HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


MUST streamline Christmas dinner--need help with my solutions ??

I need *two* easy Christmasy entrees. I won't get help cooking or cleaning-up on Christmas Day. Hubby and stepson will cheerfully do any fetching or set-up tasks I ask of them. But they don't know how to cook. And I'm in charge of desserts at a friend's for Christmas Eve. I'm gong to take advantage of that by doubling recipes and having *mostly* the same desserts Christmas Eve and Christmas. Maybe one special extra thing for Christmas. We'll see.

So, I am bound and determined to streamline Christmas dinner this year. But here's the dossier on the guest list: Two people ONLY eat chicken; a couple WON'T eat it.

I'm considering skin-on, boneless chicken breasts. (One diva's in the chicken-only camp, but feels like throwing up if confronted with their--quote-- "little skeletons". Worse, she likes to announce this loudly, dramatically, at the dinner table. LOL). I do really good chicken thighs, but I'm worried that dark meat might push this tortured soul-delicate stomach over the edge, right there in my dining room. Anyway, I can saute or oven roast the chicken, depending on logistics.

I'm also thinking pork tenderloin medallions. Quick, easy and versatile;and if for any reason I needed to, I could put the pork and chicken in the oven at the same time.

Can you help me with:

1) EASY but elegant passed sauces or other optional adornments for each of those two entrees? Something that says, "Not your Wednesday night chicken/pork".

I was thinking of a spiced wine-blueberry reduction for the pork medallions. Yea, or nay?

2) Are there other suggestions? (Not ham; I've served it the last two years.)

3) I'm stumped right now re the chicken. Something not-ordinary, but not time consuming for the chicken?

4) Are there ways I could prepare potatoes ahead that aren't doused in cream or cheeses? Is there something that will dress up twice-baked potatoes, and shout, "The Most Important Dinner of the Year!", since I could do those mostly ahead, then stick them under the broiler to finish while the proteins rest?

Thanks if you can help out poor little beleaguered, long-suffering, stuck-in-the-culinary-wilderness me. :-D

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You obviously don't need instructions on how to put it together so I'll avoid the details. But a good quality chicken stock with some unsalted butter and a little sherry makes a nice passing sauce for the chicken entree. I like to brown the butter just a tad for this sauce but that's an individual decision.
    I like your spiced wine-bluberry reduction idea for the medallions. Go for it. I might have suggested a wine-cherry reduction for it but I like your idea better.
    You could also roll/tie the chicken breasts and place them in a baking dish with some wine and butter and bake them. That'd give you a nicely baked chicken and the base for a sauce at the same time. No cheese, please.
    How about rolling those skin-on chicken breasts around some buttered pecans mixed with some seasoned bread crumbs?
    For your Diva - make a quick trip to McDonalds for some chicken stips. She'll love 'em and there's no skeletons.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao

      Ooh. I love the wine-cherry idea, too.

      And double ooh-ooh regarding the pecan crusted chicken. That would elevate it. (I want my guests to enjoy their meal, but I'm a little disappointed not to be serving something a little less "everyday" for Christmas Dinner. Christmas is supposed to be about roast duck and pheasant and beef with horseradish sauce and Yorkshire Pudding and all those Dickensian kinds of things.) Now, a Bigarade sauce had occurred to me, for the poultry, but does citrus work with pecans?

      Thank you for some very nice ideas. Much appreciated.

      P.S. Could I send the Diva for a *long*, protracted trip to McDonald's? Say, in Boise?

      1. re: Steady Habits

        Yes, I think the Bigarade sauce would go nicely with the pecan crusted chicken. Chicken is sometimes served with a port wine and/or Grand Marnier sauce so I believe the Bigarade sauce is certainly a contender.
        You could send the Diva out, with directions to the drive-up window, and a coupon. Consider the coupon a Christmas gift.

    2. todao is nicer than I am - I was going to suggest cornish game hen! (I realize that isn't very Christmas-like, but then neither is talking about "vomiting" and "chicken skeletons" in polite company...really....).

      What about a sage-brown butter sauce for the chicken? Perhaps just a really nice roasted lemon chicken?

      How hasselback potatoes, or even greek baked potatoes (personally, I love both and no cream or cheese in either recipe).

      Hasselback potatoes (not make-ahead, but definately fast): http://whatscookingamerica.net/Vegeta...

