Christmas Dinner for 15 people(18 Posts)
So I am taking the challenge of making Christmas dinner for 15 people, my Gran used to do it but sadly she passed away a few years ago and since we have been going to restaurants but none have compared to her Christmas dinners.
So this year I've decided to do it myself, does anyone have any advice on how to cook/ not pull your hair out when cooking for such a big group?
Any advice welcome
My advice with that many people is delegate a course so that you aren't doing it all. My DH & I cook every year but only for 9 and my PIL bring canapés and champagne for starters and we do dinner and easy desert and BIL and his family provide the wine. We all help clear away and my DD lays the table all fancy the night before and it's just so easy.
Don't kid yourself that cos your Nan did it all you should. There's no should about it. Do it your way and start as you mean to go on as it could become a tradition so don't be a martyr this year and do it al as it will be expected every year. No one minds helping out if you are hosting believe me and if they do they aren't family to invite in the first place.
Oh and prep a lot of it the night before.
I would cook a ham day before or buy something like the wiltshire cooked ham (tesco)
Then I would cook the Turkey very early so that frees up room for the extra bits and pieces
You could prepare a lot (stuffing, gravy ted cabbage or whatever you like) a month or so before and freeze.
For that many I think I would buy a lot in. Croquettes or whatever. To make sure there was plenty. Use tinfoil trays so save on washing up.
Dessert- make a cheesecake and pavlova - easy to dress up fresh with fruit before serving.
A totally agree, everyone should bring something. Also soup is a great filler. Cheap and easy. You could have that heating in the slow cooker.
Definitely leave the turkey to rest for a long time (sounds like you need a big bird anyway). Then your oven is free for the rest to cook.
I left mine to rest for 1 1/2 hours last year. Covered it in foil and then covered it with an old (clean) towel to keep it warm.
It was still piping hot when it was carved.
annes idea of getting others to do a course sounds very sensible.
I would cook Turkey and ham Christmas Eve.
Slice and portion and put in flat tin foil tray for reheating next day. I use disposable trays at Christmas less washing up.
Prep veg and stuffing day before.
Prep starter such as soup day before.
If doing Christmas pudding then do it in microwave.
Whip cram the day before.
Prep turkey and ham for sandwiches and store in Tupperware box in fridge day before.
If using occasional glass and cutlery then Clean all cutlery and wine glasses a week before so they are ready for the day itself.
Use ready made deserts.
don't kill yourself making it all from scratch. Juggling the timings and getting everything up hot is enough of a challenge on your first year.
Figure out practical stuff like table space, chairs, do you have enough knives and forks for each course, glasses, ...? Ask your relatives to bring extra and set an alert on your phone to remind them on the day!
Figure out what pot/dish you will cook and serve in. It's very easy to accidentally assign the same container to two different dishes.
Make a time table for the day. Start with dinner on table at xxx pm. Turkey comes out of oven 1hr before that to rest. Work back to when you need to put in the oven and allow time for prep/ heating oven.
If you go to church use your timetable to work out the most convenient time for you.
I'm making it sound much worse than it is
I did my pigs in blankets today and put them in the freezer.
I will do the pudding next week and prepare and freeze the veg the following week.
You can cook the ham a few days before as it lasts for ages.
I di this last year for 17. I would agree with all the comments previously posted but would add that the week before I did a spreadsheet where I worked out timings for the day itself right from what I had to do first thing when I got up which was to get the turkeys out to get them to room temperature as this affects the cooking time. Even if you do this the day before.. In writing it this sounds incredibly square and nerdy to have prepared a spreadsheet but it really helped to mentally plan and then have something I could refer to on the day. As it turned out there was a 2 hour window where I didn't have to do anything so we unwrapped presents then. The tricky bit was getting everything in the oven !! I would definitely pre cooked the spuds and parsnips again and then just reheat these. I made the gravy the week before and then froze it. On the day I reheated it and then put it in a slow cooker. We have a serve yourself situation with hot plates as you'll never get everything on your table. Good luck. It was bloody hard work but everyone enjoyed. I'm waiting for an invitation to someone else's xmas dinner this year though!!
I did dinner for 16 a couple of years back. If people offer to bring dishes, let them, and I definitely recommend letting people take over a whole course, such as dessert. If people offer to help out, definitely let them, and instruct them to specific jobs, mash the potato, carve the meat etc. On top of that keep it simple, you don't need seventeen different types of veg and three different meats, simple and plentiful is the key. Meat wise, guides suggest you need about a pound of turkey per person, plus more for leftovers. Add to that big bowls of a couple of prefered veg and some potatoes, 2-3 sauages wrapped in bacon per head, and loads of stuffing and gravy, and people will be stuffed. Roasting veg rather than boiling or steaming is lower maintenance, and some would say makes them more tasty too.
