First time "doing Christmas" - any tips?

(34 Posts)
DoingTheSwanThing Thu 29-Nov-12 15:04:43

I think this might be the point it which I become a proper grown-up.

Christmas dinner for 14... Yeah. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

So, can anyone share their years of accumulated wisdom?

How much prep can one get away with doing the night before?
Is pork an acceptable alternative? I'm frightened of whole turkeys so might go for a couple of turkey crowns (or whatever the friendly butcher tells me I need).
And the ultimate question; are sprouts really necessary? <shudder>

haggisaggis Fri 30-Nov-12 10:49:13

Watch the turkey timings - if you get a decent one from butcher or wherever it may not take nearly as long to cook as you expect - I think our 6 kg one last year took under 2 hours! (I'd brined it though which also speeds it up)

NoSoggyBottoms Fri 30-Nov-12 10:40:18

nemno yes, I've only ever used disposable trays for Christmas! Also have used trays underneath for more support, glad you mentioned that.

dreamingofsun Fri 30-Nov-12 09:00:30

if its the same range cooker as mine the small warmer will be fine. turkey will take up most of the larger oven. if you have an ex chef as a relative suggest asking them to carve. veg doesn't seem to lose its taste - but if it does no-one ever notices.

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Fri 30-Nov-12 00:52:26

Yorkshire puddings should only be served with roast beef.
Indisputable fact.

nemno England Fri 30-Nov-12 00:42:27

Good tip re disposable (do it just for Christmas myself as have environment guilt). Sit the cheap foil trays in your proper tins to give them rigidity.

NoSoggyBottoms Fri 30-Nov-12 00:38:49

Got to have yorkies with any roast! grin

Great tips here! Mine is purely write everything out, in time order, in detail! Did this two years in a row - no problems. Didn't last year being cocky disaster! So will be sticking to a list this year!

I serve turkey and ham. Ham is already cooked (thanks MIL and FIL smile), then I slice it, put in a disposable foil tray and pour gravy over it. Reheat it in a hot oven for 10-15 mins.

Anything disposable to cook in is a good way to cut down on the washing up! I've made the mistake of buying cheap foil trays though which almost collapse under the weight of the roasties! So maybe better off buying more expensive ones.

....and keep smiling drinking grin

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 30-Nov-12 00:06:58

Yorkshire pudding with turkey?... hmm

balroymum Thu 29-Nov-12 22:56:25

I do the mashed pots and mashed turnip days before, roll in cling film, then freeze. Make yorkies days before too (slightly paler when taken out of oven) , freeze, then just throw in hot oven for a few minutes whilst serving up. Cook turkey in morning then oven is just fir yummy roasties! Steam broccoli, baby carrots and sprouts in last 5 minutes. Job done! (I like to drink wine and watch telly on Xmas eve!) Last tip- enjoy it! It's lovely to have family in your house! Good luck!

CogitoErgoSometimes Thu 29-Nov-12 22:42:15

My tip is 'accept all offers of help' and be specific about what you'd like people to do smile Marshall your guests to be useful - mine are always set to work peeling things - motivate with drinks of choice, and the whole thing is a lot less difficult and a lot more fun

Oh yes, and I always make Jamie Oliver's turkey gravy well in advance smile

MmeLindor Germany Thu 29-Nov-12 22:02:27

Have PMed you, Doing.

DoingTheSwanThing Thu 29-Nov-12 20:56:44

Wow, thanks everyone thanks

I think I might now be leaning towards whole turkey (how big would it have to be... It'll fit in a standard oven, right?). The pork or crown was DF's suggestion (ex-chef hence high standards) on the basis that it'd be easier to carve/portion and not as prone to over-cooking. I've only been eating meat for the last year or so after 15+ as veggie so not entirely confident with the meat. Either way, I plan on doing a trial-run with a smaller one. Must get whatever ordered from butcher ASAP!

If turkey, I could lob a gammon in the slow cooker first thing in case anyone wants an alternative/ evening snack.