      Greek potatoes (make a day ahead and reheat in the oven?):

      Just ideas...I'm enough of a diva to not cater to the "chicken-only" crowd. They can eat my wonderful side dishes, if they don't like the main course. Which means, you're a better person than I am.

      1 Reply
      1. re: jazzy77

        <<(I realize that isn't very Christmas-like, but then neither is talking about "vomiting" and "chicken skeletons" in polite company...really....).>>

        Really. I am now and then amazed by what a few (allegedly) grown adults weren't taught by the time they were five years old.

        Cornish hens, whole roast chicken, turkey all out because of the bone factor, sadly. Ridiculous, yes, but...one attends to the comfort of one's guests...sigh. But those are two worthy suggestions regarding the sauces, jazzy. Especially if I choose one of the sweeter ones for the pork, the savory sage would be a good balance.

        The Hasselback potatoes are a terrific idea. I make them now and then, guys like roasted potatoes, and they look so nice when they fan out (the potatoes; I don't know about the guys), and it's easy to pretty them up by sprinkling fresh herbs on and around them.

        The Greek potatoes, I can't wait almost two weeks for; I think I'll make those tomorrow night.

        TY for these recommendations.

      2. Why don't you just make a crown roast of pork with a wild rice stuffing, roasted root veggies and mashed potatoes. Make a passing sauce of pan juices. I wouldn't do chicken at all! Why bother. Or if you must, then make something like a nice tagine or a paella.

        8 Replies
        1. re: sarah galvin

          I'm making chicken because as noted two of my guests will eat only chicken. Otherwise, I, like you, wouldn't make it for Christmas dinner. There's nothing *wrong* with chicken for Christmas, since it can be dressed up or down. It's just that I make it often, for everyday.

          I'm not going to do a crown roast because my specific need is to cut down my cooking time. If I were feeding a different group, I'd love to do that this Christmas. We had it often when I was growing up, and it's been a while since I made one. I completely agree with you--it's always right, always beautiful. But I'll have to wait. I've learned from experience with this group that I'm going to be falling-down exhausted by 2:00 p.m. if I don't revise my usual modus operandi. I want to enjoy my Christmas this year, rather than spend the whole day praying I'll get through it. :-)

          Roasted veggies always work, though, and are colorful and substantial, and I can easily roast those, even while other things are oven-cooking. Thanks, sarah.

          1. re: Steady Habits

            You might think this is low-brow for the occasion, but I get raves about this chicken dish - people think it's a lot more than it really is. Some of the ingredients might turn you off, but trust me, your guests won't notice. The dish takes about 15 minutes to prepare and 23 minutes to cook. So, it's extremely simple and fast, which is what you requested.
            - Heat oven to 400
            - Mix together 1 packet onion soup mix, 1/3 cup mayo and 1/4 cup freshy grated Parmesan cheese until it forms a paste.
            - Put 4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts on cookie sheet. Spread paste on tops and side of breasts.
            - Dust generously with favorite bread crumbs (this keeps paste from sliding)
            - Bake for 22-23 minutes.
            (To save time, you can do everything but the baking the night before.)

            As for the non-chicken people, your pork tenderloin idea is a good one.

            1. re: mwliechty

              It's not the way I usually cook, mw, simply because I avoid pre-made soups (canned or packet) because of all the sodium they tend to include.

              But I don't see a "lowbrow" suggestion here, at all. I see a resourceful and practical solution to my problem, offered by a person who read and really thought about what I'm worried about--my sanity! So, I thank you very much.

              When you stop to think about it, using a dry soup in this way is no different than using a spice blend I put together myself. I wouldn't feel funny doing that, at all. But this group likes onions, so now I have two options. :-) I really think it would be better to use skinless chicken with this group, but I wasn't going to do it, because I always dry out it out. So...the mayo prevents that, I take it?

              Wow. This would *really* cut down the stress factor. It's like...I wouldn't even have to *think* about how to cook it. I could do it in my sleep (and probably will be doing it in my sleep, LOL). And, so *many* things complement onion, I could still do something special, suiting the occasion, with a sauce...

              Thank you! :-D

              1. re: Steady Habits

                If you have a Big Lots by you, they carry Mrs. Grass's reduced sodium onion soup mix( 50 cents a packet). I like it a lot better than the Lipton.

