A time to experiment
Turkey is the traditional go-to main course at this time of year, served in either a western or oriental style. However, the holidays offer an ideal time to experiment, perhaps with different types of glazing, stuffing and accompaniments or sauces. For example, you can replace the rice served with oriental turkey with frikeh. Other birds make great alternatives, such as roast goose, served with apple sauce, or spiced duck, served with plum sauce, especially for more intimate dinners, since they’re smaller. Special joints of meat, from foreribs to sirloin or ﬁllet, are also ideal for festive occasions. A classic slow roast leg of lamb or the more contemporary crown roast of lamb are ideal options. Given that we’re catering to increasingly diverse tastes nowadays, ﬁsh or seafood dishes, such as salt-baked whole ﬁsh or grilled giant calamari, can make equally impressive centerpieces on a festive table.
Opting for reinvention
As chefs, we’re focused on creating new trends and changing people’s behaviors by encouraging them to try new offerings during the festive season. However, it’s also important that we consider the varied tastes and diverse preferences out there. I suggest reinventing existing recipes, using different ingredients, ﬂavor combinations and cooking techniques, and presenting them in a way that’s suitable for the occasion. Taking the traditional beef wellington and transforming it into an oyster wellington for guests who prefer seafood dishes is one idea. Another key aspect to consider is food waste. We all have a tendency to over-buy at this time of year, throwing away trimmings and leftovers, and preparing too-large portions. It’s worth remembering this and taking steps to avoid it.
Every individual country – and sometimes even regions within a country – has a different food culture that’s evident in the dishes created over the holidays. Certain dishes are popular over the festive season around the world, from north to south and east to west, but may well be prepared and cooked in different ways, depending on the location. The food I’d be looking to prepare for a diverse range of guests would include: roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts and apples; salty codﬁsh cooked in various ways; stuffed goose; corn dough tamales stuffed with chicken and wrapped in banana leaves; foie-gras with pear compote and gingerbread crumbs; oysters with condiments; and scallops with orange sauce.
A balancing act
A chef should always study new recipes from different cultures and countries, which is the ﬁrst step toward providing their customers with a memorable experience. There’s no doubt that the majority of people are looking for tradition during the festive period. However, I’m a ﬁrm believer in progression and modernization, while still maintaining a touch of tradition, as a way of giving diners a great experience. Capon magro is one idea, a creative selection of seafood combined, which is served with different traditional dips. I also like to introduce new meat cuts as a change from the more traditional options, which I then cook in a different way and serve with gravy or honey-glazed sauces.