The moment you know you will be cooking Christmas Dinner is the moment when the creativity begins.
What will you prepare? What traditional foods will you serve? What exotic foods will you entice the holiday guests with? What herbs and spices will you use and will they compliment each other? These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself…and the sooner you get your answers, the sooner you will feel at peace with the process.
The first step to creating a great Christmas dinner is to decide what will be the main entrée. Turkey, ham and beef roast are three traditional choices. If you’re planning on using a non-traditional choice such as duck, wild game meat or a tofu turkey, make sure that you have at least one traditional entrée choice for your guests. Otherwise, they will feel that you had ‘nothing to eat’ despite all the additional foods served.
Let’s say you choose a turkey and a ham as your main entrée. For specific details on cooking a turkey click here
With pen and paper, write down two starchy vegetable ideas, two bread/roll ideas, stuffing, gravy, three vegetable ideas, two fruit ideas and three dessert ideas. Next add two snack combinations and three beverages you can also serve. And don’t forget the homemade cranberry jelly which doesn’t really fall into any of those categories! This pattern is your basic foundation for a spectacular holiday meal.
Don’t think that your holiday is doomed if your budget doesn’t allow all this food! If you’re pinching pennies, build your menu on one traditional entrée, two starchy vegetables, one type of bread, one vegetable, a salad, one fruit and one dessert. Then serve it with love and your meal will be more than wonderful; it will be memorable.
Planning Ahead Can Include Cooking and Reheating
Cooking Christmas dinner starts the day before the meal is served. If you’re making homemade dinner rolls and apple pie, you can always bake them the day before, then reheat them prior to the meal. They’ll still taste fresh and having these two items ready ahead of time will reduce the sense that you are overwhelmed by too many dishes to prepare. It will also save your oven for the most important items that you want served freshest.
Some people even cook the holiday turkey the day before, then slice it, and reheat it basted in broth to enhance the flavor even more. Don’t eliminate this idea as an option until you give it some thought; you’ll have less clean-up time after the holiday meal and more time to sit down with your guests.
To have the easiest time cooking Christmas dinner, write a schedule. It should look similar to the one below. Modify the schedule if you have prepared a few items the day before.
5 a.m. 15 to 18-pound turkey goes into the oven.
6:00 Baste turkey
6:30 Baste turkey
7:00 Put frozen broccoli into pot they’ll be cooked in. Cover. Baste turkey.
7:30 Prepare salad. Refrigerate. Baste turkey.
8:00 Set mixed nuts in a bowl. Baste turkey. Make spiced cider in crockpot.
8:30 Prepare fruit salad or fruit wedges and set on serving dish. Baste turkey.
9:00 Set table. Baste turkey.
9:30 Baste turkey for the last time.
10:00 Take turkey out of the oven. Put stuffing in tinfoil or in baking tin, cover it and set aside on counter. You’ll reheat it slightly if it needs to be reheated. Collect pan drippings and make gravy. Place apple pie in oven to bake, along with potatoes or sweet potatoes. For mashed potatoes (click here)
10:30 Carve turkey. Place meat on platter. Take butter out of refrigerator to soften. Make beverages such as coffee and tea. Pour cider into serving pitcher (or just leave in crockpot and add a ladle).
10:45 Warm homemade rolls in 200 degrees Fahrenheit oven. Place salad, cranberry sauce, and other cold items on dinner table. Start heating vegetables on low heat.
11:00 Remove hot apple pie from oven. Take rock hard ice cream out of freezer to soften. Take hot rolls out of oven. Place in basket on dinner table along with all other hot foods.
11:05 Seat guests. Say thankfulness prayer. Dig in.
Every great chef creates a schedule; the only difference is that some people create their schedule in their head. Cooking Christmas dinner in this way – with a schedule – assures that everything gets done when it should get done. Now go have your best-planned holiday meal ever!