First post and Christmas dinner questions
This is my first post on CH, but I have lurking for a couple months. I am certainly no expert cook - an interested amateur at best - but I have have derived vast amounts of pleasure from reading the posts and articles here!
I help out with the high school youth group at my church, and we are having our Christmas party in one week. Usually it's pizza delivery for this kind of event but I'd like to prepare a more traditional alternative. Our menu is:
Butterflied roast turkey and pan gravy
Garlic mashed Potatoes
Green bean casserole - using the fresh CH recipe
Simple vegetable soup
Nothing fancy, but better than Little Caesar's! I do have a few questions though:
- Are there any special considerations or tips for butterflying and roasting turkey? I have roasted chickens, ducks and turkeys in the past but these were all intact birds.
- I plan on roasting the birds on a mirepoix bed, then using the vegetables for the soup. Any problems with this? Will the roasting pan retain enough drippings for gravy?
- Can anyone recommend a sharp, acidic, easy side dish - maybe fruit based?
- I've never cooked for this many people (about 50) so are there any general tips for feeding such a horde?
The dinner went off without a hitch (almost)! Some things I have learned:
- I seriously overestimated the roasting time for butterflied turkey… it was done two hours ahead of schedule! I went through a lot of gyrations keeping it warm and moist until serving time. It came out great however, and I think I will butterfly all my poultry from now on.
- Next time make more garlic mashed potatoes. They are easy and a crowd pleaser. I mashed up 15 pounds and we still ran out of those long before anything else.
- Make soup early. I made a big cauldron of vegetable soup with fresh vegetables in the morning, then forgot about it and let it simmer until dinnertime. It was a hit! Also remember, canned tomatoes are no detriment in vegetable soup.
Thanks for your help in all this!
This past TD I used onions to place the turkey on, I layered thick cut onions, and got great flavor. But cut them super thick, that way they won't burn and disintegrate. Since your butterflying your cooking time will be cut back quite a bit. I agree if your planing on using the vegetables from the mirepoix,don;t, they will more than likely useless and bitter.
A salad with baby greens, and blackberries and gingered nuts would be super with this meal.
I've done parties for 50 its easy, just plan your time well, and sticking to schedule.
I wouldn't expect the mirepoix to be usable in soup unless pureed. Chances are, after the roasting time, they'll nearly be a puree by the time you try to spoon them from the pan anyway. They will also have a very strong turkey flavor that will make your soup and any turkey gravy you plan on serving taste very very similar!
Also, a great advantage to making a soup that isn't reliant on the vegetables from the turkey is that you can make it a day or more ahead of time and just heat it on serving day. That will help cut down on how much "from scratch" cooking you have to do on the big day.
Other than that, it sounds great! Good luck.
Thanks for the responses all! Yes I am cooking in the church kitchen, and I have scouted the place to find everything I need there.
After reading the responses I think I will butterfly the turkey over some garlic cloves instead of mirepoix, the use the garlice for the potatoes. I will chop fresh vegetables for the soup instead.
That fruit salad sounds great, thanks krissywats!
Mpalmer6c, can you check that first link? It's not working for me.
FWIW, I've added garlic cloves when I make Zuni chicken but only the last half hour or so. I've found they get nice and caramelized. But, any longer and I think they might burn. Covered by the turkey might make a difference, or doing it over a few whole heads (possibly cut the tops off?)--under the skin would be delicious.
The garlic sounds interesting. I would look for heads with really LARGE cloves (but not elephant garlic because it's too mild), then break them apart but not peel the cloves. That way they'll flavor your turkey with a gentle touch, and they won't absorb as much turkey flavor, PLUS they will be really easy to just squish them out of their papers into your mashed potatoes! Sounds delicious!
what about a basic homemade cranberry sauce - cannot get any easier than water, sugar, cranberries, boil.
Or a cranberry chutney?
A fruit salad that always gets oohs and aaahs:
Strawberries, oranges, grapes, and kiwi. Slice and layer in a glass bowl and then mix orange juice and honey and pour over the whole thing. Really delicious and great with savory dishes.
Or were you looking for a cooked acidic dish? In that cash I love Zuni's bread salad with it's light vinegar dressing.
simple sliced or cubed pineapple is always a good side dish. can sub as vegetable for those who don't like green beans, and in addition to the acidic under-taste, adds a nice sweetness. If you want it can always be mixed with other fruits (apple, mellon, citrus) as a fruit salad.
That sounds great--much better than the Caesar's pizza. There was a thread recently that included butterflying turkey:
On making a gravy, we'll set the roasting pan across two burners, puree the vegetable and add a slurry to thicken. It tastes great and is so easy. We do add more of our own premade stock to it, though, so we don't get enough from the drippings for gravy.
Are you cooking this all in your house or do you have access to a big kitchen at the church? I can't imagine making enough to feed 50 in a house kitchen. As a side dish, what about a bibb lettuce salad w/ persimmons and candied pecans, dressing made w/ cranberry sauce?