Prepare a Make Ahead Christmas Feast
Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Lynn, Eng
One of the most stressful things about preparing a Christmas feast is the pressure of having so many things to do at the same time - just when guests are supposed to arrive. These last-minute chores sometimes make it nearly impossible for a hostess to pretty herself up and relax before the doorbell starts ringing. If you have found yourself in this situation in the past, and you dread going through it again, read on for a few ideas and recipes that can help you prepare a make ahead Christmas feast and still allow you to have time for yourself.
- 1 Getting Organized
- 2 A Make Ahead Menu
- 3 Glazed Ham
- 4 Aunt Angie's Hot Shrimps
- 5 Cheesy Potato Scallops
- 6 When you're in a rush, start with dessert!
- 7 Tips, Tricks and Warnings
- 8 Comments
Being systematic and organized is the secret to getting things done ahead of time. There are a lot of things you can do days before your big dinner.
- 1Include a trip to the hairdresser sometime before everything goes crazy, and finalizing the number of people you have to cook for. Many a cooking schedule has gotten derailed because the cook had to call someone to find out how many people are coming, so get all the calls out of the way.Map out a two week schedule for all the chores you need to get done.
- 2Make a menu and list all the things you need to cook it. Find out which ingredients you already have in your own pantry, and list the items you need to buy. While you are at it, decide on your shopping route and how many trips you need to make.Make a menu and a corresponding shopping list.
- 3Buy your pantry items and non-perishables first, and map out your schedule for getting the perishables two days before the party. You can actually buy the non-perishables a week before - or even earlier.Classify the supplies according to kind and when they can be bought.
A Make Ahead Menu
Here is a classic Christmas menu with Christmas dinner recipes that translate it into a make-ahead feast. You won't believe how these traditional dishes can be done way before Christmas day.
Glazed Pineapple Ham
Aunt Angel's Hot Shrimps
Cheesy Potato Scallops
Aunt Sophie's Fruitcake
For many American families, ham rather than turkey has become the traditional centerpiece Christmas dish. This is probably due to the fact that Thanksgiving dinner with its roast turkey would have been barely a month ago.
The best thing about ham as a main dish is that you can serve it hot, cold, or at room temperature. You also buy it already cooked (no need to worry about whether it is properly done or still oozing horrid pink juices), and you can even get it pre-sliced. The syrup or glaze you make to baste it with is strictly your own add-on. Most hams today come with their own syrup which you can use as is, or incorporate into the one you make. Here is a make ahead, "semi homemade" ham recipe to serve more than 15 people on your Christmas dinner.
- 1Whole cloves
- 1Combine ingredients 2-13 over low-medium heat until mixture bubbles.
- 2Score ham with shallow diagonal cuts to make an even, diamond pattern. Stud with whole cloves. (You may need to poke holes to make space for the cloves without breaking them.)Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- 3Brush with glaze and bake for 30 minutes.Insert a meat thermometer, without allowing it to touch bone.
- 4Brush with glaze after the first half hour and bake for another 30 minutes, then brush with glaze again.
- 5Bake for a final half hour or until meat thermometer reads 140 degrees F.
Cover loosely with a tent foil. You can keep this in the refrigerator for a week, bring it to room temperature by placing it in a warm part of the kitchen, then heat it in a very hot over for 15 minutes just before serving.
Aunt Angie's Hot Shrimps
- 2 1/2 pounds large wild-caught shrimp with shells
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup minced garlic
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Grated juice of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon each of minced fresh parsley and minced chives
- Salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce
- 1Peel shrimp, removing the black vein, but leaving tails intact.
- 2When butter is melted and oil is hot, add shrimp.Combine oil, and garlic over medium heat.
- 3When the shrimp starts to turn pink, add the hot sauce, and cook for a minute more.Turn shrimp frequently.
- 4Add white wine, and increase temperature.Remove shrimp from pan but keep the garlic-oil-butter-hot sauce mixture in the pan.
- 5Toss in parsley and chives, grate pepper over the sauce, season with salt to taste.Add lemon zest, and cook till bubbly.
