The Waitrose Food & Drink report 2020 revealed that mealtimes have taken on new significance, with so many of us working from home, meals have become focal points around which days revolve and Christmas dinner looks like it will follow the trend. From cooking Christmas Dinner on the barbecue to adding smoked demerara sugar to turkey brine or topping their Christmas bird with the classic bacon and maple syrup combo – the Waitrose chefs share their secrets on how to cook a Christmas show-stopper.

New research from Waitrose reveals that people are planning for Christmas earlier than ever, despite uncertainty around who or how they’ll be hosting. One of five people said they have ordered their Christmas turkey or centrepiece earlier than ever before and the younger generation (18-24 year olds) are most likely to plan sooner – with 43% saying they’re planning for Christmas earlier than usual.

Waitrose Executive Chef, Martyn Lee and the other Waitrose chefs are sharing their tips for cooking turkey and from putting it on the barbecue, to drizzling it in maple syrup, their methods are set to divide opinion.

And what’s the ultimate Christmas Dinner without the perfect wine to accompany it? To help bring out the flavours, Waitrose wine expert Jamie Matthewson shares a selection of wines he’d recommend to accompany each dish.

Martyn Lee, Executive Chef at Waitrose says:

“I cook my turkey on the barbecue every Christmas. It never fails to impress and I predict many will join me in doing the same this year. It’s really easy, quicker than if you were to cook it in the oven and gives a beautifully succulent taste with a crispy skin. And it’s not just the turkey, you can cook the full Christmas feast on the barbecue – trimmings, desserts and all.”

“I love to cook the whole bird on the barbecue as it gives everyone the option of white or dark meat, however I always remove the thighs and legs and cook them separately as the dark meat benefits from longer, slower cooking. Cooking both at the same time means the white breast meat will overcook before the thighs and legs – leading to the dreaded dry turkey! If you prefer to focus on the turkey crown – or are planning for a smaller gathering – then this will cook beautifully too.The Waitrose Medium Turkey Breast Crown with Prime Wing is perfect for this.”

“Barbecuing a turkey calls for indirect heat – it’s very different to grilling a steak over hot coals. The best way to do this is to stack coals along one side of the barbecue and the meat on the other side. My tip would be to use foil to deflect the heat if necessary.”

Zoe Simons, Senior Development Chef at Waitrose says:

“I like to prepare my Christmas turkey ahead of time, which ends up saving me time on Christmas Day and means I get more time to spend with family. A few days before Christmas, I take off the turkey legs and confit them in duck fat and herbs. Then on Christmas Day, the turkey crown takes less time to cook and the leg meat is rich and full of flavour – the legs just need a quick reheat in the oven for about 25 minutes. I then use the fat from the confit turkey legs to roast my potatoes, this way you get all the flavour from confiting the turkey legs and you don’t waste anything!”

“When it comes to brining my turkey crown, last year I used smoked demerara sugar in my brine which gave it a great flavour. It was so good and really popular with my guests so I’m definitely going to do it again this year.”

Waitrose wine expert Jamie Matthewson says: “Zoe has the classic roast turkey and my go-to is a New Zealand Pinot Noir at Christmas. For this, I’d recommend the Pinot Noir from Escarpment – it’s serious, but it’s exceptional value. The flavours of red fruits are complex and varied and match beautifully with the duck fat roasted legs and the main turkey – just like cranberry sauce! The tannins are silky soft and the finish goes on forever. Delightful stuff and perfect for Christmas.”

Paul Gamble, Senior Development Chef at Waitrose says:

“I like to go all out at Christmas and take a very ‘cheffy’ option with my turkey. I remove the legs, debone them, fill them with some of the Christmas stuffing and then tie them up and roast separately. For the crown, I brine it for 12 hours – submerging it in a solution of water, salt and sugar with plenty of herbs and garlic. I would always recommend brining a turkey as it helps to retain the moisture whilst cooking.

“I then roast the turkey crown with thyme butter under the skin, basting every so often. The turkey legs and crown take a different length of time to cook, therefore separating them helps to avoid the breast meat over cooking and drying out. I would recommend investing in a temperature probe to know when the bird is ‘just’ cooked.”

Waitrose wine expert Jamie Matthewson says: “If Paul’s going all-out, then so am I! A Meursault from Jean Monnier & Fils is perfect for this. This is premium Chardonnay with ripe fruit flavours, yet a perfectly balanced acidity and streak of minerality to cut through the richness of the dish. The wine is delicately oaked giving it length but finesse.”

Will Torrent, Consultant Pastry Chef at Waitrose says:

“While I’ve usually given up my Christmas Day to cook for approximately 40-50 guests at our church, this year we will be spending Christmas Day at home as we’re expecting a baby in January. I usually love to cook a turkey on Christmas, however this year we’re planning to go for an alternative centrepiece and opting for the Waitrose Easy Carve Duck with Pear, Chestnut and Rum.”

“If I was to cook a turkey, I’d top it with some lovely smoked streaky bacon and pour over a good glug of maple syrup to add some sweetness. You can never go wrong with the ultimate bacon and maple syrup combo!”

Waitrose wine expert Jamie Matthewson says: “As Will is opting for duck, I would go for something big enough to take on the richness and big flavour of this meat. A Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend is perfect for this. The Margaret River in Australia has concentrated fruit and a long savoury finish – perfect to take your time over.”

“For those who decide to go with Will’s turkey suggestion, the bacon and maple combination got me thinking of a toasted brioche bacon sarnie. Auvigue’s Le Clos Pouilly Fuissé is a very intense chardonnay with richness from the oak ageing to match the bacon but also a delightful rich, creamy texture.
For shoppers in need of a little help and inspiration for cooking this year’s Christmas turkey, Waitrose has its Ultimate Turkey Guide, with everything you need to know about choosing, preparing, cooking and carving your Christmas turkey.

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