by Annabel Cooper
Chef Michiko Campbell of Chiko’s Smokey Rub fame shares advice for preparing the perfect Holiday meal for your family and friends.
Easily the star of the show is the turkey. It doesn’t just need to taste good. It needs to smell and look impressive too.
Chef Chiko starts by making a paste. His favourite paste ingredients are fresh sage mixed with either corn oil, olive oil or bacon fat, and some original ‘Chiko’s Smokey Rub’.
“Put all that together in a blender or food processor until it gets into a paste”, he said.
Then he rubs the paste onto as much of the bird as he can get to. Underneath the skin, through the legs, up to the head and in the cavity. Then he stuffs the cavity with three celery sticks.
He covers the turkey with foil before putting it in the oven to keep “the moisture and juices in.”
Cooking times will vary depending on your oven and the size of the turkey. For a 10lb bird, Chef Chiko recommended and hour and a half to two hours at 375F, covered. Then turn the oven up to 450F, take off the foil and cook for a further 15 minutes until it is just brown, or longer if you want it crispy.
Baste the turkey once with all the juices when you remove the foil.
He keeps the juices to make the gravy, straining them off, making sure he gets a clear consistency. He then blends corn starch with stock or the natural juices.
Chef Chiko prepares this separately using caramalised onions and shallots, herbs and chicken or turkey stock to which he adds diced cornbread and freshly baked bread, finished off with dry cranberries or diced up green parsley for an “earthy, vibrant colour”.
This is the time of year when many of us put the most effort into the vegetable portion of our Holiday meal. Chef Chiko’s favourite vegetable combination is glazed carrots, brussels sprouts with bacon and “Christmas Yams”.
Par boil the carrots until al dente, then sauté them in a pan, add a little honey to create a glaze on top of the carrots, add salt and pepper and then they’re good to go.
Cut them in half and clean them before giving them a quick blanche to “get the green colour”. Half way cook the bacon, then drop the Brussels sprouts into a hot pan and sauté them with the partially cooked bacon. Add some fresh thyme, maybe a few other herbs to taste, and, of course, salt and pepper.
Honey and marshmallows is what turns these otherwise bland sweet potatoes into something deliciously worthy of such a special occasion.
Once the yams are peeled, cleaned and diced, boil them until they are just under cooked. Put them in a pan with salt, pepper, cinnamon, a tiny bit of nutmeg, then add honey and a layer of mini marshmallows across the top.
Bake them at 400F for around 10 – 15 minutes to brown the marshmallows slightly. He warns that you must watch the marshmallows to make sure they don’t burn, as they can brown quickly.
Simpler, lighter vegetable combination: Chef Chiko said broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus make a very good vegetable medley, perhaps with just some butter and salt depending on preference.
Preparing the main meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas is the widest variety of food you are likely to prepare for a single meal all year. We asked Chef Chiko his advice on getting everything hot and ready so you aren’t eating your turkey cold and dry while the carrots are tepid and the Brussels sprouts piping hot.
“You need to have all your elements for that meal in a sequence,” he said. “You balance your time frame out. Work out how long everything will take and then plan it out.
“The turkey and ham take the longest, so put them in the oven first, then the yams, rice or mac n cheese, then the simpler things.”
He said you need to know how long each dish takes to cook so you can lay it out efficiently, making sure everything is cooked and ready at the same time.
Remember Holiday meals are about family and friends coming together. Say ‘yes’ to offers of help and pick out a dish that can be kept warm easily, without spoiling.
Chef Chiko has always had a passion for food and loves cooking for family and friends. He trained at the Bermuda College, trained and worked at the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Arts and Food Service Management from Johnson & Wales University in Miami. When he isn’t in the kitchen, he’s building. Find out more at chikosmokeyrub.com.