- 6To serve, ring everything to room temperature. Heat the sauce in a pan, pour over the shrimp, and reheat everything in microwave for 1 minute. (Cover with wet paper towel when heating in microwave.)Cool completely, and store sauce and shrimp in separate containers.
Cheesy Potato Scallops
This is another hearty, make ahead item that your guests will surely love. You can substitute low-fat cream and cheese if you want to scrimp a bit on calories.
- 8 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8" slices
- Salt and white pepper
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or any other sharp cheese)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 1Cook over low-medium heat just until it boils. Turn off heat immediately.Combine cream, mustard, garlic, butter, in heavy saucepan.
- 2Drizzle a little of the cream mixture and sprinkle some chives over each layer.Put potatoes in layers in a 9X13 inch baking dish, seasoning each layer with salt and white pepper.
- 3When you have finished layering all the potatoes, pour remaining cream sauce over the top.
- 4Remove cover and top with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, and then remove from heat.Cover and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
- 5Cool the scallop potatoes completely while uncovered.
- Cover the top with two layers of paper towel before putting lid back to prevent condensation from falling into the potatoes.
- Refrigerate when totally cold.
- 6Bring to room temperature and bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes, an hour or so before serving.
When you're in a rush, start with dessert!
One of the nicest things about Christmas is that it is the season to be jolly and serve fruitcake, and the wonderful thing about fruitcake is that you can make it way ahead of time. Here is a recipe you can try this Christmas. Now, not everyone likes fruitcake but the chocolate added to this recipe just might make people change their minds.
Aunt Sophie's Chocolate Fruitcake
- 200 g butter
- 200 g brown soft sugar
- 100 g dark chocolate, chopped
- 75 ml brandy or rum
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 250 g raisins
- 250 g currants
- 100 g dried cranberries
- 100 g dried sour cherries
- 100 g mixed peel
- 250 g dried pineapple
- 250 g chopped dates
- 200 g self-raising flour
- 100 g ground almonds
- ½ tsp. strong instant coffee
- 3 tbsp. cocoa
- 1 tsp. mixed spice
- 3 eggs, beaten with a fork
- 1/2 cup Maraschino cherries (for garnish)
- Pecans (for garnish)
- 1Line a 20 cm round cake tin with a layer of baker's paper and a layer of parchment paper. Wrap three layers of newspaper outside the pan and tie with kitchen string.Preheat oven to 150 degrees C/230 degrees F.
- 2Place butter in saucepan and heat gently until melted.
- Add sugar, chocolate, brandy or rum, vanilla, and dried fruits (except cherries).
- Stir gently over low heat, until everything is well mixed.
- Remove from fire and cool in saucepan.
- 3Stir eggs into the mixture in the saucepan. Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated.Mix flour, almonds, coffee, cocoa and spice together.
- 4Carefully ladle enough of the mixture to set your cherries and nuts, and then scrape off the rest into your tin.Prepare tin by positioning walnuts and cherries at the bottom of the pan.
- 5Bake the fruitcake for a total of 2 hours, but check with a skewer after 1 ½ hours. If the skewer comes out clean, it is done.Place a pan full of hot water at the bottom rack, and place the tin in the middle rack.
- 6It will keep for 2 months in this airtight container at room temperature, and in the refrigerator for even longer.Sprinkle lightly with brandy, and store in an airtight container.
Tips, Tricks and Warnings
- Prepare at least two cheese and fruit plates to make your table even more festive and to provide respite from the rich foods.
- Put mixed nuts in a narrow mouthed wineglass and scatter these all around the areas where guests will be sitting or talking. The shape of the container means people will be pouring the nuts into their hands instead of picking them with their fingers.
- Don't feel guilty about buying some sweet and savory tidbits from your favorite pastry shop. Go ahead and pick up three or four kinds of finger foods, just to add color and variety to your table.
- Relax! Remember that the food and the décor are 50 percent of what makes a truly smashing party. The other 50 percent is really all about enjoying the company of friends and family on this special day.
If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.