Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

The stuff(ing) of legend

As you read this, dear reader, I’m likely still in the throes of menu planning ahead of the main event on Tuesday. The problem is twofold: I simply cannot decide on the starters or desserts and as well, I don’t want a cookery mission so spectacular that I’m not fit to eat the meal due to fatigue, when it finally materialises.

This is a familiar conundrum for yours truly; I can never decide what I want to eat until the time comes. This is a certified first world problem but one which throws spanners into my domesticity from time to time. Doing a grocery shop perpetually proves problematic and I am usually the very last person to decide what I’m having when visiting a restaurant. Often that decision is fuelled by panic when the waitress is staring at me wondering why this so obviously hungry man is dithering so awfully.

There’s only one definite on my culinary list this year and that’s the festive sarnie at around 8pm Christmas night. I reckon I make the best Christmas sandwiches in the world (that’s what my tastebuds tell me anyway) and to be honest, I’m kinda salivating already. Herself calls it drool… but anyway.

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Have you tasted those brussel sprout flavoured crisps yet? I have and I can testify that against all the odds, they’re strangely palatable. Also, they definitely taste of brussels. I’m thinking I might include some of those alongside my Christmas sandwich this year. ANYWAY…

Apart from the turkey and the ham (you kinda have to have those on a Santa Sammich), the other ingredient which is a must-have, is stuffing – home-made of course.

Made from a tried and trusted recipe of my mother’s, this stuffing is arguably better than anything else on Christmas Day. Crispy on top yet soft and unctuous in the interior, my sage and onion stuffing (with secret ingredient soon to be a secret no longer), is the kind of stuff you’ll gladly add another notch to your belt for. Dipped in left-over gravy, sprinkled with sea salt, eaten when you’re too full to even consider dessert, this home-made stuffing will take your festive enjoyment to a whole new level. But don’t just take my word for it…

This year I’ll be stuffing the Devlin turkey but if you’re against that idea and the stuffing has to be cooked separately, good luck to you.

Yes, the bird will take longer to roast and yes the meat will be drier but as a friend said to me recently, that’s a small price to pay for premium stuffing. There are no two ways about it, stuffing coming out of the bird is better than stuffing without. It captures a lot of the juices from the turkey and to a certain extent, I think it helps season the bird.

I also make way too much of this stuffing than is necessary and balls of it wrapped in streaky bacon work as a great second best.

INGREDIENTS
• 1 loaf of Nutty Crust loaf, blitzed or grated into breadcrumbs – crusts and all
• 2 free-range eggs, whisked
• 1 heaped tsp of dried sage
• 2 heaped tbsps of salad cream (this is the secret ingredient – don’t tell anyone)
• 1 large white onion or 2 smaller ones, diced
• heaped tbsp of butter
• zest of half a lemon
• salt and pepper

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THE PLAN
This isn’t rocket science and all the better for it. Start by sweating the onions in the butter with a pinch of salt until soft – don’t let them or the butter burn.

In a large bowl, add the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on the sage and season with a little salt and pepper. Mix through.

Add the onions and all the associated butter, the lemon zest, the eggs and the salad cream and gently mix through. Over working the juvenile stuffing will make the eventual product too dense (although it’ll still taste deadly).

Me being me, I’ll taste a bit at this stage but if you’re not keen on eating raw eggs, you can resist. I like to taste to check the seasoning is all.

Tasted or not, either stuff the turkey or mould into balls and wrap in bacon. If you’re stuffing the turkey, don’t pack it in too tightly or again, it’ll be too dense. There is also the possibility it’ll erupt from the bird like a volcano of pure taste, but that’s never a bad thing either. Also, if the quantities of stuffing result in any leftovers after you’ve stuffed the bird, do the bacon wrapping for the remainder.

Badabing! You’re in stuffing heaven. Right, I’m away to carve yet another notch into my already pock-marked belt, just to be on the safe side. Have a happy Christmas!

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