December 26, 2005
Guest Chef: The Critic Breaks His Silence

Here is my first, and quite probably my last, entry for “Too Many Chefs”. The reason? I only cook one proper meal a year, and that is Christmas dinner (and even then I have help from Meg). The rest of the year, I am perfectly content to adopt the persona of “The Critic”.

But yesterday was, of course, December 25th – the day when we excuse all manner of gastronomic excess because, well…after all…it is Christmas. And dinner on this day in the Cutts household is truly excessive: a 17lb turkey with chestnut stuffing, a baked ham, sausages, bacon rolls, roast potatoes (NOT mashed – this is not Thanksgiving), peas, carrots, sweetcorn: all accompanied by delicious gravy…and all on the same plate!

Addressing such a distinguished and knowledgeable audience as the readers of this food blog, I won’t bore you with the simple matters of cooking the sausages and bacon (grilled, not fried, if you are interested). Also, my simple art of boiling the veggies is unlikely to interest you greatly (except I must say that say that a handful of sugar in the water adds flavour). Nor will I go into detail about the roasting of the turkey…especially as this year, the gargantuan formerly-feathered beast needed to be put back into thee oven for an extra hour over the recommended cooking time. Instead, I will focus on the stuffing.

Now, as regular readers will realise, my beloved wife and I have somewhat different ideas about what makes turkey stuffing. She describes the rich chestnut stuffing I make for the Christmas bird as having the “density of plutonium”, while her dalliance with oysters and celery (I hate celery!) for the Thanksgiving turkey, just makes me thankful that I only have to endure that stuffing once a year.

Trans-Atlantic differences aside, even Meg agreed that yesterday’s stuffing was a triumph. Hence, although completely improvised, here is how I did it…and it was very, very good!!

The Right Way To Make Stuffing

12 oz./340 grams of fine bread crumbs (we made ours from dried out baguettes in the food processor)
600 grams cooked chestnuts
4 small onions
1 tsp sage
2-3 tsp poultry seasoning
400 grams sausage meat
1 bottle dry sherry

Puree the chestnuts in around 3/4 of the bottle of dry sherry. Don’t overdo the pureeing (is that really a word?) – a few “chunks” are really good for the flavour and texture. I used vacuum packs of chestnuts rather than the real thing this year, as the checkout assistant in the supermarket informed me that I should have weighed the bag of chestnuts before I arrived at the cash till. Rather than going back to the fruit/vegetable counter and having to queue again, I just set them aside. But the vacuum-packed chestnuts were just as good.

Add the breadcrumbs, onions and herbs. Gently fry the sausage meat, cutting it into small pieces as you do so. Mix it all together and ram hard into the turkey. After bird cooked, spoon all out, and eat! Simple, (except that this year, in view of the turkey’s reluctance to allow itself to be cooked on schedule, we zapped the stuffing in the microwave for around 15 minutes before gorging ourselves).

Well, there it is. Back to being the Critic for the next 364 days. What’s for dinner, Meg?

- The Critic

Posted by Meg in Sussex at December 26, 2005 3:46 PM | TrackBack Print-friendly version

The astute may have noticed that the recipe calls for 1 bottle of dry sherry but only 3/4 of a bottle is actually used in the preparation. The Critic (and I for that matter) subscribe to the Keith Floyd Theory of Food Preparation, which calls for the cook(s) being sure to taste personally any and all alcohol that is destined to be used in a dish. We each had a glass of dry sherry while preparing the stuffing, thus accounting for the missing quarter of a bottle.

And for the record, this time around the stuffing was - to my mind - much less dense than usual. I don't know if this was due to the time in the microwave (which will have dried it out a bit) or the fact that we used a mixer to fold the ingredients together. Or maybe I'm just getting accustomed to the stuff? Heaven forbid! ; )

Posted by Meg in Paris on December 26, 2005 at 3:59 PM

I wandered into this wonderful blog seeking the proper way to feed my "Merrican" family a Christmas roast with Yorkshire Pudding (albeit a day late because we were incredibly lazy, full of chocolate candies, and had way to much fun playing around with our Christmas gifts.)

Now, my mouth is watering at the thot of trying my hand at making "Toad in a Hole" also.

Hopefully, my clever son (and fellow dinner "chef") will translate the grams into whatever they should be over this side of the pond.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank both you, Meg and "The Critic," for your creative endeavors in the kitchen and on this blog. Vastly entertaining and it has now been added to my "Favorites" List.

Luv the name, btw!

Happy Holidays!


Posted by diane on December 26, 2005 at 4:29 PM

Moi again!

Forgot to mention that I adore dry sherry so my eyes perked up at the sight of sherry being an essential part of "The Critic's" stuffing recipe. I never thot of adding it to my own family triedNtrue mixture.

Thanks again!


Posted by diane on December 26, 2005 at 4:33 PM

I like the Critic - he should write more often. I also like Keith Floyd - more people should cook like he des. I also like the sound of the stuffing, even though the part about "ramming it hard" caused me to swiftly cross my legs.

Posted by sam on December 26, 2005 at 5:45 PM

Diane, we are working on putting together a page of basic conversions to make up for the mixed measurements in our recipes. I usually try to include Imperial and metric but sometimes forget. This is complicated by the fact that some things that are measured by volume in the US are measured by weight in Europe. I get requests frequently from European readers to translate into metric. In the meantime, if you send me a message to say which recipes you'd like "translated" I'll do my best to get an answer for you quickly.

Sam, I also was a bit disturbed by that portion of the recipe, but had sworn not to change anything but typos when I posted for him! Our Critic likes to be dramatic...

: )

Posted by Meg in Paris on December 27, 2005 at 4:40 AM

Oh, and thanks, Diane, for the lovely compliments - we are so glad you enjoyed the site!!

Posted by Meg in Paris on December 27, 2005 at 4:41 AM
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