It’s the most wonderful time of the year and indeed for many it’s the most important meal of the year. As a result, cooking Christmas dinner for your nearest and dearest still strikes fear into the hearts of many. I read recently that the average age for someone in the UK (and I can only assume a similar statistic applies to Ireland) to cook Christmas dinner is 34 which gives credence to people’s reticence about cooking this meal. This points to two obvious reasons for me:
- People are scared of ruining what they perceive to be the biggest meal of the year and…
- Everyone likes what they know and are slow to make changes to tradition.
Don’t be too quick to break tradition and yet don’t be too slow to find a technique or recipe that will improve the overall outcome of your meal. It’s certainly a balance but what I love most about Christmas dinner is the traditions that surround it, and each family has their own little idiosyncrasies that makes Christmas dinner so special to them and so odd to others. Embrace that, cherish that, but perhaps don’t be blind to the possibility that there’s a way or technique that will further improve that recipe to make it even more famous/infamous in your household!
I’m going to base this advice on a Christmas dinner by cooking turkey with stuffing, ham, roast potatoes, roast carrots and parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and gravy with cranberry sauce on the side. This may indeed be different to the traditions that you have at home but with so many different rituals it’s impossible to catch everyone so I’m going with what I serve on the big day. I’ll begin with my top tips to cooking “the biggest meal of the year”, by telling you first of all to calm down…
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
- Remember this is essentially a Sunday roast: This is the most important piece of stress relieving advice that I can offer you. The majority of you reading will have cooked a Sunday roast before and therefore, at least once, are familiar with roasting a piece of meat and serving it along with potatoes, vegetables of some sort, and a gravy. This in essence is the meal you will prepare on Christmas day so there’s nothing to be anxious about in that regard. Timings and details are your next battles and we will get to those later.
- Prepare as much as possible in advance (Preparation is key): As with any meal preparing as much as you can in advance lightens the stress load when it comes to cooking and allows you to enjoy the day as much as your family and friends. There are many techniques such as parboiling beforehand that will ensure that your day is as stress-free as possible.
- Ice: Ice? Ice for what? Get a bag and throw it in the freezer, it will come in for fantastic use beyond the gin and tonic. You’ll find out later.
- Timings are important (but you have a lot more of it than you think): Timing everything properly in advance will ensure that all components come together to serve everyone. The turkey (see below) requires a lot of resting, easily half the cooking time, and so this gives you plenty of time to play with once the bird is out of the oven. This time can be used to roast your potatoes, vegetables, and to give a beautiful colour to that glazed ham.
The most important meal of the year?