            2. re: Steady Habits

              Sorry, I misread as ONLY two people eat chicken! Go for cornish game hens definitely. If they are large, you can have them cut in half and serve roasted half chicken. Does your other guest make these rude comments even if the food is on someone else's plate? If that is the case then what about a boneless breast and do something like a chicken kiev. How many people are there? Or did I miss that, too!

              1. re: sarah galvin

                No problem, sarah. It will be eight to ten (two who are elderly are at that point in their lives where they don't always feel up to these things, and we never know until the day of the event).

                LOL, I'm trying to think back to other meals--no, I don't think the Diva complains if she sees someone else eating what she won't. And, to her credit, she's appreciative and complimentary for things she can tolerate, ha! She'll just be all worried and obsessed and ask me urgently three or four times after she arrives, "It doesn't have bones, does it?" I mean...how many times can you patiently reassure someone, someone to whom you've NEVER served bones, "No, it doesn't have bones". ;-) Ah, well, it takes all kinds, doesn't it... We love her, anyway...

                The Kiev is another suitable idea, but....I think I've made it twice in my life, years ago. I can't remember...can you prepare it the day ahead and refrigerate it?

                1. re: Steady Habits

                  The way I make Kiev, I remove the tenders from the chicken breasts & save for a later use. Then butterfly open the breast & pound thin-ish (not scallopini thin). Even thickness is more important than thin. Spread half with a mix of soft butter, herbs & vodka, lay other half on top, dip in flour, an egg wash, then cracker crumbs and bake in a well-buttered dish.

                  The great thing about this is you can make your butter mix 2-3 days before and prep the breasts up to 2 days before, and leave the assembly until right before baking.

                  Since you plan to do the pork medallions as well, a great way to serve both is over rice or buttered parsley egg noodles. Rice is easier b/c the timing is more flexible.

                  1. re: Steady Habits

                    I made the America's Test Kitchen version of chicken kiev last for some occasion a while back, and it was really wonderful. You could totally do the herb butter and pounding ahead of time, as well as the breadcrumbs, I would think. If you need the recipe, let me know.

                    You are certainly a gracious hostess. Good luck!

            3. sorry about those requirements I'd just stock the bar and make good use of it even before they arrive and see what happens. who IS afraid of Virginia Woolf after all?

              whatever the choice, the non-cooks (cheerful H and SS) can at the very least clean the gummy bits off the pots and plates.

              just go all passive aggressive and do macrobiotic vegan ("but it was the only way I wouldn't offend anyone")

              and then order in a cheese pizza after the pantloads leave.

              ok, this is yet another un-helpful post of mine.

              actually vegetarian isn't a bad idea if you can do something like grilled Portobellos or know how to do a decent eggplant parmigiana.

              really I do get just a bit pissed at people who try to hijack menus - it's not a restaurant, it's your house and the hospitality of your good will. if there are serious health issues or religious objections, sure I'm happy to accommodate.

              do I not like something on occasion? yeah sometimes, but I just shut my yap and make a non-committal remark, like "looks great, have to save room for that"

              (sorry, Grandmother I know you made the lime Jello, carrot, maraschino cherry and whipped cream salad with love, but it just scared me)

              2 Replies
              1. re: hill food

                LOL, hill. You make me laugh. You also give me flashbacks of the godawful mayonnaise--pudding--canned fruit salad....something...my aunt used to make for every Christmas Dinner. Yee-haw. My mother would spend two hundred dollars, even back in the day, on getting just the right cut of meat flown in from Valhalla, where Vestal Virgins had lovingly handfed, kernel by kernel, the little subject animal on gold-leafed, hydroponically grown, magic corn, and then auntie would announce, "I know! I'll make my Special Christmas Salad!" Though I blame my inflexible approach to cooking on my social-activist urges to bring down the megaproducers who are h*llbent on pumping us full of sugars, salts and multisyllabic synthetics until we explode, my stridency on the topic is really probably all due to residual trauma from auntie's special holiday, uh, invention, and my mother's cold-hearted, unyielding insistence that I "Don't say a word! Not ONE WORD, young lady!"

                Yum! Portobellos! I have plenty of burners--I could do those in my CI grill pan! Maybe I'll marinate them in bones.

