Cooking up the Perfect Storm

21 Dec

With the oncoming debacle of Christmas dinner for 11 hungry souls looming ever nearer, my head is awash with an endless jumble of ingredients and a constantly changing timetable of pre-cooking.  This early prep is essential for the avoidance of my total meltdown on Christmas Day.

Spatial awareness is being stretched to its maximum by the limitations of both fridge and oven space and I haven’t even started to consider the availability of the necessary serving dishes and crockery.  I do know one thing for certain…I don’t have 11 of anything.

I have, however, made the gravy stock by straining the cooking juices from 2 of Marks and Spencer’s (cook in the bag) oven-roasted Rotisserie Style Chickens.  All this needs is a butter and flour roux and I will have instant gravy nirvana.  The Fatdog is ecstatic as from the cooked legs comes her chicken-treat supply.

Tomorrow evening I’ll make the cranberry and kumquat sauce, flavoured with whatever alcohol lurks in the darkest depths of the cupboard under the stairs.  Just now the only debate is the sweetener.  Do I go for ordinary sugar or do I risk the treacle tar of the molasses variety?  Problems, problems.

For part of the starter I’ll boil up a small quantity of stock syrup with a decent lump of ginger then reduce it down.  That will do nicely for drizzling over the Charentais melon and I reckon a scatter of finely diced red and green chilli will encourage the plate to look appropriately festive.  A plus will be the look on mother-in-law’s face when the chillies bite from that innocuous looking melon starter.

It was the chef Nick Nairn who, in what was probably his earliest book, provided the recipe for what has become my piece de resistence, the gratin dauphinoise. Hard to beat that more-ish combination of sliced potatoes, garlic and cream topped with grated parmesan.  This is main target for The Bleating Sheep who has been known to dispose messily of any possible challengers for seconds.


Fortunately I’m not having to cook the whole meal which is a relief.

J will be doing her trifle; The Cupcake Queen will be bringing the turkey – all cooked and ready to go.  Cap’n Jack will be making his excellent smoked salmon pate and The Bleating Sheep is having a go at pavlova.

Yes, it will be utter and complete carnage in the kitchen and I can see Chef having a wobbly and tossing the utensils out of the pan.


Posted by on December 21, 2010 in General Drivel


10 responses to “Cooking up the Perfect Storm

  1. Florene

    December 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    Now, wait just a minute….. do you mean to say you’re also the chief cook & bottle washer of your household? I bow to you in total reverence. In between real jobs back in the 80s, Clay and I went into the hospitality business for about 10 years. We wanted to try something “different”. It was that, no doubt. Working 18-hour days, sometimes 7 days/week was too much for our advanced ages. One of the first banquets I did was to select Coquilles Saint Jacques for 150. I didn’t stop at that….. I decided to make spinach salads, too. :-0 I was out of my mind… totally! I had to count the scallops (portion control) and had to wash all that mountain of spinach, and dry it. It was a hit, but NEVER AGAIN.

    Hope your dinner is perfect, and I have a hunch everyone will have a wonderful day at your home.

  2. annienz

    December 21, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Phiff – 11 – that’s nothing!!! We had 11 for Christmas Dinner – outdoors – 10 days after we moved into our first house – with half the house still in boxes. 😉

    I am sure you and your various under-chefs will do a fantastic job. Looking forward to seeing/hearing how the pavlova works out. (I’m afraid that I haven’t mastered that particular dessert myself. 😦 )

  3. fatdogwalks

    December 21, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks Florene 😀 . The hospitality business appeals like a hole in the head…crazy hours. That was quite a task you set yourself! I am suitably impressed. I always pan fried my scallops until I discovered from a top notch seafood restaurant that sticking them in a hot oven for 8 minutes produces equally good results. Must be tricky with CstJ ensuring the scallops aren’t overcooked.

    It’s all under control here. I’ve always cooked and Christmas dinner is, in reality, a fairly simple affair. Fridge space certainly won’t be a problem with our current baltic temperatures so a number of less critical items will be stored in the garage. Most importantly I picked up the wine this evening 😀 .

    What are you doing for Christmas?

  4. fatdogwalks

    December 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Annie – The Bleating Sheep has yet to make her first! This will be the prototype 😯 . Hopefully someone will still be around afterwards to keep the blog going.

    I guess Christmas celebrations will be fairly muted in your part of the world this year.

    What have you planned?

  5. annienz

    December 21, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    We are going out of town to my family for Christmas, but I expect that if we were to help with the Community Christmas dinner like we have been many other years, we would see a great increase in guests. The families of the men who died are getting some money from the trust fund this week, but those who have been made redundant, and the companies & contractors who haven’t been paid, will be stuggling on with very little.

    A couple of hundred people out of jobs in a town the size of ours has a big impact. The whole atmosphere around the town is very muted – less decorations in shop windows, not a big hype about the Christmas lights like usual and all that sort of thing.

    Hopefully a trip out of the area will help us clear out heads and get things in perspective, so that we’ll be ready to help out again in whatever ways we can once we get back.


    (PS – I’ll be imagining your lovely feast and the pavlova while eating the boringly healthly meal that my mum produces!!! LOL)

  6. Florene

    December 21, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    Since we didn’t receive an invitation to join you, we’ll be at home… just the two of us, with an unwelcome “guest” named Pneumonia. Clay invited that one, so he can play host all by himself. Well, not exactly…. not contagious and being treated with proper meds.

    Ho, Ho, Ho, and on we go!

  7. alan.sloman

    December 22, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    A good tip: Small bleating children fit better into a standard sized oven if jointed first. It’s best to get the game-boy couch potato type – the leg meat is so much softer.

    Insert a lemon into the cavity before dispatching for added revenge for screaming and whining all the way through The Great escape.

    Good luck with your meal, Ken…

  8. fatdogwalks

    December 22, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Thought things might be a bit grim in your neck of the woods Annie. Your comment was a reminder that the disaster wasn’t just the loss of life at the mine but the repercussions of the closure too. It must be really hard coming into this time of year for all the community. I hope the two of you have a good break…you deserve it.

    Florene – sad to hear that Clay’s in the wars again 😦 . Hope he gets better soon and you both have a good Christmas. I can only assume your invite got lost in the post 😆 You don’t want to come here anyway. It’s been at least -5C for the past few weeks dropping to about -11C at night.

    Knew I’d been doing something wrong Alan…forgot to dismember the little sods first. Never mind there’s always next year.

  9. Linda

    December 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Sounds quite a feast Ken. I assume Maisie will be practically sitting in the oven waiting for the chicken 😀

    This is the first time I will be cooking Christmas dinner so to say I am stressed is an understatement. I have my outlaws coming over so I can’t see anything remotely Merry about Christmas just now!

    I like the snowflakes coming down the screen. I thought there was something wrong with my eyes at first!

  10. fatdogwalks

    December 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Maisie just camps out in the kitchen on a permanent basis, Linda.

    I’m a veteran of many a Christmas dinner though it’s many years since I’ve had to cook for 11. It’s J’s mum’s 80th on Christmas Day so everybody wanted to be there and ours is the only table big enough (just).

    All going to plan so far! 😀

    Good luck with the meal…just keep it simple (consume vast quantities of bubbly – you always think you’re having a good time then). 😉

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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