There’s no single best way to do Christmas dinner, but in our household, there’s generally a large bird at the centre of our table. My British mother-in-law, on the other hand, prefers roast beef or ham, so we always build some flexibility into our plans.
Heck, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding is a pretty decent alternative to the usual!
Regardless of preference, every feast begins at the supermarket where choices can either make or break your dining experience. Selecting the right piece of meat, in my mind, is more about reading labels than checking price tags.
Let’s start with the turkey. If you’ve ever watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you’ll know exactly what it isn’t supposed to look like. My perfect bird is golden and crispy on the outside, and juicy inside – including the white meat which can become dry and crumbly when overcooked.
Sure, you can rescue it with gravy, but that’s a weak alternative to timing it carefully – and starting with the right turkey. At Vince’s, our turkeys are grain-fed, air chilled, and fresh – never frozen.
Water-chilled turkeys are immersed in vats of cold water, which causes them to absorb it – diluting natural flavouring. Air-chilled takes longer but is worth the wait. These turkeys aren’t sharing the same bathwater. Without the excess moisture, they cook more quickly. And with that mouth-watering, skin we all love.
Regarding fresh vs frozen, I find the breast meat of fresh turkey more moist and tender. The latter may keep longer, but we are bringing in more than one run of fresh birds to ensure a steady supply.
Christmas Roast Beef:
It’s a more robust meat option, and perfect with my favourite cab sauvignon.
“All of our roasts are hand-cut on premises,” said Brian Johns, partner at Vince’s Market. “Because they are cut on site, you can actually speak to one of our butchers and get an appropriate size. For example, request a smaller piece for a couple who may be dining on their own.”
My family can usually grab something off the shelf, but I agree there are many individuals or empty-nesters who would appreciate a smaller portion.
And for special occasions, I’m big on treating my family – and guests – to a better cut of meat. “Our Angus Reserve beef is Canadian AAA, hand-selected and aged a minimum of 21 days,” Brian continued. “It’s a premium product and you really can taste the difference.”
Whether your ham is a side or the main feature, you’ll want one that is flavourful and moist. Bone-in hams deliver on both counts but can be a challenge to carve. Which is why spiral cut, where the ham is sliced around the bone in a continuous spiral, is the way to go for cooks who want top marks for taste and texture, along with consistent slicing, instead of uneven shards.
We carry Alexander & Hornung spiral-cut hams. These are premium cuts of meat, slow cooked with natural flavors and then carefully cured.
Cranberry Sauce for All!
I love homemade cranberry sauce with turkey but enjoy it equally with ham. The tart sweetness of the berries is the perfect complement to the mild saltiness of the ham.
Either way, I’m looking forward to a few days off, spending time with family – and in particular – sitting down to Christmas dinner. Have a wonderful holiday everybody. Gobble gobble!
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