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Christmas Q&A with Iain Devine | The Tool Shed

Christmas Q&A with Iain Devine

If you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Chef over Christmas, wonder no more.

Sousvidetools.com spoke to Iain Devine, also known as the Drunken Butcher on his website. With experience as a chef, an events caterer and now host of his own supper clubs, this Sous Vide enthusiast and self-proclaimed meat-enthusiast tells us how he will be feasting over the upcoming festive season.

How many people will you be cooking for at Christmas? Will someone else in your household be chef for the day?

I’m having a rare quiet Christmas this year.  Just myself & my wife Heli. Having said that, there’s a good chance that we’ll end up having some friends over too. I couldn’t stand to see anyone by themselves at Christmas.

Do you have any Sous Vide products you favour when cooking your own Christmas dinner?

As with any meal it’s important to pick the technique to compliment the ingredient. Ideally you’re looking for a range of flavours and textures. I’ll be using the Sous Vide Supreme machine and vacuum sealer, along with The Smoking Gun.

How can cooking Sous Vide reduce the stress of cooking Christmas dinner, in comparison to general oven cooking?

In almost every way!  Veg can be peeled, sealed with butter, seasoned and cooked the day before (kept overnight in its bag in the fridge) requiring only a quick reheat in hot water. This will save you no end of time and stove space on the day.

The meat itself can be done Sous Vide, but I have a feeling that most families would prefer a whole bird for presentation purposes – so I’ll leave that one up to you. I’ll be having pork so it’s an absolute godsend for me; perfectly cooked and juicy meat. I remove the skin which I roast separately for the crackling which also frees up a lot of oven space for roasties etc.

What other meat would you suggest if someone didn’t want to cook the traditional turkey?

I’m a massive fan of pork so will be sourcing something special from Taste Tradition. I find Sous Vide works best with evenly-sized pieces of meat so some sirloin, rolled pork loin or belly, leg of lamb will all yield great results. If you’re thinking about a bird then you will need to joint it first. Cooking Sous Vide does make amazing confit legs and removes any doubt about “is it cooked yet?”

What’s your favourite tipple at Christmas?

Now, you’re talking!

Breakfast/Brunch: coffee, fresh orange juice and Champagne.

Dinner: Gin martini (dry & dirty), white wine with the seafood starter, a hefty white, light red or top quality cider with the pork, rum butter with the pudding. Then I tend to forgo port in preference for an interesting red with cheese that I can continue the evening with. And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a decent malt whiskey.

For cooking with, you’ll never go far wrong with using what you’ll be drinking. I tend to use Sainsbury’s Basics red and white as my ‘cooking wines’ but then finish sauces off with a glass of the good stuff, that’ll give you a nice balance of the deep flavour of cooked out wine whilst also getting the flavour of the more expensive one

Aside from the traditional Christmas dinner, what other favourite feast ideas do you have for the party season? Any stand out recipes for Boxing Day or New Year’s Eve?

I’m doing a special birthday party for a friend whose birthday is December 30th so will be going all out on that one. If I fail to make a large pâté I’ll be in trouble! I love to cure whole salmon, which always goes down very well and is remarkably easy. I’m not a huge fan of roast turkey, but always have a hankering for cold turkey and cranberry sandwiches, so I’ll buy a turkey breast and Sous Vide it so I can slice it incredibly thinly for Boxing Day.

Due to the party on the 30th, my New Year’s Eve will probably be a more restrained affair than usual, I’m thinking 4-6 guests, I’ll go a bit more “cheffy”; think seafood is always a good idea if you can get some quality fresh produce.

What are your top tips for cooking for large groups whilst still being able to enjoy the party?

Keep people out of the kitchen!  I’m serious. If you don’t, you’ll end up unable to move with “helpers” who are doing nothing more than sampling everything you’ve made and generally getting in the way. We now have a rule at our parties that you’re only allowed in the kitchen if you’re wearing an apron or to bring the cook(s) a drink!  Get one or two people who you can work with and get them to help you and keep (forcibly if needed) everyone else out of the way.

A side or two of salmon made into gravlax is always a winner, I’m going to serve one side simply sliced and the other sliced then smoked, using the Smoking Gun, for a bit of variety. Duck leg confit topping a salad is always a hit. Terrines and pâtés look impressive and are simplicity itself on the day, as all you need to do is slice them.

Are there any cooking activities that the family can help with? How can families get the kids involved?

Washing up and passing me some wine! Obviously you know your children and what they can be trusted with, I’d point out that I’ve cut myself many more times on a speed-peeler than with my razor sharp IO Shen knife, so peeling the veg isn’t always the best option!

Involve them fully, explain why you’re doing things and then have them help – I promise you the food will taste much better for it. Children like messy things and a bit of chaos (as do I) so rubbing in marinades and the like is always a good idea.

Most definitely get them involved in vacuum-sealing things as they’ll find the process fascinating, though you may soon find your car keys nicely vacuum packed if you turn your back!