Savour the Love: The Heart & Soul of Christmas Dinner
Christmas, with its shimmering lights and joyful carols, is a season of joy, and its heart and soul lie not in decorations or presents but in the warmth of shared meals and the tradition of love woven into every bite. The Christmas dinner, far from just a culinary feat, becomes a tapestry of memories, traditions, and whispered stories passed down through generations, a testament to the enduring power of love.
Imagine the scene: the rhythmic chop-chop of vegetables echoing through the air, the oven’s warmth enveloping the kitchen in a comforting hug. Each step –from carving the golden-brown The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster to glazing the Hamilton’s Smokehouse Ham – is imbued with a silent language of love, a symphony of unspoken affection dedicated to those gathered around the table.
Grandmothers, the keepers of culinary wisdom, share stories of Christmases past. Their hands teach their children the secret folds of a cherished recipe, passing on not just a dish but a piece of their hearts. And the children watch and learn with boundless enthusiasm while new friends are welcomed into the fold. Together, family and friends who share a meal on Christmas Day add their threads to the tapestry. “The Jamaican Christmas dinner isn’t just about following a script. It’s about improvising, adding personal flourishes, and owning your culinary voice. It’s a collaboration of love and tradition, seasoned with laughter, stories, and the joy of sharing,” says Arielle Oliver, brand manager, The Best Dressed Chicken.
As the delicious smells of The Best Dressed Chicken roasting, the Hamilton’s Smokehouse Ham freshly glazed, the coconut milk for rice and peas, and ginger-infused sorrel fill the air, excitement grows. The festive table becomes a lively stage for laughter, stories, and the simple joy of being together. Each bite is a shared experience, a moment that goes beyond words, celebrating the love that connects everyone.
Even after the last bite is savoured and the dishes are cleared, the spirit of Christmas dinner lingers. It resides in the whispered memories exchanged by children, the warmth of a united family, and the assurance that the taste of home will stay in their hearts wherever life leads them. Each year, as they gather around the table, they add a new chapter to the story, infusing it with their unique flavours and tales, ensuring that love thrives and blossoms.
So, this Christmas, as you stand in your kitchen, surrounded by the delightful symphony of scents and sounds, remember you’re not just cooking a meal but crafting enduring memories. Every dish, every laugh, and every shared moment contributes to this intricate masterpiece — a testament to the enduring power of love at the heart of every Christmas dinner.
4 tips for a stress-free Christmas dinner prep
Plan, Batch, and Delegate:
• Plan your menu early: Choose your dishes and create a detailed schedule with timings for each step to avoid last-minute chaos.
• Batch-cook whenever possible: Prepare sides like mashed potatoes or rice and peas in advance, freezing them to save oven space and reduce stress.
• Delegate tasks: Share the workload by assigning family members specific roles, from chopping vegetables to setting the table.
Prep Like a Pro
• Mise en place: Organise ingredients, chop vegetables, and pre-measure spices before cooking to streamline the process and minimise chaos.
• Clean as you go: Avoid a post-dinner clean-up marathon by washing and drying pots and utensils as you finish using them.
Embrace Convenience and Flexibility
• Don’t fear shortcuts: Save time and maintain sanity using store-bought canned peas, pre-chopped vegetables, or ready-made sauces. Remember, convenience doesn’t compromise a delicious meal.
Relax, Recharge, and Savour the Moment
• Delegate tasks to the host: If you’re not hosting, offer to help with table setting, serving, or clearing dishes to allow the host to relax and enjoy the evening.
• Take breaks: Step away from the kitchen, take a deep breath, and savour the anticipation. Remember, you’re not a robot—enjoy the process!
The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster with Lemon-Garlic Infusion
The aroma of a perfectly roasted chicken infused with fresh herbs is a timeless symbol of comfort and home. This Christmas, let the tradition continue with this simple yet flavourful recipe, that starts with a 24-hour brine that will surely become a cherished part of your family’s tradition.
Brining Basics: A Recipe for Juicy Chicken
Brining is a simple technique that infuses the chicken with flavour and moisture, resulting in incredibly tender and juicy meat. It’s a game-changer for roasts.
1 gallon cold water
1/2 cup kosher salt (avoid table salt, it has additives that can affect texture)
1/4 cup brown sugar or honey
5-6 whole black peppercorns
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 lemon, quartered (optional)
Fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or parsley (optional)
1. In a large pot or container, combine water, salt, sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves, garlic, and lemon (if using). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until the salt and sugar dissolve.
2. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
3. Place your Roaster in the brine, ensuring it’s fully submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Smaller pieces like breasts or wings need less time, while a whole chicken might benefit from a longer soak.
