.. Or, 'What can I prepare before my Christmas Dinner/dinner party?'!!
Preparing a feast can require a great deal of preparation and if you plan on entertaining whilst your meal cooking it can mean frequent trips to the kitchen and missing out on socialising with your guests - sacré bleu!
To reduce the risk of disasters on the day and to give you more time with your diners it is best to prepare, prepare, prepare! How can we forget the 7 Ps? Prior planning and preparation prevents something about poor performance (I can't include the last P - this is a family friendly blog!). So exactly what can you pre-prepare to save you time and hassle on the day of your event? Let me enlilghten you! ;)
Lists, schedules and the fridge/freezer will become your best friend in the run up to your 'big day', so make sure you have paper and fridge/freezer space to hand!
As long as you have space in your fridge, you can prepare your turkey/goose/joint completely beforehand. Get it stuffed, greased, flavoured, set up on it's roasting pan and cover well with baking parchment. Don't forget the only place to safely store raw meat is at the bottom of your fridge!
If you plan on serving pigs in blankets or sausages to accompany your meal, they can be kept in the freezer until the day before required. They will need defrosting overnight prior to cooking!
Take your meat out of the fridge at least an hour before you plan to cook it - it needs to be at room temperature before you pop it in the oven.
Root veggies - Often the most time consuming in their preparation the veggies can make a great meal magnificent! Root veg like potatoes, parsnips, carrots, swedes et al can be parboiled, or fully cooked, cooled and frozen in advance of the day of your meal. Spuds and parsnips can be parboiled and parroasted, cooled and frozen on a tray. They can then be cooked from frozen taking around 20 mins to reach perfection in the hot oven. Mashed veg will need to be defrosted prior to reheating. As with cooking all foods from frozen, you need to make sure the food is piping hot throughout!
Leafy veggies - Cabbage and sprouts can be blanched, shocked and kept in the fridge until you need them the next day. Some dishes like red cabbage can be completely cooked ready for reaheating - it always seems to taste better the day anyway!
Veggie dishes like cauliflower cheese or broccoli bakes with a cheese sauce don't always reheat so well from frozen (the sauce tends to become watery) so I'd recommend preparing those, keeping them in the fridge and reheating from chilled.
Pre-preparing the other accoutrements
Sauces - Both the bread and cranberry variety do really well prepared beforehand and either kept in the freezer or fridge. Kept in the freezer they can be prepared up to 3 months before your event! They can be defrosted overnight before the day they're required.
Stuffing - Uncooked stuffing can be rolled in to balls and frozen on a tray before being chucked in to a bag in the freezer. The stuffing balls can be plonked on a tray and cooked from frozen when needed.
Gravy - The gravy can be prepared well in advance and frozen too! Make sure it's thoroughly defrosted and heated through before adding the juices from your cooked meat to the gravy before serving!
Yorkshire puddings - You can cook up your yorkshires in advance and freeze them, giving them a 10 min blast in the oven before serving. Or, like me, you can resort to a well known female relative's (your mother's or father's sister...) version to save you having to...
Hopefully those tips will help make the cooking of your meal smoother and less stressful. That mountain of cooking is much more like a molehill when you can get as much ready beforehand as you possibly can! So crack open your favoured tipple and enjoy your day!
I haven't included deserts in this post but would love to hear your preparation tips and traditions! Leave a post on our Facebook page!
Have a great feast!