The festive season is just around the corner, and with it comes Thanksgiving, Christmas and a whole host of celebratory meals.
If the thought of preparing a big holiday meal sends shivers down your spine, then fret not. Chef Sven Wurnam of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman says if you plan ahead, even the most easily flustered cook can ensure a seamless preparation and great meal. The chefs at The Ritz-Carlton are set to serve up some 2 tons of turkey over the holiday season. Here are some top tips to keep your cool in the kitchen and ensure a restaurant-worthy turkey.
Plan, and then plan some more
Wurnam says planning is key, especially as the lead-up to the season is typically one of the busiest times of year. Plan what you are going to cook well ahead of time and stock your kitchen with all the staples you’ll need. He also advises to get everyone involved.
“Once you have your shopping list in place and you have bought all ingredients, do yourself a favor and involve your kids and family,” Wurnam says. “Cooking together is fun, especially for kids. You are able to craft long-lasting memories for them and you will see the pride in their eyes once they are part of the preparation of this important meal.”
Pick the right turkey
Choose your turkey wisely. With a mind-boggling array of birds now sold in supermarkets, which one reigns supreme?
“If you are looking for a better meat flavor, go with free range or organic turkeys,” Wurnam advises. “They had more freedom to move more and had food that they could find on a farm, resulting in a tastier meat. If you are looking for tenderness, you can choose a regular farmed turkey. Keep in mind that it is not necessarily better to buy fresh. Instead, look at the bird’s origin, the diet it got and how it has been treated.”
Once you have selected your turkey the next step is preparing the bird for the oven. This is important as it will heavily determine the taste and juiciness. Here are chef Wurman’s top tips.
“Wash and clean the turkey before doing anything else. Remove the trimmings and inner parts of it since you can prepare them separately and use as part of your gravy. A big turkey needs to be brined first. You can find variations of recipes online, but if you are not sure, go with the classic. Calculate 24 hours per each 10 pounds so you can be sure it is nice and tasty all the way through.
“Stuffing is important and gives additional flavor to the turkey. Traditionally I used washed, peeled and diced root vegetable, thyme, bay leaf, juniper berries and a bit of white wine. Stuff the turkey as much as possible and use a butcher string to tie it up closely. When it comes to the cooking, I recommend to start at a low temperature and go up towards the end of the cooking time.”
Cooking to perfection
For a truly tasty, juicy turkey you’ll need to cook it to perfection as well. Chef Wurnman says he ideally likes to use a big rotisserie, which helps reserve all the juices for a flavor-infused gravy. Wurnman starts the rotisserie at 240 degrees for 60 minutes, then increases to 300 degrees for a further 45 minutes. Once the turkey’s internal temperature reaches around 165 degrees, it is taken out of the rotisserie and left to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature. Then Wurnman cranks up the oven to 400 degrees and quickly warms the turkey. This also gives the turkey skin a nice golden sheen. Serve with some great classics. “A nice and flavorful stuffing, pumpkin pie, loaded mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, roasted pumpkin and giblet gravy,” Wurnman recommends.
Chef Sven Wurnman
With more than 10 years of international experience, chef Wurnman perfected his skills, repertoire and distinctive style while working at two- and three-star Michelin restaurants in his native Germany.
Prior to joining the team at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, he served as head chef for the JW Marriott Hotel in Hong Kong and as sous chef with The Ritz-Carlton in Guangzhou, China.
Turkey to go
Feeling lazy? A host of local restaurants and resorts offer a turkey to go with all the trimmings. Just collect, heat up at home and enjoy.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Enjoy a Thanksgiving turkey (Nov. 26) to go prepared by the chefs at The Ritz-Carlton. Includes citrus ginger and sorrel brined turkey, sauce, giblet gravy, jerk sausage and celery stuffing, creamed local kale, pumpkin and cassava mash, roasted root vegetables, salad and traditional pumpkin pie or toffee apple pie. The meal costs $295 and serves up to six people generously. Turkey, sauce, gravy and stuffing only is $205. Orders must be received by Nov. 23.
On Christmas Day, The Ritz-Carlton is also offering a fully prepared Christmas meal for diners to enjoy at home. The feast-to-go includes Maine lobster bisque, the option of jerk-rubbed turkey or beef Wellington, sides, including sauces and stuffing, and Buche de Noel for dessert. The meal costs $295 for the turkey; $400 for the beef Wellington. Both serve up to six generously. Orders must be received by Dec. 21
Delivery in the Seven Mile Beach area is available for both dates at a $40 fee. A 20 percent gratuity will be added to the bill. Call 943-9000.
Lola Bistro (formerly Upper Crust)
The Camana Bay restaurant’s “Feast Without the Fuss” offers a fully prepared single portion-sized oven roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, creamy Brussels sprouts, gravy and fresh cranberry sauce for $19.95. For an additional $3, add pumpkin pie and soup with herb croutons. The turkey feast is available on Nov. 26 and 27 to-go or dine in. Call 743-1010.
The Wharf restaurant on West Bay Road is offering a Thanksgiving dinner to go with all the trimmings. Priced at $225 and serving up to eight people, the dinner includes a 20-pound herb-marinated turkey, apple nut stuffing, mashed potatoes, buttered green beans, Brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce and gravy. There is also a 6-inch pumpkin cheese cake as well as a harvest salad. Orders must be received by ov. 25. Pick up on Nov. 26, 4:30-6 p.m. Call 949-2231.
The Grand Harbour supermarket is offering a gourmet Thanksgiving roasted turkey dinner for $79.95, feeding a family of up to 14. The meal includes a 12 to 14-pound turkey, country-style dressing and gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, green beans with roasted almonds, glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes. To order visit hurleys.ky/ordering. Orders must be received by Nov. 23.