Planning and managing a perfect Christmas dinner can be a true challenge. We all have too much on our hands, and yet we all want to decorate every single room in our house with festive decorations, amaze our family and friends with beautiful hand-made Christmas cards, cook the best food. It all looks so easy and simple when you see it online.
However, when it comes to hosting a Christmas get-together for family and friends, no one ever said it was easy and simple. That is why the first commandment for preparing a perfect Christmas dinner is: Write a plan!
Having a plan in written will relieve the stress and make you more efficient in the realization of what is actually a big party culminating with an over-the-top feast.
Your plan should comprise of a shopping list and a recipe list. It is wise to include a time plan for each recipe you’ll be cooking on the Christmas day. This will keep you calm and focused.
In order to draw up a shopping list you need to know two things:
- How you want to decorate your festive Christmas table
- What you want to cook
Let’s go step by step.
Perfect Christmas Table Decoration
3 weeks before Christmas
To make your Christmas dinner truly perfect, you need to decorate the table. It will contribute so much to the festive spirit. The golden rule is: keep it simple. Bear in mind that the table will be filled with plates, glasses, napkins, cutlery and food (and food can be decoration itself!), so you don’t have to over-do it.
You can arrange a very simple and effective centerpiece by filling a glass compote dish with fresh tangerines, pine boughs, and candles.
Another idea is to use Mason jars and fill them with salt (to represent snow), cranberries (or other berries, it’s all about the red color), juniper, or red and gold jingle bells. Line or group several of them at the center of the table.
Decorate the napkins on each guest’s plate with a DIY ring made with wide wired ribbon and jingle bells attached to it with hot glue. You can also add a name tag placed on a pine bough on each plate. Have your kids paint them in advance with golden paint and make sure they are well cleaned.
Once you have decided on what decoration you are going to use, make a shopping list. While you are at it, check the number of silverware elements, candles, and candlesticks and buy extra if necessary.
Perfect Christmas Dinner Menu
2 weeks before Christmas
Compose your menu and start crossing things out from your list by buying the non-perishables first.
Buy all the drinks, both booze and non-alcoholic beverages. Order the meat or buy the turkey and place it in the freezer. The advantage of buying in advance is double – you will avoid panic buying in crowded supermarkets, and obtain the products at lower prices. Another option is to order everything online and have it delivered whenever you find it appropriate, preferably the week before Christmas.
Buy and prepare everything that can be stored in the freezer until the day D. One such item is the turkey stuffing. Here are some other suggestions:
Patés are another easy and simple starter to store in the freezer.
- Christmas cake can be made months before Christmas and kept covered in the freezer. Try these recipes:
While we are at the sweets compartment, you can also make and freeze mince pies. Make, cook, freeze and reheat them before serving.
1 week before Christmas
Now is the time to buy fresh food. This is the moment when the shopping list will be of a great use to you. To make it easier for you to navigate in the supermarket, divide the list into categories: meat, vegetables, dairy, and sweets.
Take the turkey (or any other meat you plan to cook) out of the freezer, salt it and place it the fridge. Turkey does need some time to defrost well, especially if it is a big one, usually two full days.
Everything that can be done on Christmas Eve, should be done. It will take most of the pressure off the following day and leave you some time to make yourself presentable. After all, you are the host-ess and you deserve to look and feel good! Maybe you will even have time for a glass of wine before the guests arrive!
- Defrost the turkey stuffing in the morning. Before you start preparing the turkey, check the inside for ice and use a fork to see if the meat is still frozen. Rinse it, pat it dry, and stuff it.
- It is also smart to prepare the gravy before the main event. Heat in the microwave just before serving.
- Decorate and set the table ready for dinner.
- Prepare all the necessary pans, tins, dishes and glasses you will need in the kitchen for the following day.
- Put beer and wines in the fridge to cool.
- Parboil the potatoes, cool and keep them in the fridge in a covered bowl.
- Chop up the vegetables and herbs and store in the fridge.
Take out all the prepared frozen dishes from the freezer: cake, pudding, soup, and pies to start defrosting. Heat them in the microwave or in the oven before serving.
Pin your time plan for the day somewhere you’ll be able to see at all times. You don’t want to lose it now that you need it most.
If you want homemade bread on your festive table, it is best to prepare it in the morning to make sure it is fresh and soft. Keep it covered with a cloth and warm it up in the oven at a medium-low temperature before serving. Here are some great ideas for both sweet and savory bread recipes:
- Black Olive and Rosemary Bread
- Garlic Butter Breads
- Cheesy Casserole Bread
- White Chocolate Bread
- Eggnog Sweet Bread
If you are cooking а turkey, you probably know that it takes several hours to be cooked thoroughly. It will need approximately 45 minutes cooking per 1 kg meat, give or take. Make sure the turkey is well cooked before you serve it. Use a cooking thermometer or cut the meat to check the color. If it looks pink, return it to the oven for about 5 more minutes.
Although turkey is the traditional option, it is not an obligatory choice for Christmas. Here are some other delicious meat dishes you can try:
If roast meat is your centerpiece, you need to have some great sides to trim it with. Potatoes and the most common choice and they come in so many forms and sizes:
However, you don’t have to limit yourself to potatoes. Other vegetables can serve as components for great side dishes, such as:
You can also combine fresh vegetables to your taste in various salads.
No roast meat dish can go without sauces. Be wise and choose recipes that are quick and easy to make in order to save you time (if you have the ingredients at hand, of course, hence the importance of the shopping list once again). The fact that they are ready in no time does not mean they are not tasty. On the contrary. Here are some ideas that will be ready in 5 minutes from scratch.
Oh, and please, please don’t forget the perfect traditional Christmas cranberry sauce.
We already talked about desserts. They were prepared in advance and frozen, which now gives you some time to play with the beverages. Instead of simply pouring booze or juices in a glass, combine them together to create great holiday cocktail mixes:
There you have it, a perfect stress-free Christmas dinner. Happy Holidays!