Wasn't planning any starters. The plan was to do a ham & serve with crusty rolls & cheese & biscuits fro evening. I think realistically lunch will be 2/3pm and judging from past years probably be 90mins+ to eat so neither side of the family seem to bother with big evening meal.

Thanks for the veg in water trick, that'd definitely make life much easier. Do you loose any flavour from the veg that way?
Will also buy back-up gravy granules!
Chestnut stuffing will be made before. My lot seem to like sprouts. Dad does something fancy with them and serves with chestnuts which I do adore so I suppose I should show willing!

I think this calls for a very large to-do list.

Logistically we should be ok, large kitchen/diner. 8- seat dining table, 4 more chairs in shed, camping table from parents on the end and borrow more chairs from ILs. Lurvely range cooker with 7 burners & 2 ovens so can get several roasting tins in <reminds self to visit Ikea>. The warming bit is small though, might have to give that a bit more thought.

MmeLindor yes please, that'd be brilliant smile

It's only a roast dinner. It's only a roast dinner. It's. A. Roast. Dinner.

<runs off to buy Jamie Oliver mag>

Lifeisontheup Thu 29-Nov-12 19:40:23

Cranberry sauce can be made days in advance, can be frozen as can stuffing if necessary, get some posh ready made gravy even if you plan to make your own then a last minute disaster of lumps or just forgetting to do it/washing up the roasting tin too soon can be easily rectified.
All veg can be peeled the night before, just cover with cold water.
I use an electric steamer for the veg as no worries about over cooking/ pan boiling dry etc. Christmas pud goes in the slow cooker first thing and then you can forget about it until time to serve.
Oh and relax and enjoy the day. smile

Happypiglet Thu 29-Nov-12 18:55:19

Well I always roast my turkey (for 16) the day before on Xmas Eve. That way I can carve it, store it in the cool garage, deal with carcass, make stock and clean up all before the day.
This leaves loads of time for roasting potatoes and parsnips. I always have two, three level steamers on the go (I borrow my mums!) for green veg and carrots...nothing fancy. I use packet stuffing mix, but I make bread sauce.....which is dead easy. Gravy granules are fine. I bung in a few bacon rolls with the parsnips to roast. Cranberry sauce from a jar.
Xmas pudding is always a ready made microwave job which I set fire to with brandy! Which frightens the bejeebers out of DH!
I always peel all veg day before as well and store under water in pans.
It just means that on the day I can enjoy my family and not stress about getting up mega early to get the turkey on....

psychomum5 Thu 29-Nov-12 18:48:56

<steals said gin to add to my stash>

grin

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Thu 29-Nov-12 18:48:28

There'd be revolution here if I didn't do tons of sprouts!

ImperialStateKnickers Thu 29-Nov-12 18:45:22

Cooking for twelve. But we all LOVE sprouts.

We are the Strange Family.

Psychomum I see your box of wine and raise you a bottle of Gin!

psychomum5 Thu 29-Nov-12 18:41:34

I am cooking for 16.

I already have my box of wine in.

That is all I need right ?? grin

PavlovtheCat Thu 29-Nov-12 18:30:57

tell yourself that dinner is to be served about 1.5 hours before it is actually due. For some reason we always eat about 1.5 hours later than we intend to! so this is what we have started doing!

drinks, snacks (not anything you need to cook) and some board games set up on another room for people to occupy themselves with, collar the best helpers to chop/clear around you.

Put music on in the kitchen

Laugh. A Lot.

If something is a bit burnt, or is overcooked, or under cooked, doesn't matter (except the meat of course!) there will be plenty enough for people to eat.

BewitchedBotheredandBewildered Thu 29-Nov-12 18:22:18

What they all said, plus, lists, lists, lists. Especially if you have a festive drink while you're cooking. Write a menu of what you're cooking, and then a timetable for when everything has to start cooking in order to be ready together.
I set a timer every time I do a task so I remember to do the next one.
Before I did this we sometimes found pre-prepped veg. two days later!

nemno England Thu 29-Nov-12 18:11:10

Oh, and cook ham the day before. Carve some and heat with microwave on serving plate (or even serve at room temp).