Do as much of the prep as you can the week before. Veg can be peeled and part cooked the night before, ready to go in the oven for roasting. Turkey can be prepped and ready to go in the oven the night before too. Sauces and gravy can be made several days before and frozen. Mince pies can be made well in advance and simply popped in the oven to warm up and are lovely with a bit of icecream.
Definitely use the foil trays and disposable cookware, they will make cleanup so much easier.
Also have a timings plan. Decide what time you're serving and work back from there. Bear in mind your turkey should come out of the oven and stand for a good 30-45 minutes or more even, after roasting, before being carved, so factor that time in. Also I try and factor in breathing time, if you think something will take five minutes, give it ten on your plan. It gives you a little breathing space.
good luck, i loved every minute of cooking for such a big group, even when our power went out and we had to finish up christmas dinner on the gas bbq outside. It was definitely memorable!
I usually cook for about 16. The main problem I have is trying to fit everything in the oven even with a double one.
Meat has to be cooked night before so that doesn't take up all the room.
I prepare the veg - brussel sprouts, carrots, cauliflower and parsnips the day before. Potatoes for roasting I either peel the day before or early Christmas morning. I also pre-boil them. I make the Yorkshire pudding mix in the morning too. Also things like stuffing can be made beforehand. Anything really to cut down time on the day.
It helps me if I have everything out somewhere in the kitchen or else I will forget things like bread sauce, gravy etc. Me and DH don't eat gravy so I would never remember to make it otherwise.
I have a hostess trolley and find if I am trying to juggle things in the oven or on the hob I can put any items once cooked in it.
I make Christmas pudding and mince pies beforehand and cook the pudding. Then on the day you can just microwave the pudding before serving.
I have often cooked Chr. dinner for a crowd. Plan to have it a bit late. Say 3 pm if you can't do 5 or later - less of a rush.
Don't bother with a starter. Have some nice canapés/nibbles with drinks an hour beforehand instead. I raid M&S for these.
Don't do a lot of different veggies, or different kinds of potatoes. Roast are enough.
Make a timetable working back from when you plan to sit down, then write out in reverse, starting with when to switch oven on to pre heat for turkey. Stick it on the front of the fridge.
Make stuffing and pigs in blankets (if you're making) the day before.
Time turkey to be ready at least an hour before you sit down - wrap in foil and a tea towel or 2 and a big one especially will keep perfectly hot and carve better. In that hour or so you have plenty of time to roast (already parboiled) potatoes and other veg.
Please don't cook your turkey the day before and reheat! Just not the same.
Prepare whatever you can well in advance - cranberry sauce, brandy butter, etc.
If money is not a consideration, , buy ready prepared veggies from M&S.
If fridge space is going to be an issue, buy a big cold box and some ice packs, so you can store perishables out of the fridge.
And don't do what I did one year - drank too much Bucks Fizz and completely forgot the potatoes! Dinner was well over an hour late, not that I think anyone was too bothered.
Get the men to do it. And get them to put your slippers between their teeth for you, together with an ice cold G+T while you watch. Never fails here. LOL.
Going against the trend here but I really wouldn't get people to bring things unless they can bring them fully prepared and cooked. The last thing you want is people dicking about in your kitchen while you are trying to cook. I speak from experience- past Christmases where eg my sister has offered to do the canapes and then taken over the whole kitchen and made a huge mess while I've been trying to get everything else done.
I'd just try to do it all in advance and freeze:
- Stuffing can be made now and frozen
- Milk for bread sauce can be infused and frozen, ditto breadcrumbs (some recipes say you can make the whole sauce ahead but I have never tried this).
- Jamie make-ahead gravy can be done now and frozen
- Pudding can be done now
- Red cabbage can be done now and frozen
- Ditto cranberry sauce
On the day, write down all your timings. Do the turkey first and let it rest for an hour or more while you do the potatoes etc- this will stop it being dry as well as freeing oven space.
Don't bother with a starter. Just do some canapes if you can be arsed- eg smoked salmon on brown bread, cut small as finger food.
I agree with others.
Make a plan of your menu - what things of DGran's dinner do you really want, and what things would you like to do differently?
Once you have your menu, that gives you the basis of starting loads of lists.
