T minus 6 days until my Christmas guests arrive for a big roasted turkey and all the trimmings. This is only the second time ever that I will be hosting and cooking a Christmas dinner. I am very lucky to have some highly competent Christmas dinner cookers in my family (Mom, Irene, Susan and Mary I’m talkin’ about YOU!) and for most of my adulthood I have let them do the cooking while I eat spinach dip and play charades. But this year, it’s all me.
Now here’s the thing about all this: while I’m happy to do the planning, cooking and shopping for the big meal, I still want to eat spinach dip and play charades, darn it! I want to sit by the fire with a glass of champagne and some jingle bells. I do NOT want to be madly whisking lumps out of the gravy while everyone else is kissing under the mistletoe.
Enter the Ultimate Make-Ahead Turkey Dinner. Well, not the actual dinner, but the formula to create it. Reminiscent of the intense nerd-dom that is my Summer Barbeque Menu Matrix, the idea here is that everything—even the turkey, if you can believe it—is cooked before your guests arrive, so that it need only be warmed up and brought to the table when your guests are ready for dinner.
Too good to be true? Maybe a little bit. Doing it this way makes for more work in the days leading up to the big meal, yes. And you need to have your organizational wits about you, and possibly even defend your own nerd-dom from doubting family members. BUT when you are egg-nogging it at 3 p.m. on Christmas day, you will thank me. I promise.
- Baked Goat Cheese & Bacon Spinach Dip (bacon optional; serve with crackers, veggie sticks and/or tortilla chips)
- Traditional Roasted Turkey, approx 2 pounds uncooked turkey per person
- Turkey Gravy, double recipe
- Homemade Cranberry Sauce
- Cauliflower, Carrot, Parsnip Puree, double recipe
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts (bacon optional), double recipe
- Classic Sage & Onion Bread Stuffing OR Wild Rice Stuffing With Wild Mushrooms (wheat free)
- Kale Salad with Apple, Avocado, Parmesan & Honey Dijon Vinaigrette, double recipe
- Store-bought fresh bread/rolls and butter
- Cranberry Cake or Gingerbread Chocolate Chip Cake (wheat free) with freshly whipped cream
- Clementines / Mandarin oranges
5-7 days before Christmas:
- Order the turkey (about 2 pounds of uncooked meat per person).
- Take an inventory of your pantry staples and make a list of what you need to buy.
- Buy the groceries.
- Make the cake and throw it into the freezer.
3 days before Christmas:
- Make the cranberry sauce and refrigerate in a pretty serving dish.
2 days before Christmas:
- Pick up the turkey.
- Make the goat cheese/spinach dip and refrigerate in an oven-proof casserole dish.
- Prep all the vegetables: cauliflower, parsnips, carrots, onions/vegetables for the stuffing, brussels sprouts, kale.
- Make the salad dressing for the kale salad.
The day before Christmas:
- Make the stuffing and refrigerate in a large oven proof casserole dish.
- Make the Cauliflower, Carrot, Parsnip Puree, and refrigerate.
- Cook the turkey; carve into large portions and refrigerate (Yup, I’m totally serious). Use the turkey drippings to make the gravy.
- Prepare the kale salad (minus the avocado, apple and dressing, which should be added about 1/2 hour before serving) and refrigerate in a pretty salad bowl.
- Whip the cream for the cake, and throw it into the fridge (yes, you can totally whip cream in advance).
- In the morning: remove the cake from the freezer and leave on the counter to defrost.
- In the afternoon: remove the cranberry sauce from the fridge and leave it on the counter to come to room temperature. Roast the brussels sprouts and transfer to an oven-proof serving dish.
- Just before the guests arrive: bake the goat cheese spinach dip and serve with crackers and cut veg.
- Before dinner: In the oven, warm up the turkey (instructions here) and brussels sprouts, and bake the stuffing. On the stove, reheat the Cauliflower/Carrot/Parsnip Puree and then transfer to a serving dish. Add the avocado and apple to the kale salad and toss the salad with dressing. Reheat the gravy in the microwave. Transfer everything to the table.
- After dinner: serve the cake topped with whipped cream.