Some ideas for using up the remains of your Christmas dinner
I cannot abide wasted food, so here are some ideas for dealing with festal leftovers in the Christmas Octave. Whether you’ve had goose, chicken, or turkey, the carcass is dealt with easily enough. You can go on carving it with the knife; but it’s much more satisfying just to take it back to the kitchen and tear it apart with your hands. It’s always useful to keep a box of latex gloves in the kitchen – most chemists or supermarkets stock them – for these purposes; and, if you’re a priest, they’re very useful to have on when chopping onions or garlic before saying mass. After all, no one wants a host placed on their tongue by garlicky fingers.
So; rip apart the bird. Take out the stuffing, then pull the meat off and put it to one side (I use a small paring knife for the more fiddly bits). Put all the bones (and I do mean all) into a large stockpot, and cover with water. Put the lid on and leave it to simmer for a few hours. Top up with water now and then; but don’t add too much: you want to end up with about half the amount you started with.
While the stockpot’s simmering away; turn your thoughts to the meat, stuffing, and vegetables. You may be a fan of soup and sandwiches; in which case pop the meat and stuffing in the fridge and start chopping up the leftover cooked vegetables. You’ll have the most wonderful stock from the bird, which you can blend with the chopped vegetables to make delicious and almost instant soup. Don’t use the sprouts, though, for everyone’s sake.
Now’s your chance, however, to make Christmas Octave Pie. It’s a “cheat” receipt; but no one wants to make pastry from scratch at that time of year. Cut the meat, vegetables, and stuffing into bite-sized chunks, and place them in a pie dish. Roll out some pre-made puff pastry from the fridge or freezer and lay it over the filling, crimping it at the edges of the dish. Then brush the top with beaten egg or milk, and pierce it several times. Pop it in the top of a preheated oven (180º/Gas Mark 4) for about half an hour – it just needs time for the pastry to rise and crisp up, and for the filling to heat through. (If you have an Aga you’ll know its idiosyncrasies; so follow your instinct.) Serve hot with the rest of the gravy, or piccalilli, and a glass or two of middling Burgundy.
Once the stock’s done and cool enough, take out the bones and lay them to one side. The stock can be strained, and then put into a number of small freezer containers, ready to be defrosted and used as and when. Do check the strainer for any bits of meat that will have fallen off the bones. You’re now all set for Christmas Potted Meat. Pop another pair of latex gloves on, and pick off all the little bits of meat from the bones. You’ll find they come away quite easily. Don’t forget to check the ribs and breastbone – there’s usually plenty lurking there, too. Discard any bits of skin; or, if it’s very cold, put them out for the birds.
Lay all the meat you’ve taken off the carcass on a chopping board and chop it roughly with a sharp knife. Then put it in a bowl and mix it with a splash of sweet sherry or marsala wine, a good pinch of salt, plenty of ground pepper, and paprika to taste. It should have a moist but not wet texture. Then divide the mixture equally between some ramekins, and melt some butter gently in a pan. Pour the melted butter into the ramekins so that it’s level with the top, then dust generously with cayenne pepper. Let the butter set firm before transferring the ramekins to the fridge. They’ll keep for a week or longer, and the contents are delicious on hot brown toast.
Most fun of all, of course, are Christmas Pudding Rissoles. This cleverly uses up the leftover sausage-meat from the stuffing, the smoked streaky bacon that didn’t end up on top of the bird, and – you may have guessed it already – the remains of the Christmas pudding. It couldn’t be simpler. In a mixing bowl, place however much sausage-meat you have, within reason. Crumble over it about half as much Christmas pudding, and mix it all together by hand. (Those latex gloves really are worth the outlay.) When it’s nicely combined, make sausage-shaped patties and wrap each one in a rasher of the bacon – you may find it helpful to secure them at each end with a cocktail stick. Then pop them under a hot grill, turning them a couple of times as necessary. Once the bacon has crisped up, take the rissoles out and let them stand on kitchen paper for a minute or two. Serve immediately with well-chilled Riesling and the last of the roast potatoes.