Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s time to start thinking about how to cater for your special family celebration, Fraser Coast-style. Our Christmas family get-togethers tend to be a little crazy. It’s a day where everyone can relax, go to the beach for a swim, break out the backyard cricket gear, and maybe catch a fish or two…before gathering around the dining table for a special feast. Every year we have a different theme for our Christmas celebrations, which extends to the menu, beverages and silly costumes, like last year’s “Tropical Island Christmas” theme.
Because our Christmas weather is usually warm and humid, it makes sense to consider options like serving our fabulous Hervey Bay seafood chilled, and to do any other cooking outside on the barbecue if possible. With the recent surge in popularity of low’n’slow barbecue, that will be our theme this year…a laid-back low’n’slow luncheon cooked in the backyard BBQ den, served sliced and diced on huge platters.
I was lucky enough to find a couple of 1.2 metre long food grade-treated wood panels at Bunnings recently (for just $20 each) which when covered with banana leaves and topped with fresh seafood, low’n’slow barbecue, salads and sides, will make an awesome Christmas dinner presentation stretching the full length of our outdoor dining table.
With a low’n’slow bullet smoker, an ancient weber kettle and a gas barbecue in our outdoor kitchen, all that is required is a little pre-planning to ensure that all items on the menu are ready around the same time.
For low’n’slow barbecue, meats are generally seasoned with a “rub” mix of spices and herbs the day before, and left to absorb those flavours overnight before going into the barbecue at low heat early enough to be ready for the banquet. Low’n’slow barbecue cooking is generally discussed in degrees Fahrenheit, and usually around 225f is the typical temperature to aim for and keep your barbecue steady at throughout the cook. You can also add chunks or chips of fruit woods like cherry and apple to develop those subtle barbecue flavours.
Our low’n’slow BBQ themed Christmas menu this year will include Hervey Bay scallops, a whole fish wrapped in banana leaves, a home-cured and smoked ham, home-brined and smoked turkey breast, barbecued beef short ribs and chicken wings. Prep times will vary per item…the pork will need to go into the cure two weeks earlier, the turkey 2 days before, and the beef ribs and chicken wings will be rubbed with Eat at Dan & Steph’s awesome BBQ competition rub the night before.
Then it’s just a matter of an early rise on Christmas day for the BBQ cook to fire up the charcoal or heat beads and get the BBQ temperatures nice and steady at 225f, then putting each item into the barbecue in accordance with estimated cooking times. Just after Santa leaves the house in the wee hours is a good time to start.
Approximate cooking times at 225f:
Scallops – 20 mins
Whole fish – about 1.5 hours…until the fish flakes apart easily
Boneless pork leg or shoulder for home-made ham – about 5 hours…until internal temperature reaches 160f
Turkey breast meat – about 1.5 hours…until internal temperature reaches 165f
Chicken wings – about 1.5 hours…until internal temperature reaches 170f
Beef short ribs – about 8 hours…until internal temperature reaches 203f
A nice glaze on each for presentation and a little time to rest and become pull-apart tender will complete a Christmas dinner to delight all present. Your seafood and meats will be unbelievably juicy and tender and absolutely full of flavour.
And then there’s the snacks, entrees, desserts, beverages, etc…but that’s another story.
If you’d like to share your Christmas banquet photos or are just looking for some culinary inspiration, you’ll find Fraser Coast Foodies Network and Low’n’Slow Foodies Network pages on Instagram & Face-book.
Merry Christmas All.
Written by Fraser Coast Foodie, Denis Maher
Photo Credit: Denis Maher