Who can do what dish/course?
Table settings and other crockery needs
Shopping lists - of all the ingredients, and also anything that you want to buy in pre-prepared!!
Timetable for the day
Jobs/elements of the meal for delegation to others
YYY to others doing different elements.
Ask people to bring their specialities if they have any - so anyone great at mince pies or cookies, or baked ham (preferably cold and sliced), or green beans in cream and bacon, or whatever?
There can be drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), snacks to nibble beforehand or chocolates or other nibbles for afterwards, cold starters (already plated up is fantastic but at least prepped to serve easily is great) to bring to serve as they are.
Veggies prepped for the oven (either to just reheat like cauli cheese or green beans w/cream and bacon, or to tip into a dish and bake - roasted root veg can be prepped and have their seasonings added and come in a plastic tub/Ziploc bags/on a roasting tray (the latter only if you know it will fit into the oven) as examples).
Stuffing, in an oven-ready dish or a plastic tub of ready-rolled balls to put on a baking tray, would also travel well.
On desserts: plum pudding or another dessert (having at least 2 desserts might be a good idea for that many - trifle, fruit salad, chocolate mousse or jelly would all travel well and need no cooking, or bread and butter pudding or something like that to cook while you are eating main course? Or icecream or sorbet if you have freezer space - especially if someone brings those and you have taken out other items you have prepped in advance). Or even a large plastic tub of whipped cream to serve with dessert.
Table settings - you will need cutlery and dinner plates for all, but do you need soup bowls, side or starters plates, dessert bowls or plates, cheese plates, wine glasses (and just 1 each or red and white versions), water glasses etc. Do you have enough of all these? Can you borrow some (from attendees) or buy additional or rent them? Would people eat off (good) paper or plastic plates?
Other table needs:
Serving dishes for each element. (And for that many people, I would do at least 2 and possibly 3 smaller dishes of each thing rather than 1 big one - if you have the space). You may want to serve most things on the plates - or just the meat and let everyone serve themselves at the table. But even if you plate up in the kitchen, you will probably want some serving dishes to allow people serve themselves seconds.
Might you want 1/2 platters or large plates (even spare dinner plates) for seconds of meat?
And serving spoons or other implements for each dish.
Gravy jugs (as above - have a few - but regular jugs can be used as gravy or sauce jugs if necessary).
Any other sauces needing jugs or bowls? (Cranberry, mustard, bread, ketchup) - different families have different things that "must" appear for Christmas.
Baskets for bread, toast or crackers? Plates/boards for cheese?
Dish for chocolates or plate for mince pies or biscuits?
Do you need bread/toast and butter for starters (soup or pate I'm mainly thinking)? Butter could go on saucers if you don't have butter dishes.
Salt and pepper - again try and have a few scattered down the table.
Milk and sugar for tea and coffee at the end of the meal - and do you have enough cups and saucers, or mugs?
A big enough table, or tables linked together, and chairs. And perhaps a side table to hold things like serving dishes for seconds or spare bottles of wine/jugs of water if the table would be cluttered.
Tablecloths and/or napkins? Candles? Crackers? Other decorative elements?
Heat protection for the table - placemats, or a blanket under the tablecloth if you don't have a heatproof mat? Or your table may not need that.
Do you want any trays to serve things to the table or for tea/coffee or other things later in another room?
And also cooking implements - roasting and baking trays, large (and smaller for sauces) pots, serving spoons, whisks, wooden spoons, carving and other knives, ladle(s), mixing bowls, chopping boards....work through your menu and think about what you need for each element.
(and think about how much washing up you want to do, or what you can borrow from others coming - either to borrow ahead of time and return on the day, or borrow on the day and return later in the day or in the next few days).
You probably want extra kitchen towels, cling film and tin foil, and things like washup liquid and bin bags on your shopping list.
You may want extra teatowels available easily for willing helpers, or an extra apron, and some extra oven gloves (for helping in the kitchen and serving).
But it can be handy to have the tinfoil dishes for cooking in - especially rectangle ones that can fit side by side in the oven (in fact, it could be handy to cook smaller amounts of certain sides initially, and a second batch goes in as the first lot are cooked and you are serving - so you have spare roast potatoes or other favourites for when people want seconds - to reduce pressure on the oven space).
Make sure you have enough roast potatoes for 1 each (2 if you have space in the oven) but then make either plain mash or a festive mash (add some herbs and use butter and cream for the mashing perhaps) to supplement.
