Cooking The Perfect Christmas Dinner

We ask an expert how to make a winning feast for one of the most important meals of the year
Cooking The Perfect Christmas Dinner
10 Dec 2018 AT 05:02 PM
10 Dec 2018 AT 05:02 PM

Look, cooking at the best of times is tricky. Making sure you don't mess up the biggest meal of the year (for us at least) adds a lot of pressure to the kitchen, and we can't imagine how hard is must be in a professional kitchen. 

That's why we've enlisted Chef Clive Micallef to run us through the perfect Christmas dinner set up. And trust us, it's a tasty one. 

The Brine

  •   3 litres water
  •   150g kosher salt
  •   3 bay leaves
  •   1 tbsp. peppercorns, whole
  •   1 tsp fennel seeds
  •   2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
  •   1 tsp juniper berries
  •   1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  •   6 garlic cloves, crushed
  •   2 onions, thinly sliced

Pat the turkey dry, remove neck and giblets (reserved for sauce) and put the liver to one side for the stuffing. Bring one litre of water, salt, bay leaves, and spices to a simmer, stirring until the salt has dissolved. Let it cool for ten minutes. Add the remaining water and the rest of the ingredients. Place turkey in brine. If turkey is not submerged, put some weight on the bird. Refrigerate 24 hours, flipping it at least once.

The Stuffing

  •   70g dried morels
  •   1½ cups boiling water
  •   1 shallot, finely chopped
  •   3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  •   1 leek, finely chopped
  •   1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  •   200g veal bacon, finely chopped
  •   Liver from turkey, chopped
  •   4 sliced dry white bread, crust removed
  •   150g beef sujuk
  •   50g Saveur et Sens organic mustard black pepper and
  • pink peppercorn
  •   140g chestnuts, peeled, chopped
  •   10g duck fat
  •   Fresh thyme leaves
  •   100ml chicken stock
  •   Salt

Hydrate the morels in the boiling water, and let them soak for an hour or so. Start by rendering the veal bacon in a skillet with duck fat until crisp over medium heat, stirring frequently. Transfer to a plate, keep drippings in skillet, whilst adding the shallot, celery, leek, and garlic cooking until translucent.
Drain the morels, reserve the now flavoured soaking liquid. Add the morels to the skillet together with the sujuk and the thyme. Stir and combine all ingredients together over a high heat. Add the liver, and once browned in colour add the bacon. Place on the side to cool down slightly. Preheat oven to 180°C. Combine mixture, mustard, bread, and chestnuts, pouring the chicken stock and half of the soaking morel mixture over. Allow bread to soak up liquid, and season.

The Bird

  •   1 whole turkey (5kg)
  •   Stuffing as per recipe above
  •   100g butter
  •   Francis Miot Forest Honey
  •   Herb salt
  •   Crushed peppercorns
  •   1 carrot
  •   1 onion
  •   1 celery stick
  •   1 leek

Preheat the oven to 190°C. Remove turkey from brine and rinse properly. Pat dry inside and out with paper towels. Arrange breast side up, on a rack set in a roasting pan, with the roughly cut vegetables, the neck and giblets underneath. Place stuffing inside turkey. Tuck wings underneath it and tie legs together with twine. Cover and cook for an hour. After 60 minutes, uncover and brush all over with butter, season and baste with pan juices every 30 minutes. On the 2½ hour mark, drizzle honey and increase the temperature to 220°C for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden. Ensure a temperature of 75°C by inserting a thermometer into the thickest portion of the thigh and turn off the oven. Transfer turkey to a platter and allow to rest for 30 minutes before carving.

The Sides

  •   400g Brussels sprouts
  •   12 medium shallots
  •   30ml extra virgin olive oil
  •   Salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper
  •   20ml balsamic vinegar
  •   Thyme

Trim the bottoms and remove the outer leaves of the sprouts. Toss with shallots, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Whilst cooking the turkey (last 20 minutes) distribute evenly in a preheated oven tray, into a single even layer. Return to oven, and roast until charred and tender.
Immediately after removing from oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and stir to coat and season if
need be.

The Gravy

  •   20g flour
  •   30g butter
  •   150ml apple juice
  •   Morel water from stuffing
  •   200ml chicken stock
  •   Salt and pepper

Skim off any excess fat from the roasting tin, leaving the juices and vegetables. Set tin over a medium heat, sprinkle in the flour, stirring until cooked, scraping up any sticky bits from the bottom of the tin. De-glaze with the apple juice and gradually add in the chicken stock and the leftover water from the morels. Allow to boil adding any resting juices from the turkey, and continue to stir until slightly reduced. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes, stir in the cold butter to thicken and season if needed. Strain gravy into a sauce pot.

The Crackling

  •   Skin of 2 turkey breasts
  •   Pepper
  •   Salt
  •   Smoked paprika
  •   Dried sage

Boil the skin in salted water for around 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 200°C, whilst patting skin dry with kitchen paper. Place on a sheet of baking paper on a tray. Sprinkle on pepper, smoked paprika and sage to taste. Put two sheets of baking paper on top to weigh down the skins. Bake for 30 minutes until crispy, golden and dry.

Tricks of the trade
Trussing the turkey ensures even cooking. Do line the cavity with baking paper before adding the stuffing as it makes things easier to remove later. If you don’t have a thermometer to test the temperature,  just pierce the fattest part of the thigh with a skewer. The juices should run clear, not pink. Also, don't disregard the resting time as this allows the juices to redistribute. And finally, leftovers make for a great turkey sandwich the next day.

The 10-day festive celebrations at Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa starts on December 7. See for more information