Christmas Dinner - What did I get myself into?
I know Christmas isn't for another couple of months, but I stupidly nominated myself to host christmas dinner. This was one I originally thought that only 8 people were coming, but 8 people quickly turned into 16 people. I love to cook, but never cooked for this many people before. I do need to add that I'm not going to be around the day before, because Christmas Eve is a much bigger holiday for my family to celebrate then Christmas day itself. Can anyone tell me there easy and delicious christmas menu?
Fine cooking mag did a feature for a thanksgiving issue a few years back that had a menu for 12 that could be done in 4 hours (took me six with no prep the day before) the secret I think was doing the 14 pound turkey with no stuffing (it was done in a seperate pan) so the bird cooked in 2.5 hours.
The article was also good in that it gave you a planner what to buy at grocery store in advance, shopping lists etc.
I'll look up the issue date tonight for you.
Worth getting a back issue or checking their website once you've got that info.
I can totally relate, as I've done this 2 years in a row now. Christmas week is devoted to spending time doing fun day trips and activities with my husband's kids & Christmas Eve is the big deal for my husband's family. So there's no prep or set up time beforehand. And we never know the actual headcount until Christmas Day. So, here's basically what I've done:
Wine, Spiced Cider (made ahead, the spices removed, and the cider reheated) and a cheese plate
Pork Tenderloin stuffed with sauteed mushrooms, garlic, prosciutto & thyme - stuffed a few weeks in advance and frozen, cooks pretty quickly depending on the size.
Mashed Red & Yukon Gold Potatoes - again, I make them ahead and freeze them, and I keep the skins on to save time. But you could easily make the potatoes that day.
Sauteed Greens - spinach, chard etc with evoo, garlic S&P.
Rachel Ray's Chocolate Cups - go together in 10 minutes and sets very quickly and everyone goes nuts over them. The recipe is here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recip...
I have family bring a salad, more apps and more desserts. I try and keep things simple so the focus can be on just hanging out and enjoying the day with those I love.
Whatever you are going to make, if its a new recipe, practice making it NOW...so you will know what, if any, tweaking you need to do with it...don't experiment on Christmas Day.
Practice freezing or storing overnight...see how it is the next day. No need to do the entire menu, but on Christmas morning, you don't want to be trying to do something for the first time....
That is probably the biggest mistake I see being made...You want to make food for friends and family that you know are good, tried and true.
Cathy, that's a valuable point about practicing and testing your recipes. I've done that for the last 2 years and it's really helped eliminate duds, find steps that can be done ahead and feel so much more relaxed on Christmas Day. All this adds up to appearing so much more impressive to my MIL! In fact, I'm just about to start testing recipes for this year.
re: Ruby Louise
I agree completely. Right now, I am testing approaches for cooking at my elderly parents' house for Christmas. I have a couple of holiday menus down pat, but tried another main (two halves of a turkey roasted over dressing in an old-fashioned rectangular enamelled metal roaster that I picked up in an NH hardware store where I was amazed to find it (these old things have vanished from other shelves in the past decade) -- worked very well).
The issue with my folks is that my mom no longer cooks in the oven much and has the kitchen very precisely arranged with things she needs on a daily basis, so disrupting her kitchen too much or for too long can be a recipe for strife. Also, I will be cooking with my brother and his partner. So we all have to have our steps whittled down to modular efficiency. This means all recipes are tested and thought through and interlaced so that everything is pre-arranged. (When the four brothers cook together, it's even more interesting; the two sisters are not involved in this, but that's another story).
Oh, and setting the table and kitchen up is also pre-planned.
Cleaning up is old-hat; that's just a continuation of 55 years of family habits. I was the family dishwasher from the age of 10-18. We have asbestos hands in our family (my mom wants hot water to be scalding). To this day (I am 45), I've never owned a dishwasher. Anyway, my father likes to wash the dishes as his contribution to the feast. It's very sweet in its elaborate way.
The first Christmas we did this, a few years ago, my mother was pleasantly stunned at how we pulled this off without a hitch. Actually, amazed. We earned her trust so that we were able to do it again. And that made my dad very happy.
Actually, the brothers look foward to this. It's much more gratifying than the gift exchange. Food is love, after all, isn't it? At least to chowhound families.
re: Karl S
Karl S, thank you very much for sharing your family story with us. Thanksgiving is, afterall, a family holiday and your tale of thoughtful generosity is exactly what true giving is all about. "A person gives nothing until they give of themselves" is a homily I remember from childhood and your Thanksgiving celebration if full of the thankful giving part of this delicious holiday. Your mother and father must be proud and happy with their brood.
re: Karl S
In a slightly more slapdash way, my brother and sisters and I do these big meals as well for the holidays, and it is the very best - every one is a gift to be treasured and remembered for the time ahead when our parents are gone and the kids are grown. Food is love, indeed. Thank you for sharing your story...