuffing separately. It slows down the cooking, so by the time the inner meat is cooked, the white meat on the outside will be overcooked and dry.
Morning: Remove the turkey from the fridge as it will need several hours to reach room temperature – a cold bird takes longer to cook.
11.30am: Set the oven to 190C/gas mark 5, allowing it half an hour to reach that temperature. Baste your turkey.
12 noon: Place the turkey in the oven, uncovered.
12.45pm: When the turkey is golden brown, remove it from the oven and cover it in tinfoil to prevent it from browning further. Return it to the oven and continue to cook at 170C/gas mark 3. In total, the turkey should take between 90 minutes and two hours to cook.
1pm: Chop three onions in half, remove the outer layer of skin and place the halved onions into the roasting tin with the turkey. The onions will caramelise, adding sweetness and colour into the roasting juices.
1.30pm: Check the turkey. Remove it from the oven and insert a skewer into the thickest part of the bird – the breast behind the thigh. The temperature of the skewer represents the temperature inside the turkey; if it’s only slightly warm, it obviously needs longer. Do not be concerned if the juices are a little pink because the bird will continue cooking when it’s wrapped in foil. Return it to the oven.
2pm: By now your turkey should be ready. Lift it from the oven and quickly wrap it in tinfoil. During this rest period, the temperature remains high and will continue to cook. Don’t worry about it going cold, once wrapped in tinfoil, it will easily stay warm for up to two hours. Finish off your trimmings, then carve, and lastly, enjoy.
Want more of Marco this Christmas? Visit his New York Italian MediaCityUK, Manchester, at the Holiday Inn Hotel for a three-course festive lunch for £21.95. Open every day of the festive period with overnight stays available, visit www.mpwrestaurants.com/christmas for more details.