                1. re: Steady Habits

                  "godawful mayonnaise--pudding--canned fruit salad"

                  you forgot the grated coconut.

                  yeah ambrosia... I'm glad I'm mortal.
                  Good Luck!

              2. I make pear/prune/saffron compote that is meant to go with blue cheese, but is great with roast chicken, and I'm sure would be excellent with the pork as well. It's quick to make and can be made ahead. If you are interested, I'll find the link to the recipe, which I know I've posted.

                1 Reply
                1. re: MMRuth

                  Ruth, at some point I got all disorganized and forgot to respond. I couldn't wait to see this recipe, so I went to find it. I'm sure this must be it, right?


                  Wow, does that look good. I see it got some rave reviews on the thread, too. I'm going to try that.

                2. Pound skin on boneless breasts. Put 2 Tbsp onion/chive or gardent get flavored cream cheese on each and roll up, smoothing skin to cover exposed meat, and lay seam,side down in baking dish. Lay a strip of bacon lengthwise over each roll, tucking down over the ends. Bake at 375-400 for 45-60 minutes or so, depending on size, until the bacon is crisp, skin golden-brown, and the pan drippings getting caramelized at the edges of the pan. The cheese seeps out to mix with the bacon drippings into a delicious little bit of sauce.

                  Alternatively, go a completely different route: Crepes with some sort of creamed chicken filling, and for the non-chicken contingent, a seafood filling such as newburg. Just about everything could be made ahead, reheated and assembled at the last minute. You could do a spinach or other braised greens dish on the side, or a spectacular mixed greens salad garnished with dried cranberries, candied pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and a berry vinaigrette. Start with a seasonal soup like pureed squash, or corn chowder.

                  1. Hey Steady, you asked about the possible dryness of the chicken in the recipe I posted. You're right, the paste does keep the chicken moist, but the most important part is the time - 22-23 minutes get the chicken just right. Oh, I forgot to mention, the recipe actually tastes better with the Lipton Garlic and Herb soup mix - don't know why I didn't mention that before - but onion is good too; it 's a stronger flavor though.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: mwliechty

                      TY for the tip re the Garlic and Herb. Garlic is good! That was thoughtful of you to come back to post that. I'll remember what you told me about the time, too. TY, mw.

                    2. I recently made a pork tenderloin with a dried cherry port sauce. The recipe is from Cook's Illustrated. The sauce is so freaking easy and tastes very decadent!! It looks like it was much harder to make than it was. I did this at a personal chef dinner I was hired for. I got 40.00 a person for the main dish, whipped sweet potatoes, sauteed green beans w/ pine nuts, and a salad( I threw in an app and foccacia)

                      Let me know if you're interested in the recipe.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Calipoutine

                        The computer's acting a little strange, so excuse if I happen by accident to have posted this twice, but... Do I want the recipe??? Calipoutine, I may DIE if you don't give it to me!!!
                        Dried cherries, port? Yes, please!

                        I think my Christmas guests will also enjoy the green beans with pine nuts...if you don't mind my borrowing that idea, as well. ;-)

                        1. re: Steady Habits

                          Here is the sauce. I've added chopped rosemary as well. The last time I made it, I used some cherry jam I had laying around instead of the marmalade. It worked well. Its super simple.
                          This will sauce 2 tenderloins.

                          1 teaspoon vegetable oil
                          1 large onion , halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 1 1/2 cups)
                          3/4 cup port
                          3/4 cup dried cherries
                          2 tablespoons orange marmalade
                          3 tablespoons unsalted butter , cut into 3 pieces
                          Table salt and ground black pepper

                          1. Immediately after placing pork in oven, add oil to still-hot skillet, swirl to coat, and set skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and browned about the edges, 5 to 7 minutes (if drippings are browning too quickly, add 2 tablespoons water and scrape up browned bits with wooden spoon). Set skillet aside off heat.

                          2. While pork is resting, set skillet over medium-high heat and add port and cherries; simmer, scraping up browned bits with wooden spoon, until mixture is slightly thickened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add any accumulated pork juices and continue to simmer until thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, 2 to 4 minutes longer. Off heat, whisk in orange marmalade and butter, one piece at a time. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.

                          The pan roasted loins are pan browned and then placed in the oven to finish roasting. I used a remote thermometer and followed the instructions to the T and they were perfect. I've enclosed some pics from the meal I catered. I french cut the fresh green beans using a little french cut tool. I'm not sure the client appreciated that effort. I also finished the beans with an herb/cheese butter from Wegman's.

