A Stress-free Christmas Dinner

by Chef Brad Smoliak, Kitchen by Brad

“Keep it simple. I’m not a big one for trying out new, complicated recipes on Christmas, but these recipes are tried and true — what we serve in our home. The one thing that is important, put the turkey away, asap, right after you carve it. Stick it in the fridge. If there’s no room, put it in the barbecue. It’s the quickest way to chill it. Don’t forget to transfer to the fridge before you go to bed.” – chef Brad Smoliak.

Tomato NovDec 2017 cover

The Turkey

Buy a nice turkey from a butcher or a farm.

Wash the turkey well and dry with paper towels. This is the most important thing for crispy skin, to start with a dry turkey.

Melt 1 cup of butter and smear into every nook and cranny of the turkey. Julia says ‘they like it.’ Apply kosher salt and pepper all over. This helps dry out the skin even more and promotes caramelization (crispness and colour).

Heat oven to 300ºF.

Put the turkey on a roasting rack (not in the bottom of the pan) until the internal temperature of the thigh is 150ºF.

Take turkey out of the oven, increase oven temperature to 400ºF. Put turkey back in to roast until the thigh temp is 165ºF.

Let the turkey rest for at least ½ hour, (the turkey does continue to cook while it’s resting). This allows the juices to stay in the meat and makes the turkey easier to carve. It stays hot and tastes great.

*All directions are for an unstuffed turkey.

Turkey Gravy
Make this up to one week before Christmas. To serve, simply defrost, bring to a boil, and add the turkey drippings Christmas day, adjust seasoning and serve. One less thing to do on Christmas morning!

Gravy Starter

2 T butter
4 T flour
3 c roasted chicken stock (recipe below)
fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage, whatever you like)
kosher salt and pepper
¼ c wine or dark beer (optional)

Melt the butter over medium, heat. If the butter turns a little brown that is okay, as long as it is not burnt. Whisk in the flour and cook or 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Slowly whisk in the stock, once all the stock is added, season with salt and pepper, fresh herbs and wine/beer if so desired, turn heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain the gravy to get rid of lumps and herbs, chill, then freeze.

The day before you plan to serve, remove from freezer and defrost in fridge.

On Christmas Day, reheat, add the turkey drippings, adjust seasoning and serve.

Roasted Chicken Stock

Bones from 1 roasted chicken (a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store is fine)
½ c each chopped onions, celery, carrots

Take the bones from the roasted chicken, and roast in 350ºF oven for 30-45 minutes until light golden brown. Place in stock pot with vegetables. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. Strain, then use immediately or chill. Makes about 4 cups.

Roasted Carrots
Prep the carrots in the morning, then roast while the turkey is resting. Placing the carrots right on the pan (no parchment) will give you crisper, more caramelized carrots.


2 lb carrots, cut lengthwise
kosher salt and pepper
drizzle canola oil

Roast in a 400ºF oven for about 10-15 minutes, until desired doneness. Serve with whatever fresh herbs you have, such as thyme or parsley, rosemary, a dollop of butter, or a drizzle of cold-pressed canola oil. The carrots are great warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6-8.

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

2-3 lbs vegetables, your choice
4 oz bacon or pancetta
kosher salt and pepper

Pan fry pancetta or bacon until crisp. Remove, drain and set aside.

Toss vegetables in 2 T of fat leftover in pan, season with salt and pepper, roast in 400ºF oven for 10-15 minutes or until done.

Toss with pomegranate dressing and chopped fresh herbs.

Serves 6-8.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 T grainy mustard
2 T pomegranate molasses
2 T red wine vinegar
¾ c extra virgin olive oil
½ t kosher salt
¼ t coarse black pepper

Mix together the mustard, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper, until well combined. Add the red wine vinegar and mix until well combined.

Pickled Beets

pickled beets

5 lb small beets
1 T cloves
1 T mustard seed
1 t whole allspice
1 cinnamon stick
2 c water
2 c white vinegar
1½ c white sugar
1 T kosher salt

Wash beets, then cook in boiling water until fork tender. Peel under cold water. Quarter or slice as desired, set aside.

Meanwhile bring the spices, water, vinegar and salt to a boil, and cook for about 10 minutes. You can drain the spices at this time or you can leave them in the liquid. Add the beets and cook for another 10 minutes.

Place the beets in sterile jars, add the liquid, and seal according to directions if so desired, or cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. Let stand for 48 hours before serving to develop flavours, will last in fridge 3 months.

Makes 3-4 large jars.

Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes

3 lb potatoes (quartered)
¼ c sour cream
¼ c whipping cream, heated
¼ c butter, melted
kosher salt and pepper

Cover potatoes with cold water and a pinch of salt, bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the potatoes well. Put them back in the pot, with no lid and let rest for 5 minutes. Place the potatoes in a bowl of mixer, or with paddle attachment begin to break them up for about 2 minutes. Or use a ricer. Add the remaining ingredients, turn to lowest speed and continue to mix for 2 minutes, serve immediately, or keep warm.

Serves 8-10.

Green Bean Casserole with Wild Mushroom Sauce and Bread Crumb Topping

Green Bean Casserole

2 lb green beans, washed

To blanch beans bring 4 L of water to a rolling boil, add 1 T kosher salt and blanch beans (or any vegetables) for 3-4 minutes, or until tender crisp. Immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking, then drain until ready to use, (up to 2 days ahead).

Wild Mushroom Sauce

½ c butter
1 c chopped onion/shallot
2 c sliced wild mushrooms, mixed
¼ c white wine
2 c whipping cream
1 c mushroom liquid
kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1 t parsley or chives, chopped

Heat a heavy saucepan over medium high heat and melt the butter. Add the onions/shallots and cook until light golden brown. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until there are little brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the wine to de-glaze, stir to loosen any bits. Add the whipping cream and mushroom liquid and cook for another 15 minutes, or until reduced by half. Adjust seasoning and add the parsley/chives.

Bread Crumb Topping

1 c bread crumbs
¼ c melted butter

Toss bread crumbs and butter together.

To assemble: Place the green beans on the bottom of a greased baking dish, add the mushroom sauce, then cover with bread crumbs. Bake in pre-heated 400ºF degree oven for 20 minutes or until bubbling.

Serves 6-8.

Cabbage Bread Pudding
Make instead of stuffing.

1 loaf crusty bread, about 6 cups, diced ½”
5 eggs, beaten
1 c 10 per cent cream or homogenized milk
1 c chicken stock
1 t kosher salt
¼ t pepper
2 t fresh thyme, rough chopped
2 c buttered cabbage (recipe follows)

Pre-heat oven to 300ºF.

Mix together the eggs, cream, stock, salt and pepper. Pour over the diced bread. Mix well, and set aside for 10 minutes.

Add the cabbage to the bread mixture and mix until well combined.

Bake in a casserole (or can be baked in 6-8 well-greased muffin tins).

Cover loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes.

Remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Let sit for 15 minutes and then serve. These may be made ahead and frozen until needed.

Place in hot oven for 15 minutes or until hot.

Serves 6-8.

Buttered Cabbage

1 T butter
1 T diced onions
½ lb sliced cabbage
½ t salt
¼ t black pepper
¼ c chicken stock

Heat butter, add the diced onions and cook till soft. Add the cabbage and toss well with onions and butter. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Remove lid, add the remaining ingredients and cook just until cabbage is bright green. Remove and chill.