After writing yesterday's tips for making Christmas easier, I am feeling a bit warm and fuzzy as befits the season of goodwill among men. Probably a bit fuzzier than I should be (I did arrive two hours early at the dentist yesterday), but I am trying hard to hang onto a sense of calm this week. Please, will someone remind me of this when I fight for an hour to get into a Westfield car park next week, or when the hundredth playing of "Santa Baby" makes me want to kick Santa in the shins and run away.
Looking at the week ahead, I know Christmas Eve will be a long day. I will be hosting lunch for close to a dozen of us. I have one standard-sized oven with both a ham to glaze and a turkey to cook before lunch (the current plan is to glaze the ham and then cook the turkey and then whack the ham back into the oven for a few minutes so it tastes freshly glazed.) My turkey recipe is also like a high maintenance friend, and needs fairly constant attention until it appears golden and rested: worth it ultimately, but a bit demanding at times. So, in my spirit of calm, I am trying to take the pressure off myself everywhere else. I am doing only cold side dishes (fitting since it is likely to be very hot): a spinach and rice salad in perfect Christmas colours, a King Cole coleslaw (from Gourmet Traveller Dec 09) also in seasonal colours and a Christmas caponata. Both the caponata and the rice salad will be made the day before they are needed, as they improve when the flavours are given a bit of time. The coleslaw requires only a bit of chopping, which can be easily managed between bastes of the turkey. I have also decided to serve a fruit salad of mangos, nectarines and raspberries as the dessert, and then do more seasonal, indulgent petit fours with coffee, which will all be made ahead of time. All of this makes me feel happy and capable of managing the cooking without any of it being too difficult on the day. But there is one final item I need to share with you. My final blinding piece of inspiration (or self-preservation) was choosing to do cured ocean trout for the entree, which needs to be prepared now to be ready for Christmas.
If you have never cured trout or salmon, today is the day to think about doing it. It is so easy, I am nearly embarassed by it, and the resulting fish is wonderful. If you have never eaten cured fish, the texture is somewhere between sashimi and cooked fish, but does not taste at all raw. Depending on what you use for the cure, different flavours can be introduced into the dish. I am trying the recipe from Gourmet Traveller Dec 09 for Greek Cured Ocean Trout for the first time, however I have cured fish before (salmon gravlax). The fish needs to cure for five days before being eaten, so what you see above is the side of ocean trout in its ziploc curing bath. Once cured, the fish will last another couple of weeks. As soon as it is ready, I will taste it and update this post, and the picture. In the meantime, here is the recipe. Hopefully it will be perfect for Christmas!
UPDATE: The ocean trout was really good. Because it cures for longer than other recipes, the fish shrinks quite a bit, so each slice from the fillet is quite small. The taste however is wonderful - and don't be afraid even if you don't like ouzo - it definitely does not have a strong ouzo flavour, just an almost unidentifiable background hint. This recipe was a definite hit with everyone, and was eaten too fast for me to get another photo.
Greek Cured Ocean Trout
Gourmet Traveller Dec 09
100g caster sugar
100g fine sea salt
1 small side ocean trout
Baby coriander sprigs to garnish
Condiments as desired
Combine sugar, salt and ouzo in a bowl. Place trout in a ziploc bag, and pour in the curing mixture. Press mixture down to evenly coat fis. Seal, removing as much air as possible, and refrigerate, turning occasionally until lightly cured (5 days.)
Wipe curing liquid from trout, then brush any remains away with a wet pastry brush (don't wet the fish too much). Thinly slice fish, arrange on a platter, scatter with garnish and serve. (I am planning to serve it wih thin sourdough toasts, capers, pickled onions and a garlic aioli).