Throughout my childhood, Christmas dinner was just a massive inconvenience. Not only did it mean I had to tear myself away from the game of Fifa I’d gleefully unwrapped minutes earlier, but it also meant sitting down to a load of dishes, half of which I absolutely abhorred.
To me, turkey was a desperately dry and tasteless cousin of the chicken, Christmas pudding was only worth taking a slice of if I happened to find that elusive silver sixpence, and mince pies simply made me want to gag. And don’t even get me started on the sprouts.
As the years have gone by and my tastes have matured, some foods that once repulsed me have become infinitely more palatable. Sprouts, those Belgian conspiracies against cabbages, remain epicurean enemies of mine, though.
So when my wife and I (Team Wilson) meet the hugely affable Kyle Grant at The Chef’s Palette by Gaggenau at Fairmont The Palm up the road in Dubai and he tells us my Belgian bêtes noires are on the menu for our festive cooking class, I recoil in horror. My displeasure is tempered, however, when Grant informs me he too is anti-sprouts but has found a way to cook them that could convert even a hater such as myself. So, we grab our personalised aprons and let the charming Canadian take us through what our festive feast will consist of.
For the entrées, Grant tells us how to make the most incredible potted foie gras, which is fantastically light and topped with a layer of seriously tasty pear compote. We lather the foie gras onto the accompanying toasted brioche with glee as Grant explains how we will be preparing the main event.
Now, to me, brine is only something you’ll find tinned tuna in, but apparently it’s perfect to use for prepping a turkey. I’m not much of a planner, as my nearest and dearest would attest. Last-Minute Luke is certainly a moniker I live up to, so when Grant tells us we should make the brine two days before and soak the turkey in it for 24 hours, I’m a little put off. But, as we will find out later, the planning is well worth it.
Thankfully, the chef produces the prepped bird, cookery show-style: “And here’s one we made earlier”. So my fear of having not started cramming for my exam and pre-prepping is allayed. Panic over, it’s on to the stuffing. After prepping the bread, I caramelise some onions and add cubed apples, Spanish vinegar and milk, as well as fresh parsley, sage and thyme. Then it’s time to chuck in the bread, whack it all in a bowl and give it a good old mix (I’m starting to see myself as the next Jamie Oliver). I fill a bun tray with the mixture, pop some butter on top and put it in the oven, and then it’s time to get hands-on with our turkey.
During our previous Christmas dinner efforts, my wife has always left the turkey to me. (“Yes, your nails look great, darling. No, I don’t want you to ruin your gel Christmas trees.”) But there’s really no need for her to worry, as I find something strangely therapeutic about slathering the poultry with butter. I feel like I’m consoling it after a rather traumatic experience.
Turkey now stuffed and its legs expertly, but somewhat brutally, tied by Grant, we pop it in the oven and I grab a pan for the moment I’d been dreading. It takes me some strength not to reach for the sick bag just handling the sprouts, but once I toss them in with a little butter and turn up the heat, it might seem a little twisted (in fact, it probably is), but I’m filled with a wicked delight as the little blighters pop and crack, almost as if they’re begging for mercy.
With the sprouts, glazed carrots and roasted spuds all now ready, it’s time to carve and plate up. Grant shows us how it should be done before we try to recreate his efforts. The aromas wafting around the kitchen are almost mesmeric and we can’t wait to tuck in.
So, after devouring some of the best turkey I will perhaps ever create, I decide to man up, ignore all the childhood memories of forced sprouts and dive in. And wow! Think Edvard Munch’s The Scream, my face can’t hide the astonishment. Cheers, Kyle, you might make a fan of me yet.
Dhs555. Dec 14 and 21, 6.30pm. The Chef’s Palette by Gaggenau, Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).