When you think about what an Irish Christmas looks like, you are torn between two ideals: wholesome goodness with good company and meat, potatoes, drink, possibly a walk down to the pub and a bar brawl as a nightcap. Let me tell you it’s a little of both worlds, the good, the drunk and the clean up.
Meet Kevin. He’s from Kilcock in County Kildare, Ireland. He’s the youngest boy of a big family and it’s not uncommon to have one to three or more of his nine nieces and nephews running around his childhood home. One day, the oldest of the nieces decided to call him as she saw it. Now, all of the kids call him “Chef Kev”. To be a chef in Ireland is about your meat and potatoes, but the newest generation of cooks hailing from Ireland bring with them a modern edge: experimentation, a yearning for something new, and that good ol’ fashioned sociability that we call the gift of the gab.
Chef Kev started off in small town Ireland and with the crash of the Celtic Tiger, decided to try his talents out elsewhere. He now lives in Toronto, Canada where he works as a cook at the infamous Bier Markt Esplanade, known to local Torontonians as the spot for specialty beer and battered meat cutlets.
Kev returned to Ireland for the holidays to cook a feast for his family. What was on the menu? Turkey, ham, veg, potatoes and sauce. Obviously.
What’s Kev’s overall cooking like? It’s meat, potatoes and layered with the good stuff. The stuff life is made of. Like heavy cream and goose fat. He likes to treat those around him well, ’cause hey, life’s too short to miss out on the good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, he knows how to wind down, to sit back with a whiskey in hand and shoot the shit. He likes keepin’ it real, ’cause he’s old enough to drink and wise enough to know that he’s going to have one.
This was the 17-pound, 2-day brined turkey that had its skin stuffed with a café du Paris butter — white wine, mustard, sage, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest. Wrapped in bacon. Tender, juicy and a savoury flavour that would balance any sweet components of the meal, or to give you the need for a strong drink. Paired off with an Old Fashioned bourbon and need I say anymore?
Here, Chef Kev carefully analyzes his approach, ’cause it’s so f*cking heavy he can’t lift the bird out of the pan. He slices it around to the best of his abilities. Bet your turkey wasn’t nearly as butter drenched, wine drunk as this one. Jealous?
That’s Kev’s sister in the background, looking lovely and trying to get everyone in order before the meal is served. Hard to do when you have a load of little bodies and just as many half-tanked adults drooling at the scent of dinner.
An observation of this occasion, much to the chagrin of any North American, is the effort that goes into having a dinner at home. It was a totally humbling experience as I sit there in jeans and a blouse that I got on sale. Needless to say, the house was warm from days — actually days — of cooking and lots of the little bodies running around and playing!
Nice ham, Kev. Slipped out of the oven and my stomach is screaming for a piece. The exuberant color made me want to pinch it. First, boiled with cinnamon, apple and cranberry juice until cooked through. Then baked with brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, grainy dijon, smooth dijon and Jameson whiskey glaze until crusted.
The results: a bright pink flesh with a sweet and spicy crust to perfectly offset the rich meat of the turkey.
Goose fat roasted potatoes, delicately mashed potatoes with cream and butter, grilled and seasoned lemon asparagus, homemade cinnamon cranberry sauce, Vichy carrots, and white wine vinegar red cabbage with apple. All topped with two types of sauces: classic turkey gravy and a French-style demi glace that took 3 days to boil down. This demi recipe used beef bones and oxtail that had been roasted and spread with tomato paste, later boiled with various root veg. In the end, the meal was f*cking unbelievable and the family was, as they say in Ireland, “delighted”.
You can see a small nephew in the corner, jaw-dropped from the sheer delight of having a mountainous feast before him.
Bottoms up! I hope we made this meal the envy of all holiday feasts as we tilt back our Irish whiskeys, import wines and stuff our faces with butter dripping down the sides of our mouths.
Well done, Chef Kev.