How to Cook a Holiday Feast without Killing Yourself
A holiday feast is essential for Christmas or New Years. As the home chef, you don’t have to kill yourself to prepare a perfect feast for your family. Remember, it’s the holiday. You should relax and enjoy it too. Here’s how.
Christmas or New Years is the time of year when you can really show off your cooking skills. It gives you the perfect opportunity to impress a captive audience expecting a feast.
For your special holiday feast, you probably plan out exactly which dishes you’ll serve. Yet inevitably, the combination of too many dishes and the pressure of being responsible for such an important meal leaves the best home cooks stressed out and too worn out to enjoy the time with loved ones.
What can you do? The key is to not just plan your dishes but also plan the timing of when to prepare each one. Also, to minimize conflicts in the oven, lean on all of the different appliances you have in your chef’s kitchen. With the right tools and a bit of planning, you’ll have multiple dishes ready at the same time with minimal Christmas stress and maximum impact.
Stop following the method of waiting for your main dish to be finished before you can add other dishes to the oven. Instead, take your various side dishes away from the oven. Look at the different appliances you have in your kitchen and plan your side dishes around them. This way, you’ll cook your side dishes in other appliances while your main dish cooks in the oven, allowing everything to cook at the same time and be fresh and warm by dinnertime.
To carry out this plan, consider which other appliances you could use for your meal, such as a convection oven, a toaster oven, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a Fusion Cooker, and of course the stove. Also, you can focus on making dessert ahead of time.
Planning: Plan out a main protein dish that you can slowly cook in the oven for your meal. Then, come up with side dishes that you can make using the different kitchen appliances you have. Also, plan out the timing of each dish and create a schedule of when to prepare each dish based on how long it needs to cook.
Preparation: If you choose, you can prepare some ingredients in advance. You could peel and cut potatoes for a mashed potato dish, and keep the raw potatoes in water until you’re ready to use them. Precut onions, celeries, mushrooms, carrots or whatever vegetables that you plan on using for the holiday feast. Otherwise, prepare each dish in time to follow your schedule. For instance, if you need to start cooking your slow cooker soup first, begin with that preparation and get it cooking before you prepare the next dish.
Action: Follow your pre-planned schedule and start each dish at the right time so everything is ready around the same time. If your slow cooker meal will take five hours to cook, start that five hours before your meal, then start your three-hour roast in the oven three hours before meal time and so on, giving some extra time for the meat to rest and to deal with a range of cooking time or problems that might arise.
Make Ahead: You’ll make your life much easier if you make desserts in advance. This way, you won’t need to worry about complicated desserts while you’re making a large meal, and you won’t have desserts fighting for oven space.
An Example of a Christmas Meal With This Plan
As my cousin and nephew are coming to visit us during Christmas, I have been secretly planning my holiday feast for the past couple weeks. I certainly don’t want to spend my entire day in the kitchen. Instead, I would love to catch up with them over a good snack, some wine (juice for the nephew), and music.
Here’s my menu.
Drink: Blueberry Cream Wine Slush
Snack: Tuna-Cucumber and Zucchini-Sausage Stackers
Soup: Seafood Mushroom Chowder
Main: Dijon & Herb Rubbed Rib Roast with Chimichurri Sauce
Sides: Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Garlic and Almonds & mashed potatoes served with sage mushrooms
Dessert: Classic Tiramisu
So I’m going to lay out my example of planning a Christmas meal this way. You can take it as a reference to plan your holiday feast. Hope that’s helpful.
The snack will be made in the afternoon right before my guests arrive in my house. Since my nephew is not a big fan of tuna, I would only make the zucchini-sausage snackers. Plus, Han enjoys it more.
The blueberry wine slush takes practically no time. So I am going to do it on demand.
My main dish is a 7-lb. roast that takes 2.5 to 3 hours in the oven. Instead of waiting for it to be done before roasting Brussels sprouts, I am going to use my Fusion Cooker as an indoor grill to grill Brussels sprouts and the rice cooker to steam my potatoes for a mashed potato dish.
The seafood mushroom chowder is going to be perfect for the weather. As I want to make sure the chowder is warm for the entire time, I am going to cook it on the stove in advance and then use my slow cooker to cook it on low in the afternoon of the gathering day. Only add the seafood 30 minutes before serving.
The tiramisu will totally happen the day before or even two days in advance so it’s already done and nicely chilled in the fridge by the time I start cooking my meal.
By planning the meal this way, I’ll be able to put all of my attention into one dish at a time for a relaxing day that really puts my love into every dish and to have plenty of time to hang out with my family. Here’s how my schedule is going to look like.
Christmas Feast Cooking Schedule
Say I want to serve dinner at 7 P.M. on Christmas Eve and assuming grocery shopping is done.
The day before, I will do some pre-prep. There’s no pressure on this day. I can totally take my time.
- Make the dry rub for my rib roast and just leave it on my kitchen counter.
- Chop onions, slice mushrooms, and halve brussels sprouts. Place them in Ziploc bags separately. Chop potatoes and cover them with water in the inner pot of my rice cooker and store the prepared ingredients in the fridge.
- Make the tiramisu and let it chill in the fridge.
On Christmas Eve:
- 2:00pm: Make the seafood chowder base on the stove in the morning and transfer it to a slow cooker to cook on low.
- 2:30pm – 4:00pm: Chill. Confirm with my guests about their arrival time. Start making the zucchini-sausage stackers 20 minutes before they arrive.
- 4:00pm: Rub the roast and start roasting it in the oven.
- 4:05pm – 5:30pm Chill.
- 5:30pm: Put the potatoes with the water in the rice cooker and switch it on to start steaming.
- 6:10pm: Make the sage mushroom on the stove.
- 6:20pm: Add seafood in the chowder in the slow cooker, and finish off the sage mushroom. Then make the mashed potatoes.
- 6:35pm: Blend the chimichurri sauce for the roast. Check the roast with a meat thermometer. If it’s done, let it rest. If not, leave in the oven for a bit more time.
- 6:40pm: Make the Brussels Sprouts in the Fusion Cooker. Everyone else can help set all prepared dishes on the table.
- 7:00pm: Merry Christmas!
You see, I’ll have plenty of time to chill and there will hardly be any stress involved with this plan. Of course, you can adapt this plan to fit the main course and side dishes of your choosing.
Christmas should be a time to relax and spend quality time with loved ones. Beat the stress that can stand in the way of your enjoyment by following this plan for a holiday feast. Cheers!
Love this! I’m hosting Christmas Eve and this is sort of my theme too. Trying not to over do it and make myself go crazy!
Those are great tips. Thanks for sharing.
I am so glad I came across your post! I was stressing big time on what,how and when to cook for my in-laws on Christmas, and this makes it so simple. THANK YOU!
Awesome. So glad that you find this post helpful. 🙂 Merry Christmas, Ashley!
This all looks delicious! I’m a planner, so I love the breakdown!
These are great tips! Love the oven tip
Those tuna and zucchini stackers look so yummy! Thankfully, I am not hosting this year so I am off the hook (at least for the main dishes):)
Haha… Enjoy your off-the-hook holiday, Joanna! 🙂
Great tips! I swear we are always waiting for the oven to get done with our main dish so we can make our side dishes. I need to utilize the other appliances more. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Melissa, glad that you found it helpful. Cheers!