It’s a familiar scene to many. The family’s designated cook, a picture of Christmas calm as they unwrapped presents and quaffed early morning’s buck’s fizz, is now charging around at a hundred miles an hour, spillages everywhere, a smell of burning, orders being barked. ‘Take that off the heat’, ‘pour that in there’, ‘quick, drain this’…and so on. We’re not sure who looks more frazzled, them or the turkey. Tranquil this ain’t.
If only they’d planned and prepared a little more ahead of time. This festive season, make this your bible; our 5 IDEAL tips for prepping your xmas dinner in advance.
MAKE YOUR SAUCES BEFOREHAND
For many, including us, a good gravy is the make or break of roast dinner success or sorry, but no. You can do most of the leg (and breast, and wing) work as ahead of time as your willpower wishes, then freeze. Simply defrost and add the deglazed roasting pan juices on the day. Both cranberry and bread sauce freeze brilliantly, too.
PREP YOUR VEG
With so much else to think about, vegetables are often bottom of the priority list, getting peeled by a 2 year old nephew with seconds until the bird is on the table. That’s a real shame, as carefully selected, thoughtfully paired veg can elevate your Christmas dinner from good to great. You’ll be pleased to hear that most of the prep can be done the day before. Peel preemptively, keeping items in a bowl of water in the fridge until they’re needed the next day. Par boil and then refresh in iced water if you must, drain, and keep covered in a bowl tight with cling film or in a container with airtight lid. This even applies to everyone’s favourite part of the feast; the spuds. Just whack them in a hot roasting tray with lots of fat the next day.
SOME THINGS TASTE BETTER WITH TIME
Prepping in advance isn’t only about saving yourself time. Indeed, some things actually taste better the next day, after a night of flavours bedding now together and getting acquainted. Red cabbage, for instance, benefits from a day in the fridge, as those beloved Christmassy spices need a little time to work their magic.
BRINE YOUR MEAT
Although it won’t necessarily save time on the big day, it will save stress, as by brining your chosen meat you’re pretty much guaranteeing it’s going to be tender, even if you mess up your timings a little. The type of brine you use will depend on the meat, but in general a 10% ratio of salt to water, with herbs, armoats and spices added, brought to the boil and then chilled before using works well. Submerge your meat in the salty water overnight, and be ready to soak up a lot of praise the next day.
While meat is still on the mind, we should add that you can also make (and cook) your stuffing in advance. It freezes well and can simply be warmed up (to a temperature of 80°C) on the day. With all this planning and preparation completed well ahead of schedule, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is putting the oven on. Merry Christmas!