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Christmas, Stratford Chefs School Style

By guest student blogger Mel Athulathmudali

I’d like you to think back to this past Christmas season. Did you cook a turkey? For how many people? Was it dry? Were you stressed out? I think most people cook a turkey for 10-15 people, and have nightmares about serving those people dry meat. Now change that amount to 40, and add the fact you’re serving them a 3 course meal, over 2 hours, and they get to critique you. Can you say stress? Well that’s just what my group did on the 12th of December. We were responsible for bringing a bit of the Christmas Spirit to Rene’s Bistro on a sunless, snowless Saturday afternoon.

The menu was designed by me, and included some of my favourite things and some of my not so favourite things. Turkey breast is not one of my favourite things. I am not a fan of white meat turkey, and never have been. I think it may be a result of my childhood memories of sawdust dry turkey breast being pulverized to a fine dust by an electric knife. Apologies to my parents, two fine cooks otherwise, but who just never got turkey breast right. I decided to challenge myself to make a turkey breast that even I would eat. We took the breast off the bone, and brined it in a solution of salt, water herbs and spices (not the Colonel’s 11!) overnight. The next day, we took the meat out of the brine, wrapped it around a stuffing made from the dark meat (my favourite part of the turkey), and placed it in an immersion circulator to cook, allowing it to retain its juiciness and flavour. When we removed it after cooking and tasted it, I was shocked! A juicy, well flavoured turkey breast…the holy grail of Christmas cooking had been achieved! With only 30 minutes to spare before the first guests were arriving. Just in time for a perfect Christmas!

We cooked our meal that afternoon, the kitchen staff wearing Santa hats and the floor staff in their worst Christmas sweaters. Forty guests, a lot of them my friends and family, came and shared my vision of the perfect Christmas lunch that day, and not one complained of dry breast meat.

I was away from home for Christmas this year, but next year, I’m going to make a subtle suggestion to my mother…and give her an immersion circulator.

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