OK so I am sort of of the Nigella school of thought on putting in minimal effort with cooking but I am also someone who would only serve up the best of grub to visitors or on special occasions. I have a multitude of cheats secrets that over the years I have come up with. Generally I came up with them as I like to be able to socialise at a special occasion and am someone who doesn't understand why anyone does the cooking and organising if its just going to end up with them exhausted and stressed to the hilt during and afterwards.
I went to catering college when I left school and my tutor there was very much an old fashioned cook as well as a good chef and gave me a lot of pointers on how to prepare and safely store foods in advance. One of these was turkeys and over the years I have adapted how I do Christmas dinner to suit myself and now I believe the way I do it is the only way to do it if you wish to sit and relax at all on Christmas Day. Otherwise you will spend all day peeling chopping and sweating and who really enjoys their dinner after all that effort??? I know I don't.
So here are my secrets for the easiest Christmas Dinner for the designated cook.
Firstly I always buy frozen turkeys with the giblets in. I usually do this at least 3 weeks in advance and defrost it as soon as I get home. Once defrosted properly (checking for ice crystals as we all do and removing the giblets) I smother it in butter then cover the breast meat totally in oak smoked dry cure streaky bacon, season and throw it in the oven for its designated time. When its done I check the legs and breast juices run clear and rest for over an hour in the foil. Remove the bacon and put to one side and carve your bird as you would for Christmas day. I always buy foil containers with lids and lay the turkey slices in there overlapping as much as you need to.
Next I cook my sausages in bacon and stuffing as per instructions ( I usually buy fresh pork sage and onion as I like it best) and together with the bacon from the turkey I put these in a foil container too. I then use packet turkey gravy which I make up and pour into each container covering the turkey and all the trimmings. Leave it all to cool totally then put the lids on and freeze. Job done. Remove from the freezer before you go to bed on Christmas eve and by the morning it will have defrosted ready to go in the oven for Christmas lunch. You can throw it in in the containers. I usually remove the lids and cover with foil instead as the lids can go a bit soggy when defrosting.
If you leave it all to the last minute there's nothing to stop you cooking your bird on Christmas eve and putting the containers in the fridge overnight ready to put in the oven on Christmas Day.
TOP TIP : Remember to always use your foil shiniest side down towards the food as it reflects the heat and cooks things evenly.
I usually throw all the bones from the turkey in a large pan after I have carved and picked the carcass and boil them up with water, an onion (not peeled just cut in half) 2 celery sticks cut in half and 2 carrots and leave on a slow boil for 4-6 hours but now i would probably throw in the slow cooker on low for 24 hours. This makes a fantastic stock for a soup for your Christmas day starter or for any other time.
My roast potatoes I noticed other people doing this year too but this was a trick I was taught by my gran for great roast potatoes and easy to do. Par boil a pan of potatoes for 10-15 mins depending on the size of the chunks. I usually half mine so do 15mins. Drain and leave to cool for 5-10 mins with the lid on. Shake the pan slightly to fluff the edges add a few table spoons of plain flour to the pan, season with salt and pepper and shake it up again. then pour onto a baking tray covered in the oil of your choice. Pour more oil over until potatoes are covered and once completely cooled put into sealed freezer bags and lay in the freezer. One the day you can defrost and cook or cook from frozen whichever you prefer. I always add a tiny bit of extra oil to be sure before throwing in the oven for 30 mins.
TOP TIP: buy foil containers to cook everything in. Saves in washing up after dinner.
These are all real cheats ways of sprouts and all the trimmings.
I buy frozen sprouts as they are just as good, I boil for 2/3 of the allocated time and add a jar of ready prepped chestnuts for the last while. I usually do that in the morning then heat by toss in a pan with prefried streaky smoked bacon in before serving.
Cranberry sauce and bread sauce all are generally jars and packets and I buy my gravy in the tubs in the meat aisle for the table.
Bish Bash Bosh, Christmas dinner all ready to go. No dirty big roasting trays to wash up after either.
Images from google images.