Don't do tonnes of different sides - 1 veg might not be enough but think about how you would prepare them and oven/hob space etc.
So maybe 1 needing oven space (roasted root veg are lovely, can be prepped the day before and reasonably quick to cook once the turkey is out, or butternut squash) and 1 or 2 on the hob (glazed carrots with onion, frozen peas, brussels sprouts etc?). A cauliflower cheese can be good too - chop it into even sized florets when prepping, steam it, pour over the cheese sauce (which can be made the day before), add a handful of grated cheese and pop under the grill to brown up if oven space is not available.
I would try and have the gravy made, or at least the stock if you are making giblet/turkey bits stock, the day before. Then add in the juices from the turkey and reheat in a pot on the stove rather than worrying about making it and thickening it up in the roasting dish. A good glug of wine, bisto, turkey stock, (carrot cooking water is good too if more liquid is needed) and the turkey juices make really good gravy.
For that many people, stuffing balls might be handy but a faff to make (although that could be a handy one to give to another guest as their contribution!) - but do the stuffing in a large separate dish rather than in the turkey. Like roast potatoes and roast veggies, it can also go into the oven once the meat comes out. (Put the meat on a carving dish or large platter, cover with a double layer of tin foil and then put a bath towel folded in 2 over the top to keep it warm and let it rest for an hour - to finish cooking and let all the juices seep into the meat - it will stay hot if you insulate it like that).
Do as much prep in advance:
Peel potatoes and soak them in water ready to roast. Some people even par-boil them and roll them in the goose fat (or even polenta) and lay them on roasting tins the day before, but I have never tried that (others have prepped them and frozen up to a month ahead, but I've never tried that either).
Peel and chop the veggies. Carrots and sprouts and cauliflower can soak in water overnight, but parsnips need to be in an airtight tub with no water or they go slimey. I tend to peel onions and garlic the day before, but not chop them until I need them (except for any going into mixed root veg that I am marinading ahead of time with olive oil, salt and pepper and maybe some other seasoning/juice from a satsuma/balsamic vinegar).
Make the giblet stock, or even the gravy.
Breadcrumbs can be made anytime and frozen. Or you can make up the stuffing ahead of time and freeze too - either as a pyrex dish to put into the oven (thaw it first though, not straight from freezer to oven!), or as balls to cook on a baking sheet. If you don't make the stuffing and freeze it, do try and make that on 24th (but don't faff with balls at that stage).
I also often have stock frozen from roast chickens (I boil the carcass with the clean!! peelings of the carrots and onion from that dinner, and adding my herbs and water) which can go in the gravy. Or you could ask your local butcher (especially if you already know them) if they might have turkey carcasses in late November as some people want Thanksgiving turkey crowns (4th Thursday in Nov is thanksgiving, so 23rd this year) and make and freeze some turkey stock then.
Soup and mince pies can also be frozen ahead of time, and lots of other things too. And I tend to try and make a plastic box full of ice ahead of hosting events too - just remembering to make the trays of ice and empty them out every couple of days into the tube in advance. (I also tend to freeze extra slices of lemon and lime from drinks as we never use a whole one at once normally, and they are great to use another time instead in drinks and jugs of water - but I will do a batch in advance of hosting an event too).
Have some nibbles thought about to keep people from invading the kitchen when you are mad busy - crisps and dips, bowls of nuts, savoury crackers and cheese/pate/cured meats, olives, etc. Not necessarily hot nibbles as you will probably need the oven. And try to have the main drinks dispensing area in a different room so a bowl of ice, your slices of fruit and all the glasses and drinks are put there ahead of time.
And other than asking guests to bring elements of the meal, think about what jobs you can ask them to do.
Are you happy having people in the kitchen with you and working alongside you, or just keeping you company?
Can you get someone to keep on top of the washing up before the meal, as pots and cooking implements get finished with and serving dishes filled? And other things like emptying the bin as it gets full (especially if you are using disposable dishes), or keeping kettles boiled for hot water as needed etc.
Would you prefer to set the table in advance, or ask someone to do that on the day to keep them busy?
Someone on serving drinks, someone else on making sure nibbles are ok, someone else on playing with DCs or keeping elderly DGPs entertained....etc.
Plates can be heated by putting them into the oven once you have turned it off, by running them through a quick cycle in the dishwasher shortly before eating (and only opening the door when you are ready to serve), or by soaking in clean hot water in the sink and then quickly dried (by a helper) as you are ready to serve.
ALL washing up after the meal is delegated to others!
Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I appreciate you all xx
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