THE 12 QUESTIONS OF CHRIST­MAS

To glaze or not to glaze, what booze to have on pour, where to put your onions – Matt Pre­ston tack­les the big is­sues of the fes­tive sea­son.

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Christmas Planner - @mattscra­vat @Mattscra­vat

1. Is tur­key with all the trim­mings suited to an Aussie Christ­mas?

No, but the tra­di­tions and rit­u­als as­so­ci­ated with feasts like this of­ten fly in the face of logic. And the tra­di­tions and rit­u­als are also, strangely, of­ten so much more im­por­tant than the meal.

2. What should I cook for Christ­mas din­ner, then?

What­ever you darn well want. Plun­der ideas from other cul­tures – the suck­ling pig of a Pi­noy Christ­mas, say, or my ad­dic­tive Brus­sels sprouts with a Thai fish sauce caramel, or the fried food (es­pe­cially potato cakes) of Hanukkah. I like the idea of roast­ing juicier and eas­ier-to-cook chooks and serv­ing them with sal­ads themed to the flavour­ings you’ve used on the birds.

3. But what should be our new na­tional Christ­mas din­ner?

As well as be­ing tasty, it should be a po­lit­i­cal state­ment and have a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact so I can feel both full and smugly full of my­self. In Poland they eat carp for Christ­mas din­ner, so maybe we should adopt that and eat all those prob­lem­atic in­tro­duced species that thrive here like camel, goat, rab­bits and carp. Sus­tain­able and wild food – so on trend (but a wee bit hard to source).

4. So maybe lo­cal seafood would be a bet­ter choice and eas­ier to source?

Oys­ters, per­haps. Syd­ney rocks are good but I’d avoid Pacifics – they’re of­ten a bit spent at this time of year. Prawns, cer­tainly. With the hot weather and dis­rupted bin ser­vice, a neat trick is to bun­dle up the heads and shells in the freezer un­til you can dis­pose of them (see next ques­tion).

5. What are the three most im­por­tant steps in plan­ning?

Make a list of what you need and what you need to do; del­e­gate as much as you can; clean out the fridge and freezer of any­thing that you don’t recog­nise or haven’t opened in the past month. You’ll need the space.

6. Should I glaze the ham?

It’s like ask­ing “should I have a pedi­cure?” It’s not hard to do and it makes things bet­ter but can you re­ally be both­ered?

7. Who should do the wash­ing up?

Not you. Any­one else who hasn’t con­trib­uted in a sig­nif­i­cant way to Christ­mas lunch. Ac­cept no excuses.

8. Eek, I’ve for­got­ten to buy a present for (in­sert ti­tle here). What should I get?

Might I rec­om­mend a book? For the hard­core food lover get The Noma Guide to Fer­men­ta­tion; for the food lover who loves travel pick my friend Emma War­ren’s The Cata­lan Kitchen. Per­fect for ev­ery­one, how­ever, is a sub­scrip­tion to the world’s best food mag­a­zine, de­li­cious. You can or­der it on­line so you don’t even have to leave your kitchen to get it.

9. What should we drink?

I’m a gin and soda guy these days. At only 65 calo­ries, it’s the new Skinny Bitch (vodka, lime, soda) and since the booze isn’t hid­den be­hind all that sug­ary tonic, you tend to make them weaker. For a party starter, how­ever, I make jugs of chilled rosé, gin and soda spritz with the barest splash of rose­wa­ter for fra­grance and fresh ly­chees bob­bing in it to add a lit­tle sweet­ness. Then it’s nice but­tery Aussie chardon­nay with the tur­key, crisp cold beer with the seafood and a sparkling shi­raz with Box­ing Day ham and eggs brunch.

10. Would it be a dis­as­ter if I put the fried onions un­der, rather than on top of, my Box­ing Day sausage?

No. Per­son­ally I like the onions un­der my char­ity snag wrapped in bread so they don’t fall off, tak­ing the art­fully ap­plied sauce and mus­tard with them. And as we re­cently found out, it's a small price to pay to en­sure that no lit­tle old ladies have to go to emer­gency with a bro­ken hip af­ter slip­ping on onions out­side their favourite hard­ware store af­ter buy­ing a new flange nut for their an­gle-grinder.

11. I'll be off to the hard­ware store for my post- Christ­mas DIY needs, too. Is it okay if that char­ity sausage siz­zle serves the snags in rolls?

Not since the New South Wales state elec­tion when John Brog­den and Bob Carr brawled over the whole sausage rolls ver­sus pies de­bate have we been so di­vided, but here is the truth: a sausa­ge­siz­zle sausage should be served in a slice of (prefer­ably white) bread. White bread de­liv­ers a far more favourable meat-to­bread ra­tio, is faster to as­sem­ble and even comes with those two top cor­ners of bread that make a handy han­dle, keep­ing your fin­gers free of sauce. A roll is un-aus­tralian – un­less you're of Scan­di­na­vian or Amer­i­can de­scent, or you're call­ing it a hot dog. In which case you re­ally should be us­ing a heav­ily pro­cessed, pop­ping-skinned, frank-style dog rather than a meaty Aussie snag. The only other time I'd con­sider a roll ac­cept­able is if you're 'dou­ble- dog­ging'.

Dou­ble-dog­ging, for those who don't know, is the art of re­mov­ing the soft bread from in­side the top and bot­tom of the roll so each hol­lowed-out half can ac­com­mo­date a sausage, thus giv­ing you dou­ble the meat ac­tion.

12. What’s the epiphany?

It’s that mo­ment when you re­alise that you’d much rather be eat­ing a bag of hot chips with chicken salt than the fancy dé­gus­ta­tion-style huge Christ­mas feast or risotto of left­over tur­key that you're about to sit down to. For Matt's Brus­sels sprouts with lap cheong and Thai fish sauce caramel head to de­li­cious.com.au.

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