2 serving dishes of everything makes getting some on everyones' plates much faster (and thus hotter). Pre warm dishes and plates if poss, I use the cupboard above my built in cooker. I clear it of its usual contents, plan which ones I'll need and put all the dishes in the day before, works beautifully as a warming oven and the dishes are there ready.

nemno England Thu 29-Nov-12 18:04:21

I usually do Christmas for 11 but this year it is 17. I prepare veg the day before ie, peel pots, and leave them in water in their saucepan (with lid) outside in the cold until needed. I trim/peel/chop all other veg and put all ready in ziplock bags in the fridge.

Your biggest issues with the cooking is planning how to best use your equipment eg what can the oven do first/how much can fit in and is suitable to be cooked together/what pans are big enough for which purpose. Think this all through and write down. Beg and borrow electric steamers/hot plates/even another (combi) microwave.

Cranberry sauce, bread sauce, gravy (make with giblet stock and add juices once turkey out of roasting pan) can all be made on the day but early. reheat in microwave.

Turkey, stuffing, pigs in blankets can be kept hot but potatoes and veg best done last thing.

Get table laying done the day before too, it is amazing how long it takes and you can find extra stuff that you've mislaid or ask people to bring.

And delegate (hopefully to people you don't have to supervise and who are quick and don't get in the way).

And try to keep drinks/glasses etc away from the area you are cooking in.

memphis83 Thu 29-Nov-12 17:53:33

We get a rolled turkey crown from our butcher so once cooked its all sliced evenly. As its then more of a sausage shape I can then get all of my roast parsnips and potatos on same roaster.

whiskeytangofoxtrot Thu 29-Nov-12 17:46:47

<lurkity lurkity lurk>

Do you have the necessary cookbooks? I can highly recommend delia and nigella's Christmas books. If you don't want to buy books you could get the Jamie Oliver magazine for this month as it has the basics in.

Make sure you look through your books and magazines and decide what you want to be a part of your dinner. I think it's the Nigella book that tells you what you can freeze ahead of the day. You can also make mince pies and sausage rolls using ready made pastry and freezing to get out and cook when needed. This means you can have lovely flavoured sausage rolls with whichever herbs you like.

After you've decided what you want to eat write a list. Get a folder and put the list in it!! Use a page per recipe with instructions to yourself, how long each will take and put them in order of what needs doing. Most of the work can be done before Christmas day so it's a case of putting things in the oven on the day itself. Veg can be parboiled the day before and covered in fat or oil (and any herbs and garlic) covered in foil and put in the fridge or garage overnight.

Nigella's poinsettia cocktail is really easy to make and good to serve when people get in and I like the prosciutto crisps in delia's book for a little nibble before the main meal.

I also cook gammon which has been scored and brushed with black treacle on Christmas eve, it gives the best crackling (don't wrap it up or the crackling will go soggy) and will last for an afternoon buffet. If you are doing meat and stuff on the table in the afternoon buy it in so you don't have to prepare it and can relax with lots of wine. Cheese platter, pickles, sausage rolls, gammon, leftover turkey and sausages, crisps, chocolate.

Get good meat!! If you go to a butcher it should be lovely. Don't forget the bacon wrapped sausages!! Cooking the turkey is just like cooking chicken, push flavoured butter under the skin, season, spread some butter on the top, baste a lot. Some people turn it upside down towards the end to get the juices back into the breast but I haven't tried that. Definitely rest it, it will rest for as long as you need to cook all the veg if you can't fit it in.

We do table presents which are just little £5-10 gifts but something to look forward to.

Sorry for the massive post, hope it helps even a little.

dreamingofsun Thu 29-Nov-12 17:39:15

peel potatoes and parsnips and leave in cold water, anywhere (i normally put in large bowl or the pans) . I par boil them next day (ie cook for about 10 mins in boiling water till ruff on outside as absorb oil when you roast and makes them cripsier).

suggest frozen veg. but if keen to use fresh, do the same with carrots or whatever.

working out the quanitities might be your trickiest bit as 14 is a lot of people. i'd give this some thought before if i were you, eg working out how many potatoes people will eat.

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