My deep and abiding love for Nigella Lawson knows no bounds. However, I really wish the Food Network would just run her shows without doing a hatchet job on them. With the Nigella Bites series they would cut whole scenes out to the point of leaving out the preparation of whole dishes. If anyone could run the Style Network's airing of Nigella Bites versus the Food Network, you'll see what a horrible job the Food Network does airing Nigella's shows. Sadly it's the same story with her second Christmas special. But happily Nigella is Nigella and the show (apart from Food Network's cutting and pasting) is wonderfully produced.
Open with Nigella's Christmas party in full swing. A turkey is laid out and Christmas lights are everywhere. Already I am wondering if the music from the special is on an iTunes playlist because its funny jazzy Christmas music. Nigella slips away to talk to the tv audience and say that while Christmas dinners can be sources of great joy but they can also be fear inducing and fraught. She embraces the meal that includes a panaloply of dishes by making a careful plan of action. She is evangelical about it. We then go to the bumper to commercials with a string of lights that spells out Nigella's Christmas Kitchen. Do they sell that on ebay?
The cooking actually starts in Nigella's new kitchen (the one that is in the house she shares with husband Charles Saatchi) where she fills a big red tub with water to start a brine for the turkey. She extols the virtues of brining the tueky to ensure moistness. Having had scotte's brined turkey I heartily concur. Her's has cloves, caraway, star anise, mustard seeds, allspice berries and cinnamon. She revels in throwing everything in with abandon. To help the flavors infuse, she throws in both massive amounts of salt, sugar, and maple syrup. She then cuts up an onion and plops it in as well saying that onions are always the basis of savory flavor (how true!)She assures people that the turkey will not somehow taste like all of the spices but just has a fuller depth of flavor. Wow, and then goes in ginger, an orange and parsley. Making a baby with bathwater analogy, she throws the turkey into the brine. With more confidence in the weather staying cold than I, she shoves the whole bucket o'brine in her backyard. Good luck on that one. Cut to a scene of all of the post-it notes with her to-dos.
Beside her tree, Nigella writes her plan of attack. First up is making a gravy and then making roast potatoes, maple roast parsnips, and brussel sprouts cooked with chestnuts and pancetta. Actually she first makes her redder than red cranberry sauce that's fairly standard with the addition of cherry brandy. It's a simple matter of simmering the cranberries until they pop and throwing them into a bowl. Oh the happy bumper of Nigella lights and an awesome jazzy Christmas song!
After commercial Nigella a red robe as if she's just woke up (in full makeup!). She releases they turkey from its briny bath with a pair of leopardskin gloves. She leaves the turkey to sit at room temperature and makes the beginnings of an allspice gravy. It looks like she's making stock (carrots, celery, bay leaves) with the addition of allspice and cinnamon. In a bit of evil Food Network editing, Nigella also puts in a clementine that she says she used the zest to make gingerbread stuffing. However, nowhere in the episode do we get to see the gingerbread stuffing being made. To make it taste like turkey she puts in the turkey neck and then simmers the whole mess covered. I think Ella Fitzgerald is singing Winter Wonderland in the background as Nigella's kids are playing. I will have to say that Winter Wonderland is my favorite holiday song. My brother and I would sing it as a duet in on long winter car rides. He would sing "sleigh bells ring..." and I would respond "are you listening?" And thus I evaproate any bit of street cred my brother my made. Sorry B.
Nigella then peels potatoes and parsnips as her kids play connect four. She waxes on and on about the joys of repetitive activity like peel vegetables and Brussels sprout. I call bullshit because I firmly believe she would have conscripted her kids to do that work. In a time saving bit, she extols the virtues of roasting things in foil pans to alleviate the cleanup.
Cutting the sprouts, Nigella cuts Xes in her Brussels sprouts and then parboils them as well as parboiling her potatoes, cutting them into big chunks. To help the turkey skin crisp, Nigella makes a "bronzing liquid" with butter and maple syrup to brush over the turkey. And more fun jazzy music!
Back from commercial Nigella takes out the potatoes and dredges them in semolina (a family tradition) and then plops them in a foil roasting pan with hot goosefat. The potatoes sizzle as they are dropped into the goosefat which she mentions is high in omega fatty acids (which makes them health food). She salivates over the sizzling potatoes. Okay her dining room is gorgeous and full of candles and strings of lights. She then goes over the virtues of buying a Christmas pudding and making her own rum butter (which we never see! - BOOO!) She put the pudding into the steamer and then pours maple syrup over the parsnips in a roasting pan (foil of course).
One unique thing about Nigella's shows are the completely believable party scenes. She's filling everyone's glasses with champagne and people are talking. And not the fake talk where everyone is complimenting her cooking. More jazzy bluesy Christmas music. Nigella is serious about her Brussels sprouts. She dumps the boiled sprouts into a colander and then sautees pancetta and chestnuts in butter. She adds a splosh of marsala and then the sprouts. A sprout that is lousy and waterlogged is vile so she only cooks hers for five minutes and then sautees. She covers the pan with a lid and let it steam with the heat off.
When return from commercial (and those disturbing CGI-claymation versions of Food Network stars - let Giada-bot close her mouth!), Nigella's daughter is pour her friends sparkling cranberry juice. Nigella takes out of the turkey and then makes the gravy with the pan juices and the allspice stock. She then puts in a vast platter with roast potatoes and parsnips. The turkey and sides come out and along with the phantom stuffing is also phantom mashed potatoes. At dinner people are pulling apart Christmas crackers (as in firecrackers) as Nigella carves. More believable conversation.
The final scene is the spectacular steam Christmas pudding with the flaming alcohol poured on top. Now this is the rightful moment where people should be oohing and aahing over the food. Nigella recommends using vodka for Christmas pudding because it will burn with a blue flame all night long. It looks like a fun party. But you know what was a fun party? Thanksgiiving at Scotte's where Stef, Jason, Joyous and I were wondering if Giada's boobs could possibly get any bigger now that she's pregnant. They might need their own walker at that point. Good times people. If only Food Network would keep their grubby hands off of Nigella's shows and show them in their entirety.