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For many, Christmas Day is the one day of the year they rediscovery their kitchen. With families and friends coming together, there is always plenty of cooking to be done, and for those who are not used to playing host for large groups it can be a rather daunting prospect.
In order to make things easier on everyone, we went to a professional to find out how you can make your festive meals a little bit less stressful.
Chef Gilbert Cavallaro of Cracked Conch Restaurant in West Bay says that if there was only one piece of advice he could give, it would be to plan well ahead.
“Try to prepare anything you can on the day before already so you are not quite as busy on the day,” he says.
Of course, it is also important to know your menu, and be familiar with all the dishes you are planning to prepare.
“Don’t try to make a new dish on the day, try it out before,” he says.
When planning a meal, Chef Gilbert suggest keeping it simple and doing it well rather than trying something overly complicated.
“This is even true in restaurants,” he says with a smile.
According to the Chef, one of the key elements to cooking a successful Christmas meal is to avoid taking shortcuts when it comes to relatively simple things like the sauce. Many people focus a lot of attention on the main event, like the turkey, and then neglect smaller elements like the cranberry sauce, which can make a big difference to how well the meal will do down with guests.
“Too many people just go out and buy cranberry sauce in a can, but it is always too sweet and not as good as home made,” he says.
The sauce itself is easy to make – just get some fresh cranberries and boil them up in water with sugar and spices to taste. Chef Gilbert believes a good cranberry sauce needs some orange rind, as well as a touch of cinnamon and star aniseed, but the best thing is to experiment and find what works for you.
One of the best things about the sauce is that it can be made the day before, so it is one less thing to worry about when your guests are about to arrive.
According to Chef Gilbert, the same goes for the gravy, as a good gravy can save a turkey that might otherwise not have been the highlight of the meal. Much of it can be prepared in advance, with the juices from the turkey being used on the day to complete the gravy.
Of course, whatever else happens during a meal, all can be forgiven if the dessert knocks it out of the park. After much pleading, Chef Gilbert shared his recipe for Grand Marnier Chocolate Lava Cake – no matter what happened to the turkey, this dessert will definitely have friends inviting themselves over to your house again next year, so use it carefully.
Of course, should all of the planning and preparation just seem like too much effort, Chef Gilbert will be more than happy to welcome you to Cracked Conch so you can enjoy the fruits of his labours. WH