It’s meant to be the most wonderful time of the year and generally, it is, but if you’re on Christmas lunch duty it can also be one of the most stressful. We’re here to hold your hand and reassure you that everything is going to be ok and that by making a few small tweaks to your festive plan of attack, you can cook an impressive Christmas meal while retaining your sanity.
Keep it simple
First things first: Set yourself up for success by planning a menu that focuses on simplicity. Now isn’t the time to be making your own turducken (although it’s, debatably, never the time) or deboning anything and then serving it with 17 different side dishes. Do one large or two smaller main proteins with a maximum of three different sides. Stick to the formula of something starchy, something green and something fresh, so you’re covering all the texture bases. If you absolutely must do more than the recommended number of dishes, try and keep them as simple as possible, such as roasted vegetables, which you can throw in the oven and forget about for a while.
When planning your menu, try to pick dishes with elements you can make before the big day. Salad dressings and roasted nuts, for example, can all be done a few days in advance, while you can cook dishes like gratins the day before and simply pop it in the oven to reheat before serving. You can peel your potatoes and keep them in water overnight, ready for cooking in the morning. Think about any desserts, too, like meringues or sauces for ice cream that you can get ticked off your list. Having fewer smaller tasks to complete on the day will make life that much easier for you.
Put your guests to work before they’ve even walked through the door. Ask them to bring items like ice, fresh bread and flowers, so you don’t need to worry about rushing out anywhere on the day. Similarly, give them an entire course to take care of, such as dessert, or put them on snack duty so you can focus on the main meal.
Think about your kitchen layout
When planning your menu, think carefully about your kitchen layout. If you have a large oven (lucky you!), you’ll be able to get away with many things roasting at the same time. But if you’re like the rest of us, chances are you’ll be dealing with a small oven with minimal roasting space. Plan tactically by having an even mix of dishes that require the stovetop and oven, so that you’re not constantly jostling things around.
Embrace room temperature
If there’s one true nugget of wisdom we can impart on you, it’s to let go of this obsession with serving everything piping hot. Yes, some things need to be hot (like roast potatoes) but other than that, most dishes are perfectly delicious served warm or at room temperature. Your roasted meat will have to rest anyway, and you can leave it for up to an hour if you need to. Yes, really. Save your oven real estate for things that do need to be served straight from the oven, such as those crispy roast potatoes or Yorkshire puddings (if that’s what’s on the menu), or give yourself breathing room to make your gravy in peace.