It’s a truism that if the roast is the king of dinners, then the Christmas dinner is the irrefutable king of the roasts. Turkey is traditional but can be bland and polarising. It’s also notoriously easy to ruin by overcooking, especially if you have ‘self-medicated’ with a pre 8am libation. Though many plump for tradition, the choice of Christmas roast centrepiece is uniquely individual to each household. Can we do better? Dare we? Here, I weigh up the festive proteinoid centrepiece alternatives so you don’t have to.
Not just Maverick’s trusty, but ultimately tragic, sidekick in Top Gun, also a festive favourite with roots in ancient Greece, where Spring hatchlings would grow fat from harvest spoils left on the ground by farmers, reaching peak obesity just in time for Christmas. Goose’s ascendancy continued well into the middle ages, but many blame Charles Dickens for its demise as a festive favourite in the Victorian era. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge famously replaces the Cratchit’s scrawny bird with a giant, wildly expensive turkey – thus fuelling the public perception of goose as poor people food and turkey as the preserve of hoity toity show-offs and haunted Victorian businessmen.
On the palate, goose is dark, rich and gamey, with a high fat content adding to its succulence. Enjoy it with root veg, big flavoured wines and an angioplasty for pudding.
A chemically neutered Rooster? Must we eat EVERYTHING that moves?
The Nigel Mansell of meat. Reliable, dependable, dull. Chicken is arguably the easiest of the centrepieces to bring together and a great vessel for other flavours, just be sure to cook it as no one wants giving Uncle Alan the sh*ts as their lasting festive legacy.
Roast on a bed of festive veg and rub with quality Maldon salt, butter and fresh herbs pre roasting (those with a less active gag reflex might like to try and get some under the skin too).
The only quadruped on our list and a personal festive favourite when roasted to medium rare, beef is the gateway drug to Yorkshire puddings – another Clancy Christmas staple (don’t @ me). Simple, earthy and with a go-to cut for every budget, try a sirloin or fore rib joint for incredible leftovers. Unless you like your meat well-done of course, in which case any surplus will be drier than a holiday to Chernobyl with Chris Witty within hours. Anyone for jerky?
Smells like farts, tastes incredible when roasted, cauliflower is a proud plant-based crowd pleaser. You may need to roast a few to satisfy a large group, but do so with gay abandon safe in the knowledge that it will transform into golden, caramelized heaven with just a touch of olive oil and a good old season. Serve with root veg and a side of smug self-satisfaction.