Cooking Christmas Dinner for 10 adults + 3 Kids...(15 Posts)
...and starting to panic a bit. I'm a competent cook at any other time but the large numbers are scaring me! Figured a 6-8kg turkey would be enough for everyone (plus leftovers). Does anyone have a failsafe "plan" for timings etc? What can I reasonably do the day before? Also any recipes for how to make vegetables more interesting very welcome.
I've done this for the last few years and it has gone well, though I wouldn't necessarily describe myself as a roast dinner sort of cook. My biggest tip is not to have Christmas dinner until about 4pm as this lets you be with the kids and opening presents rather than being tied to the kitchen. I do bacon butties for a light lunch. Prep all your veg the night before. Put potatoes in water in the fridge. Pigs in blankets/stuffing balls can be made and frozen weeks in advance. Red cabbage can also be made and frozen. Work out all your timings and write them down, working backwards from when you want to eat. If you don't have a double oven, start your roast potatoes while the turkey is cooking then increase your temp to crisp them when you take the turkey out to rest.
Accept all help offered, especially someone to do the washing up and keep things cleared while you cook!
Christmas music and wine!
notasausage This actually sounds quite calm... thank you!
Most magazines (Prima, Good Housekeeping, Good Food etc) will have a "timings" and recipes for Christmas Day in the December issue. (I don't have to sit at any particular time, so we just work away as it comes here - but we are only 3 people).
In advance and frozen:
Definitely at least make breadcrumbs for stuffing, if not the entire stuffing itself.
If you want soup for starter, that can be made now and frozen too.
I know lots of people have recipes and ideas for par-boiling roast potatoes and freezing, or having veg ready to cook in freezer.
Lots of stores have side things, like pigs in blankets etc, which can be frozen too.
The day before:
DH always make the stuffing. I defrost the breadcrumbs and he rings his mother to check the recipe, then cooks the sausage meat and makes the stuffing. That gets put in the fridge overnight.
I boil the neck/giblets etc, and wingtips, to make stock. I often then use that straight away to make the gravy, with a glug of wine included. Then I just have to reheat and add the turkey juices from roasting tray.
I peel all the potatoes and soak them in a pot on the cooker in cold water.
I peel and chop all the carrots, and put into cold water. (I tend to leave parsnips and butternut squash for the following day).
I peel and wash the Brussels sprouts, and cut the crosses into stalks, then put them in an airtight tub (no water).
I peel and slice the 2-3 onions I need, and put those in an airtight container (no water) for the couple of different things next day. I'll usually peel a couple of cloves of garlic and throw those into that tub on top, unchopped but 1 less small faffy job the next day).
I also make sure I have cheese grated for cauliflower cheese if we are having it, sometimes even making the cheese sauce. And I will prep the cauliflower (take off leaves, chop into florets, wash, and then leave soaking in water).
I will do a batch of whipped cream, for soup swirls, desert and dollop on top of coffee.
I slice lemon and lime (maybe an orange) for drinks needs, and if I think ahead enough, I will freeze them sliced reducing the need for ice for drinks. I'll also make sure I have all ice trays filled, and usually freeze 1 batch, turn out into a Tupperware tub, and freeze a 2nd, on Christmas Eve (or even more if needed) - with the rule that anyone who empties the ice trays refills to freeze again too.
Set the table, or at least get things organized to easily find and allow you to delegate that task on the morning if helpers are offering. Put a sticky note into serving dishes so you and helpers know what should be in each. Have things like desert dishes, cups etc relatively easy to get at when moving on from main course.
I also make sure I have run the dishwasher after all my prep, so that it's empty for the next day. And I try to run it again after breakfast and the first prep stuff is done in the morning, so it is empty to take starter/main dishes very easily and lets any helper to easily clear table straight to dishwasher.
That's all I can think of, right now. I know times that I do have loads of people in, I do a lot ahead of time. Lots of lists. Lots of timings. And lots of thinking ahead on how things should work, and how I can make sure that they will work (including WHO I can give SPECIFIC jobs to, and trust they'll get done).
BiddyPop This is incredible! Thank you so much. Hadn't thought of Good HouseKeeping etc - that's a really good call. Much appreciated.