                          1. re: Steady Habits

                            Here is the pork recipe.
                            2 pork tenderloins , (12 to 16 ounces each), trimmed of fat and silver skin
                            1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
                            3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
                            2 teaspoons vegetable oil

                            Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle tenderloins evenly with salt and pepper; rub seasoning into meat. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until smoking. Place both tenderloins in skillet; cook until well browned, 3 minutes. Using tongs, rotate tenderloins 1/4 turn; cook until well browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat until all sides are browned. Transfer tenderloins to rimmed baking sheet and place in oven (reserve skillet if making pan sauce); roast until internal temperature registers 135 to 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 10 to 16 minutes. (Begin pan sauce, if making, while meat roasts.)

                            2. Transfer tenderloins to cutting board and tent loosely with foil (continue with pan sauce, if making); let rest until internal temperature registers 145 to 150 degrees, 8 to 10 minutes. Cut tenderloins crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices, arrange on platter or individual plates, and spoon sauce (if using) over; serve immediately.

                        2. Something pretty fast, but festive looking is to take chicken breasts and brown them. Then roll them up in puff pastry with some brie cheese and apricot jam (or your own variation of fillings).
                          You can alo do salmon en croute or mini beef wellingtons for the not-so-finicky eaters.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mellicita

                            Everything's better with puff pastry wrapped around it, isn't it? :-D Gosh, salmon en croute makes me happy. Now...suppose these fussy folks don't like Brie, which they probably don't. They probably don't like chevre, either. What other cheeses do you think work well, in terms of consistency and apricot? (Apricot...so versatile.)

                          2. Rather than pork medallions, I'd roast entire tenderloins. It'll dramatically simplify your prep. I really like this recipe and I think it's special enough for a holiday meal without being complicated - http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                            Personally, I'd probably try to simplify things further by seasoning the biggest chicken breasts I could find with the same seasonings and serving them also carved with the same sauce. I think you can expect that unless you plate each entree, people will want to "try" both, so I'd prepare the chicken in a way that you can offer smaller portions.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: cyberroo

                              Yes, I've always intended to roast tenderloins and carve them into medallions. I think you're absolutely right about that, cyberroo. The orange and sage are really appealing additions to that sauce. (For whatever reason, I associate beautiful oranges and their byproducts with Christmas.)

                              I don't usually serve the same sauce for both entrees at Christmas, because there are a couple of perennials guests who are, um, uninhibited about eating a lot of all entrees served. :-) However, one base that could be adapted into two finished sauces would help to ease preparations.

                            2. While I try to get over the no help with clean up part (I may have to go scream into a pillow)...
                              you mentioned pork.

                              How about keeping it simple but lovely.

                              A simple roast pork like:

                              Maybe some thick, ooey gooey cheesy potatoes au Gratin. You could do a regular one with straight potatoes or a nice holidayish one:
                              That can be done ahead and then popped in the oven at your leisure.

                              OR you could roast a mix of acorn, butternut, potato and yam in with your roast - Totally low stress.

                              If you needed something rich you could then go with this glorious and festive soup (made it - YUM): http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                              As a veggie you could make a salad with nuts and dried fruit in it and with dinner maybe some sweet sugar snap peas... just steamed. Cuts thru all that rich stuff.

                              I am still laughing over the skeletons. Like will be a trial for that one. You should do comedy.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                Steady H: steady, steady...

                                "something not-ordinary, but not time consuming for the chicken?"

                                roasted is low effort - just stuff a lemon, celery and onion (ok rosemary and sage are also good) in the cavity and only check back once every 15 or 20 minutes for a baste.

                                Sal: "I am still laughing over the skeletons. Life will be a trial for that one" - One who I wish doesn't live in a Day of the Dead popular area.

                                OP - SH: green beans and pine nuts?

                                or dunk fresh spinach 3 times for sand (but no reason chopped frozen wouldn't work), drain, mix with pine nuts and a little vinegar and fold into puff pastry or phyllo sheet triangles and bake (can be made a few days ahead before last minute bake prep) some add raisin, but not me.

                                refer to Penelope Casas her Tapas book was COTM in I think August and discussed there.