IT’S the biggest dinner date of the year - but will you be a Christmas cracker or a Christmas pud when it comes to carving the turkey?
Christmas Day wouldn’t be Christmas Day without mum stressing over whether the sprouts are cooked before dad steps in, armed with carving knife and fork to start hacking away at a bronzed bird like the lead in some kind of slasher movie.
A new survey by the Hatfield Chase pub reveals that 78% of those questioned said the carving was done by the ‘man of the house’ as compared to just 22% saying that the woman carved instead.
However, only 16% of men actually felt confident carving with many saying that they wouldn’t know where to start.
So would I cut the mustard, or more accurately, the turkey at the Hatfield pub’s carving masterclass with head chef Nick Fisher or would I end up with ruffled feathers and getting the bird? In front of me stood an enormous eight and a half kilo bird, beautifully golden, crisp skin and decidely mouth-watering after slowly cooking in the pub’s ovens at 97 degrees for an amazing eleven hours.
So, armed to the teeth with a Crocodile Dundee style 15 inch knife, I gingerly got down to the task in hand - good training for doing the honours in just three days time.
“Let the knife do the work,” Nick reassured me as I sawed away, producing a sliver of turkey that the late Bernard Matthews might have proclaimed “pitiful” rather than “bootiful.” My second attempt was barely any better, the knife slipping waywardly across the top of the turkey and nearly taking out the mound of Yorkshire puddings stacked alongside.
But while the slices gradually became a little thicker, much like yours truly, there was still barely enough turkey to feed a mouse.
So it was back over to Nick, 25, who has been in charge of the kitchens at the Chase for the last five years and who will be presiding over a staff of seven on Christmas Day when the pub’s newly refurbished restaurant will be fully booked.
He said: “Always use a sharp knife and carve straight across. And don’t overcook it or you’ll end up with a dry and flaky bird. Ideally a turkey should be cooked a low, even temperature for as long as you can.”
But Nick, who has worked every Christmas Day for the last few years, won’t be practising what he preaches come December 25.
“I’m sick of the sight of turkey after a long day at work,” he said. “I’ll probably have a sandwich when I get in.”
And as for me? Do I now feel ready and brave enough to tackle the turkey on Christmas Day?
I think the answer will be: “Get stuffed!”
HOW TO CARVE THE PERFECT TURKEY
Before carving, allow your roast to undergo a rest period of 10 – 15 minutes after being removed from the oven - it makes it easier to carve. It also allows the juices that have risen to the surface during cooking to settle back into the meat - making the meat much more juicy and tender.
Carving results are always best if the carver stands up.
Choose your carving plate with care – it needs to be shallow enough to let you cut all the way through, but deep enough to catch those all-important juices. If not eating immediately, place the carved slices onto a second plate (preferably one that is warm) and serve from that.
Carve your meat across the grain, not because it really does make the meat more tender, but because the fibres will be short, and that will make the joint seem more tender. Cut cross-grain slices between 1/8” to 3/8” thick.
A traditional sharpening steel is only useful when the knife is already sharp. For the best results, you’ll need a way of removing metal to re-grind the blade and the best tool for this job is a diamond steel. Always sharpen your carving knife in a downward ‘away from you’ motion.