Actually, one thing that strikes me from Notasausages' post, is that if you DO only have one oven, think of what will fit at any time into it.
So maybe enough spuds for 1 roastie each will fit around the turkey, but you may need to do a pot of mash as well. Ar maybe you can fit a tray of roasties underneath.
When the turkey comes out, turn up the oven and throw in the roasted veggies then (carrots, parsnip, butternut and onion mix here), as well as crisping up potatoes.
If you don't have room in the oven, you can just boil/steam cauliflower, heat up cheese sauce, and brown under the grill at the last minute.
I tend to do Brussel sprouts on the ring (either steam or fry depending on my mood that year) so its less pressure on the oven. Or perhaps a bag of frozen peas or mixed veg could be done on the top as another veg side. (I have no clue about things like red cabbage).
You can heat plates by just putting them in a washing up bowl of quite hot water (no washup liquid) and then just drying quickly as you are about to serve. If you have space issues. The same for serving dishes.
If you have 13, could someone either make the starter for you, or be delegated to plate it up (not under your feet)? If it's smoked salmon, you could slice that the day before, or buy ready sliced.
Washup as you go - just fill the bowl with hot water and washup liquid, to quickly dunk and wash pots, utensils etc as soon as you are finished with them and leave them to drain - ocassionally call in a useful helper to just dry what's there and put them away.
Keep a glass of water there for yourself, and remember to drink plenty. I also thoroughly recommend a glass of something nice to quoiff (sp?), and having nice music going. And having people coming in and out, not all formally sitting and enjoying being hosted in the sitting room - chatting, and being given small jobs in passing, are all part of it.
Are any of your guests going to bring something? Starter, side dish, desert, nibbles? Or even something like a second meat (say you do turkey but some like gammon?).
Actually, we don't tend to do ham much, but always both DM and DMIL cook theirs on Christmas Eve (boil then bake), which is eaten hot then, but sliced and reheated the following day.
Whoever is sorting drinks and nibbles for guests needs to be organized before the guests arrive, rather than getting under your feet looking for things in a panic. And I would ten to focus on cold nibbles before lunch (nuts, crisps, maybe pate on crackers or smoked salmon and cream cheese on brown bread sorta things) - if nibbles are needed. Hot things, needing oven space, are much better to have later in the evening unless you both have a double oven and good organizing skills - don't take on so much it causes you to get stressed and flustered.
Main chef is TOTALLY off post-dinner washup duties.
I love Christmas, and Christmas dinner, and grew up in a house with a lot of folk to feed regularly. But it still took me quite a while to start to relax and enjoy feeding hordes in my own house. I am also partly procrastinating hoping that my report will write itself if I write here.....
if you regularly cook a sunday roast then just think of it as exactly the same thing - only may be a few more people - and a few more accompaniements. Turkeys need a long time to 'rest' after cooking - that's when you can whack up the heat of the oven and put in your roasties and finish off all the veg.
BiddyPop - Thank you SO much! I'm actually quite looking forward to it now... these tips are really excellent (perhaps you should be writing the Good Housekeeping guide next year ).
bilbodog - That's a really good way of looking at things, thank you for that!
These are Delia's timings if you didn't want an excuse to buy a magazine!
I've made a spreadsheet of a) what cooks in what dish/ pan and b) what time, temperature and oven/hob each thing needs.
Then I've made a plan working back from time to eat. Make sure you include time to carve & dish up or you're guaranteed to be late!
A good tip for resting the turkey is to cover with a double layer of foil then cover with a couple of folded bath towels. It will keep warm for ages like that while you blast the roast potatoes etc
That's a Jamie Oliver tip party - it works brilliantly.
I know you were asking about interesting veg - I tend to make red cabbage in advance so that can just be warmed up. Then I tend to steam some carrots and sprouts - I find with so much rich food and so many flavours on the plate, the contrast is actually quite welcome. And most people will eat plain carrots so it caters quite nicely for young kids and any fussier guests too.
Soul - Good point. All the children are fussy (plus a couple of the adults to be honest) so perhaps it's better to play it safe.
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