Christmas day at our house.
We are already into the second week of January. I really need to recap my Christmas tips and tricks so that I don’t forget and have to re-invent the wheel next year. Do you ever do that? You finally get something right. Everything falls into place. Ahhhhh! Except, you forget to make notes in your recipe book or journal, if you keep one, and find yourself no wiser in the future.
We had Christmas dinner at our house this year. We have a medium sized family, not too small or too large but we never know how many will be arriving for Christmas dinner. For some years now, we have gone back and forth between my sister in laws and our home. This year, it was at our house.
Here are some of my best tips from this year for feeding my family on Christmas Day and a crowd of 10+ for Christmas dinner. These are not ground breaking recipes, by any means. They are easy comfort foods that are familiar and traditional. I’ve always loved tradition at Christmas from our vintage ornaments to the food we cook. It helps to keep me calm and that makes everyone happy.
Breakfast - This may be very tacky but my whole family loves the Christmas Morning Wife Saver recipe from the Best of Bridge. I’ve made it too many times to count. I have another “feed a crowd” breakfast that I will pop on here. Gosh, I haven’t made it for ages and it is really delicious too!
Morning Wife Saver
16 slices of white bread with crusts removed
slices of Canadian back bacon or ham
slices of sharp/old cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup minced onion
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 - 2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
3 cups whole milk
dash of tabasco
1/4 lb. of butter
crushed cornflakes or Special K cereal
In a 9” x 13” buttered glass baking dish, put 8 pieces of bread. Add pieces to cover dish entirely. Cover bread with slices of back bacon, sliced thin. Lay slices of cheddar cheese on top of bacon and then cover with slices of bread to make it like a sandwich. In a bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper. To the egg mixture add dry mustard, onion, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, milk and tabasco. Pour over the sandwiches, cover and let stand in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, melt 1/4 lb. butter, pour over top. Cover with special K or crushed corn flakes. Bake, uncovered, 1 hour at 350 degrees. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh fruit and mimosas!
Turkey - I am sure some of you will cringe when I say that I used a pre-stuffed Butterball turkey that you cook from frozen. I also purchased the Butterball frozen stuffing so that we had loads of stuffing (probably not needed). I always find the wrestling with the turkey and the making of the stuffing in the morning quite challenging and messy and very time consuming. Years ago someone told me about the pre-stuffed, cooked from frozen Butterball and my life changed. I still do make my own stuffing and get a fresh organic turkey when time is not as crucial as Christmas, but when you are stretched for time, sanity is more important.
Gravy - I made a batch of gravy on the 24th (just a butter, flour and stock sauce…and a glug of red wine) and so on Christmas day I was able to take the turkey drippings and make another batch of gravy (a roux with the dripping and stock…I use beef because of the robust flavour) and put the two together. My family goes through a lot of gravy and I’m always worried I might run out as the turkey itself only can provide so much gravy making juice. Doing the make ahead and putting the two together was a life saver.
Potatoes - This is another area where it is a dead simple dish but doing it at the last minute is simply a pain in the neck. Also, the peeling is so time consuming. The recipe I found on line uses baked potatoes, so no peeling, and it is made the day before and heated in the microwave. This worked like magic and really cut down on that last minute nonsense. (at 63, I have NEVER done this before and it was amazing!)
I found this recipe on line at www.onceuponachef.com - with Jenn Segal ** Loads of other great recipes too on her site.
Creamy Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Servings: 8 (easy to increase by a few potatoes and liquid to serve more guests)
3 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cups heavy cream
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons slat
Chives, for garnish and serving (haha…I forgot mine)
Preheat the oven to 450F and adjust rack to middle position. Place the potatoes directly on the oven rack and bake until very soft, 50-60 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. (Err on the side of overcooking rather than undercooking them.)
While the potatoes are still hot, cut each potato in half and scoop out all of the flesh from each potato half into the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. The flesh near the skin gets a little tough, so be sure to leave it behind. Break the cooked potato flesh down into small pieces using a potato masher. Beat on low speed until completely smooth and no lumps remain, 1 to 2 minutes, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as needed.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream and 6 tablespoons of the butter to a simmer. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and using a large rubber spatula, gradually fold in the hot cream and butter mixture. It will take a few minutes to mix it all in; keep folding until the potatoes are smooth and creamy. Stir in the salt and taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a large microwave-safe bowl and cover tightly. Refrigerate for up to 2 days (do no freeze).
To reheat, microwave at medium-high (75 percent power) until the potatoes are hot, about 14-15 minutes, stirring halfway through the reheating time. Transfer to serving dish or dishes and top with a pat of butter and chives!
Trifle - For ten people, trifle is a perfect finish to Christmas dinner. It is a very traditional dessert in our family and this version is my favourite from Mary Berry’s cookbook, Mary Berry at Home. Also, I made this ahead of time on the 24th and topped it with whipped cream and toasted almonds in the day on the 25th.
Mary Berry Victorian Trifle Recipe
For the custard
3 egg yolks
1 oz. cornflour (cornstarch)
2 oz. castor sugar (fine berry sugar)
600 ml (1 pint) milk
300 ml (10 fl. oz.) single cream
For the Filling
16 trifle sponges (I used a store bought two layer sponge cake that fit perfectly in my trifle dish)
2 store bought macaroons or 20 ratafias (I used about one dozen crumbled amaretti biscuits)
1 tin pear halves in natural juice or light syrup
250 ml (8 fl. oz.) medium-dry sherry
175 g (6 ox.) red seedless grapes, halved
150 ml (5 fl. oz.) whipping cream or more if liked
50 g (2 oz.) flaked almonds, toasted
You will need a shallow 2.25 litre (4 pint) glass bowl
Put the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar into a large bowl and stir together with a whisk. Heat the milk and cream together in a pan until hot but not boiling. Gradually whisk into the yolks, then return the mixture to the pan. Stir over a high heat until the mixture just comes to the boil and the custard thickens. Take off the heat, cover and allow to cool.
Split the sponges and spread generously with strawberry jam. Sandwich together and arrange in the base of the dish, close together, cutting to fit if necessary. Crumble the macaroons or ratafias over the top. Combine 150 ml (5 fl oz) of pear juice drained from the tin with the sherry and sprinkle over the sponge and crumbled biscuits. Level the surface by pressing down with a spoon.
Drain the pears, discarding the remaining juice. Cut each half in 3 lengthways and arrange over the sponges (I might cut them a little smaller for easier serving next time). Scatter the grapes on top. Spread the custard over the fruit. Cover and leave until cold before transferring to the fridge to chill and set.
Beat the whipping cream until just stiff enough to hold a soft, floppy shape. Gently spread over the surface of the set custard and scatter with the almonds. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
To prepare ahead: The trifle can be covered with clingfilm (eco friendly tip - I used a beeswax wrap instead of plastic) and kept in the fridge for up to 2 days before serving
And after it all, two nights later, enjoying an anniversary drink at our favourite little restaurant, Little Jumbo. That is my French 75 and it was splendid! Happy New Year to all xx