Foolproof Christmas dinner

Some of you may remember a very stressed blog post a couple of years ago as I struggled to make Christmas Dinner for 12 without the benefit of sleep for the previous 72 hours. It wasn’t pretty and I vowed never to put myself through that again.

I decided to create a menu this year that takes the stress out of it but retains the flavours. I’m publishing it here well in time for Christmas, and hope you don’t mind me mentioning the C word this early. This is a quick and easy menu designed to remove the slog and leave you free to snooze or party on Christmas morning, while providing your guests with all the flavours they associate with Christmas. While I have included lots of labour-saving foods on my ingredients list, there is nothing to stop you spending Christmas Eve beavering away in the kitchen, making your own bread sauce, red cabbage etc while listening to Nine Lessons and Carols on the radio.

Traditionalists may miss the glorious centrepiece that the Turkey creates in which case I suggest you root out Auntie Flo’s best cake stand and pile it high with clementines, figs, walnuts, holly and ivy, and a few sparkly bits and place it in the middle of the table instead. Instant glamour and a lot less bother!

NB This meal plan is not gluten or sugar free – it’s Christmas!

Ingredients

For 8 You will need:

Turkey ‘Croissants’
8 free range organic turkey escalopes
1 pot Waitrose Port and Cranberry sauce
1 packet Joubere bread sauce (or make your own the day before)
8 sage leaves
2 packets Unearthed prosciutto
8 organic chipolatas

Chestnut Sprouts
About 60 sprouts
1 pack Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts
1 pack Waitrose Farm Assured lardons
50g butter

Roast Potatoes and Parsnips
12 roasting potatoes sliced into small wedges
4 parsnips
100g butter

Spiced Red Cabbage
1 red cabbage
1 red onion
1 orange
1 dessert spoon soft brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
8 crushed juniper berries
1 glass mulled wine
slug of gin
olive oil and butter

Christmas Gravy
1 leek
2 tablespoons plain flour
Chicken stock
Glass of red wine or port
2 sticks celery
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves

And here’s how easy it is to do…

CHRISTMAS EVE

The beauty of this menu is that all the work happens on Christmas Eve leaving you free to relax on the big day. You can choose whether to have a Christmas Eve cook-fest or take the short cuts I’ve suggested for every step of the menu. If you happen to be a stressed out executive mum I suggest the short cuts.

So… if you are going to make your own red cabbage, cut it into wedges and run it through the food processor along with the red onion. Warm a glug of olive oil and a large knob of butter in the bottom of a heavy pan and pile the vegetables in, layering with zest and juice from the orange, plus the sugar and spices. Finally add the mulled wine and gin and cover, cooking on a gentle heat for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender and glossy. Otherwise, buy it from M&S and drink the gin yourself 🙂 Store in a cool place overnight.

Similarly you can make a delicious bread sauce by simmering 400g dried white breadcrumbs with half a very finely chopped onion, 6 cloves and a bay leaf in a pint of full cream milk until it thickens. Let it down with a slug of cream and a little butter to achieve the consistency you like. But again, if life is too short, Joubere’s bread sauce is the real thing. Refrigerate overnight.

Believe it or not you can also prepare your spuds and parsnips the day before. The secret of really crispy potatoes is to cut them small enough. Par boil potatoes and parsnips for 10 minutes and tip them out onto a heavy roasting tin in which you have already melted a generous quantity of butter or goose fat. Toss them in the fat, making sure they are completely covered. Sealed like this you can now store them in a cool place ready to put in the oven an hour before you want to eat. If this seems like too much work you can always serve Dauphinoise potatoes with this menu and M&S will be happy to oblige once more.

Get the gravy going in advance by finely chopping a leek and sweating it in butter with some crushed black or pink peppercorns. When it is soft and golden add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour, stir until it’s absorbed and then gently add your stock (or a bouillon cube and water) to make a thickened gravy. Finish by adding a glass of port red wine, the cloves and bay leaves. If you’re in the habit of transferring your gravy to the meat tin to benefit from all those burnt-on, savoury juices, you can cheat a bit here by adding a teaspoon of soy sauce which contributes that deeply salty/umame flavour that good gravy needs. If you like your gravy smooth, pass it through a sieve then store in the fridge until needed.

After peeling the sprouts, your final bit of Christmas Eve prep is to lay out the 8 turkey escalopes, place half a teaspoon of cranberry, a sage leaf and a tablespoon of bread sauce at the end of each one, season with salt and pepper and therm roll into a croissant shape. Wrap these in 2 or 3 slices of prosciutto and place in a large baking dish with the chipolatas. Cover and refrigerate.

CHRISTMAS DAY

About an hour and a quarter before you want to eat:

i.e. Lunchtime minus 75 minutes

  • Put all the cutlery, serviettes, glasses, crockery, serving spoons on the table along with Auntie Flo’s cake stand.
  • Ask the most glamorous guest to set the table – they’ll have a natural sense of style.
  • Heat the oven to 220’C.

minus 60 mins

  • Put the parsnips and potatoes into the oven to roast.
  • Cut the sprouts in half.
  • Put remaining cranberry and bread sauce into 2 dishes.

minus 50 mins

  • Turn the oven down to 190’C
  • Pour half a  glass of white wine into the turkey dish and put it in the oven.
  • Have a glass of something cold yourself, white and preferably bubbly.

minus 40 mins

  • Sweat the lardons in a large sauté pan.
  • Do anything you have to do to get ready for pudding. (You could delegate this bit.) If not, pour cream into jugs etc for later and get the pud ready to heat and serve.

minus 30 mins

  • Add the sprouts to the hot sauté pan with the butter and chestnuts. Toss and cover. Continue cooking over a medium heat.
  • Put the red cabbage into its serving dish and into the oven to warm.
  • Microwave the bread sauce so that it’s warm to serve.

minus 20 mins

  • Jiggle the sprouts and cover again
  • Jiggle the potatoes and parsnips
  • Warm the remaining bread sauce, put it on the table with the remaining cranberry.
  • Warm the gravy in the pan (and fill the jug with hot water)
  • Plates in to warm (oven, microwave or hot water in washing up bowl)

minus 5 mins

  • Check the turkey is cooked with a skewer, or meat thermometer
  • Tumble potatoes and parsnips into serving dish
  • Ditto sprouts
  • Tip hot water out of gravy jug and fill with gravy
  • Place potatoes, sprouts, gravy and cabbage on the table along with extra cranberry sauce and bread sauce.
  • Place a Turkey croissant and a chipolata onto each plate
  • Serve.

There you are. All the flavours of Christmas with only 90 well-organised minutes in the kitchen!

NB The cooking time for your turkey rolls will depend on the ultimate size of the escalopes. Make sure you think ahead to give them enough time to cook right through. You might need to put them in a little earlier.

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