By Phoebe Ollerearnshaw
Volunteering to host Christmas dinner may have seemed like a good idea—initially—but as December draws in, so does a looming sense of dread. Advanced planning is crucial to ensure the meal runs harmoniously; even the most seasoned chefs can misjudge cooking times. Here, we’ll assist you in organising the ultimate Christmas feast without the stress.
Begin on Christmas Eve by drawing up a cooking schedule for Christmas Day—give yourself an hour’s leeway, just in case. The two most important factors to consider are: what time you wish to eat and how big your turkey is. Calculate the cooking time by weighing your turkey.
More complex side dishes should be assembled and prepared today; this includes the stuffing, red cabbage and the base of the gravy. Anything that requires setting in the fridge should also be completed, such as desserts and traditional sauces. Now is a good time to peel, trim and parboil vegetables like parsnips, carrots and sprouts. Also peel, parboil and fluff the potatoes so that they are ready for the oven whenever you’ll need them.
Once these tasks are complete, dress the dinner table with place settings, confetti and decorations. Before you go to bed, remove the turkey from the fridge so it warms to room temperature.
Christmas lunch tends to be served between one and two o’clock. Wake up early to preheat the oven—this will usually take around 45 minutes. This should give you enough time to wolf down some breakfast and have a quick glass of bubbly.
Prepare the bird by removing the wishbone with a small, sharp knife; this will make carving far easier. Loosen the skin from both ends of the turkey and stuff with seasoned butter (add lemon, parsley and garlic for extra flavour). Massage the rest of the butter mix into the top of the bird, including the legs. The butter will ensure the turkey doesn’t dry out. This is also an ideal time to begin steaming your Christmas pudding on a low heat.
Cooking the turkey
Roast the turkey on a high heat for 15-20 minutes, and then remove from the oven to add rashers of streaky bacon to the breast—this will keep it moist. Return to the oven, adding some halved onions to the roasting tin. Reduce the heat and cook for the calculated time that your bird requires. Set a timer to baste your turkey regularly.
While the bird roasts, pour drinks and open a few presents. After sharing some quality time with the family, turn your attention to your side dishes. Make sure all sauces are on the table, then manage the stuffing, pigs in blankets and other accompaniments.
For the last 30 minutes of cooking time, increase the heat to crisp the turkey skin. At this point, put a couple of roasting tins in the oven to heat up. These will be used to cook the potatoes and vegetables. Check the bird is cooked with a thermometer or a metal skewer. Insert into the thickest part of the thigh for the most accurate reading. Ensure that the juices are running clear rather than pink—indicating that the turkey is cooked properly.
While the turkey rests
Once cooked, leave the turkey to rest on a warm plate, covered in foil for around 45 minutes. In the meantime, add potatoes and vegetables to your preheated oven trays and pop them into the oven.
Then make up your gravy using the turkey juices, your pre-prepared base stock, roasted onions, extra herbs, marsala and flour. Season, whisk and then strain if necessary. Most of the remaining vegetables (i.e. sprouts, peas, carrots) will need a quick boil to heat them through.
Once the potatoes are golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle, they are ready. Remove all the roasting items and assemble all of your side dishes on the table, gathering the family as you do so. Allocate somebody to carve the turkey for the finale. Lastly, don your paper crowns obtained from your crackers, propose a festive toast and tuck into your delicious meal together. τ