The large Christmas meal is a once-a-year event and very often its preparation is staged over a period of days prior to the climatic family feed. With my own now-reduced family, I do four days of Christmas-related cooking starting with cooking the breads that are going to be used for my cornbread dressing and ending with the last pots being put on the stove and the dressing cooked on Christmas day. In 2011, I recorded a series of YouTube videos describing as many of each day’s activities as I could put in four short-form YouTube videos and concluded with a video on making turkey soup from the left-overs.
This series is Parts 1-4 of “Four Days of Christmas Cooking.” Being a diabetic and unfortunately sharing this condition with some other family members, I do not do cook the sweets, cookies, pies and cakes typical of many families’ Christmas celebrations. About as sweet as I get is a sweet potato souffle’ which has raisins and artificial sweetener with a few real marshmallows on top. The short-format media exhibited some constraints. On Part 2 where I actually cook the souffle’, my Flip camera ran out of memory and the actual mixing of the dish was not recorded. To compensate, I have written out the recipe below.
Part 1. “Eggbread & Hoecake” are made to go into the dressing which will be cooked on Christmas morning. After baking these are crumbled and stored in the refrigerator until needed. These products are cooked slightly underdone, but are still temptingly eatable as they come from the oven. If you have a family I recommend cooking two batches of each, or you will likely find that family members will finch them and you will have none remaining when you need it. To insure that you do, crumble the breads after they cool and store them in a plastic bag. This recipe was tested and approved by “hound dogs.”
This video may be viewed on YouTube at: http://youtu.be/7-RxOrMtgAQ. The others will be similarly posted as they are produced.
Part 2. “Sweet Potato Souffle’ and Chopping.” On day two of this four-day cooking cycle, the wild turkey (goose or swan) is taken out to start to thaw in preparation to cooking the next day, and I make the Sweet Potato Souffle’. This dish will keep very well under refrigeration and has marshmallows put on top of it when it is re-warmed prior to serving. I also chop up the nuts for the souffle’ as well as the onions and celery that will go into the dressing and boil the eggs that I will use in the giblet gravy and potato salad.
On this video I also discuss pairing knives and a common type of Japanese cooking knife that was made for me by Master Bladesmith Murray Carter. Carter has just published a book “Bladesmithing with Murray Carter.” In this book he describes how he became the 17th generation owner of a Japanese knife-making company following a hands-on apprenticeship in rural Japan that lasted over a decade. He has now moved to Hillsboro, Oregon, where he has his shop and also teaches Japanese blade-making techniques. He also hand-forges traditional Japanese-style, and other, knives for the world market using some tools that are centuries old. Carter is also producing a video series about Japanese cooking knives, how he hand forges them, their uses, sharpening and long-term care. His products may be viewed on his webpage, www.CarterCutlery.com and inquiries made to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone to him at (503) 447-1029.
This video may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AisWaf9zSsQ by clicking on this link.
Sweet Potato Souffle’
5 pounds of sweet potatoes, boiled and drained, 6 medium eggs, 1 1/2 cups of raisins, 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped pecans (or other nuts), 1/3 cup of margarine, 1/4 cup of sugar substitute, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, 20 small marshmallows.
Place drained hot sweep potatoes and place in large bowl. Quickly add and stir in butter, eggs and other ingredients. When egg whites have turned white, taste and adjust sugar, raisin and nut content as desired. Do not over sweeten as the product will become sweeter as it looses moisture during cooking. Pour into greased oven-proof ceramic or glass dishes in a layer about 1 1/2-inches thick. Place in oven at 350 degrees and cook until firm and the product starts to pull away from the edges of the container – about 20 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows on top prior to re-warming on Christmas day.
Part 3. Cooking a Wild Turkey. Cooking the turkey provides not only the meat for the holiday dinner, but also the stock, or drippings, that are needed for making the dressing the following day. Cook the turkey in a pan to which water has been added, cover the bird with aluminum foil and crimp the top and sides to make as steam-tight a tent as possible. As the bird was pre-thawed, the cooking time for this one was a bit over two hours. The fowl is cooked to somewhere between the point that the legs can freely wiggle to they fall off at the touch. The drippings need to be carefully removed from the roasting pan (They will badly burn skin and make a terrible, slick mess on the kitchen floor.) and at least a quart preserved for use in the cornbread dressing. The cooked onions and celery may be diced for use in a post-Christmas turkey soup or meat-rich hash.
The video on turkey roasting is available at: http://youtu.be/WmCm5eVNb4Y.
Part 4. Christmas Day Cooking. Baking the cornbread dressing, cooking the vegetables, carving the turkey, making fresh iced tea as well as getting the table ready are all tasks that take place on Christmas Day. Even after the meal there is food to put away and a considerable pile of dishes to wash. As much is done as can reasonably be managed. This year I served a small bowl of turkey soup instead of the usual salad. The potatoes for what was to be a potato salad were over-cooked while I was posting these videos, so those became mashed potatoes. Frozen corn and hand-shelled butter beans were made into succatash by the addition of some margarine, salt and pepper. No one asked about dessert and I did not offer any, although I had some pear sauce and “Hovey’s Health Bread” that I could have served. I had cranberry sauce in the fridge, but no one asked for it and I forgot to put it out, as I am not particularly fond of it. (Hint. Write down your menu and check off what goes on the table. I did the first but not the last.)
The video of the last day’s events may be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hr69gzDAFeo.
Although not originally a part of this series, I also produced a video on making turkey soup from the leftover turkey meat, rice and unused chopped up onion and celery. This can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KVM9TZkMzE.