4. Remove chicken from the brine, rinse it briefly under cold water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.
1 The Best Dressed Chicken Roaster brined for 12-24 hours
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and cut into thirds
1 stalk celery, cut into large thirds
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the Cavity:
1 head garlic, top sliced off
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 2 large pieces
1 lemon, cut in half
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Combine melted butter, minced garlic, lemon zest, fresh thyme, salt, and freshly cracked pepper in a small mixing bowl.
3. Place celery and carrots in a roasting pan. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and position it on top of the veggies, breast side up.
4. Rub the melted butter mixture under the chicken’s skin and inside the cavity, ensuring full coverage.
5. Stuff the chicken cavity with the head of garlic, pieces of yellow onion, lemon, and fresh thyme. Optionally, use kitchen twine to tie the drumsticks.
6. Drizzle olive oil over the chicken’s skin and use a basting brush to coat it evenly. Season liberally with fresh cracked black pepper.
7. Place the Roaster in the oven on the middle rack and roast for 1 hour and 30 minutes, basting every 30 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
8. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes in the skillet.
9. Carve the chicken and serve with pan drippings or reserve them to make a delicious gravy.
Brown Sugar Glazed Hamilton’s Smokehouse Ham
This brown sugar glazed ham is simple to follow yet delivers a symphony of flavours that will have your family singing carols for more.
For the ham:
1 Hamilton’s Smokehouse Ham
1/2 cup water
For the glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional, for a tangy kick)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1. Thaw ham to room temperature. When ready to cook preheat your oven to 350°F. Wrap the ham in foil and place it in a roasting pan, fat side up. Pour in the water to create a bath for the bottom and bake 10-15 per pound.
2. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in the brown sugar, Dijon mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar (if you’re feeling adventurous), cloves, black pepper, and allspice. Let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, like a gentle waltz.
3. Take your ham out of the oven remove the skin and score the fat side. Imagine creating little diamond patterns with your knife and carefully drizzle half of the glaze over its top, coating it evenly with a brush and return to the oven.
4. Aim for an internal temperature of 160°F. Baste your ham every 15 minutes with the remaining glaze.
5. Once baked, let your ham rest for 20 minutes before carving. This allows the glaze to thicken and set.
This simple recipe combines the sweetness of honey with the warmth of cinnamon for a dish that’s sure to please everyone at the table.
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
2. Stir in the honey, cinnamon, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until the carrots are glazed and the liquid has thickened slightly.
3. Serve warm, garnished with fresh parsley, if desired.
For a richer flavour, use brown sugar instead of honey.
You can also add a splash of orange juice or balsamic vinegar for a tangy twist.
If you like your carrots a bit crisper, cook them for a shorter time.
Glazed carrots can be made ahead of time and reheated in the oven or microwave.
Beet and Arugula Salad with Citrus and Red Cabbage
This vibrant salad explodes with colour and flavour, showcasing the earthy sweetness of roasted beets, the peppery bite of arugula, the juicy tang of citrus, and the refreshing crunch of red cabbage. All dressed in a simple yet delicious vinaigrette, it’s a feast for both the eyes and the palate.
For the salad:
2 medium beets, roasted and cubed (about 2 cups)
4 cups baby arugula
2 segmented citrus fruits (choose your favourites – tangerines, oranges, grapefruits work well)
1/2 cup thinly shredded red cabbage
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon citrus juice (from your chosen citrus)
1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Make the vinaigrette: Whisk together olive oil, citrus juice, honey or maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, combine roasted beet cubes, baby arugula, citrus segments, shredded red cabbage, and your chosen toppings (goat cheese and nuts, if using).
Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss gently to coat all ingredients.
Serve immediately for the best flavour and texture.
Chef’s Tip: Roast beets with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for extra depth of flavour.
Herbed Bread Stuffing
Unsalted butter, for greasing
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups finely chopped yellow onions
4 cups finely chopped celery
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon grated garlic
12 cups prepared cornbread, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/3 pounds)
2 (1-pound) day-old white sandwich bread loaves, torn into 1-inch pieces
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups chicken stock or canned lower-sodium broth
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 2 (13- x 9-inch) baking dishes with butter. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onions and celery, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add sage and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Transfer cooked vegetables to a large bowl. Add cornbread, sandwich bread, parsley, salt, and pepper; stir until well combined. Gradually stir in stock until breads are evenly moistened. Scrape mixture into prepared baking dishes. Bake in preheated oven until hot and lightly browned, about 30 minutes.