Cook an Old Fashioned Christmas Dinner
Edited by Nerissa Avisado, Eng, Lynn
There is nothing like an old fashioned Christmas dinner to warm the hearts and whet the appetites of people on Christmas Day.
Most people are busy throughout the year, rushing to and fro, eating meals on the go, and being content with whatever is easy to cook. Christmas, however, is an entirely different matter because this is the time of year when people can sit down to a dinner that is more than just good food. An old fashioned Christmas dinner serves to remind people of past holidays, of families getting together, and Christmas dinner recipes that are shared sometimes across generations. If you want to create a totally old fashioned Christmas dinner this year, read on for some recipes that will help you set the stage for a wonderful celebration.
Traditional Christmas Meals All Over the World
Christmas dinner is a traditional meal that keeps cooks busy throughout the world. They are all working to create a meal everyone has been looking forward to for the whole year. More than that, it is a meal family members will look back on in the years to come.
- 1In the United States, the celebratory Christmas dinner is usually eaten on the evening of the 24th.Many families will sit down to a festive meal, and then send children off to bed so that Santa can come and fill their stockings. Much of the traditional American menu is adopted from the British, but possibly because Thanksgiving with its traditional turkey would have been quite recent, many families opt to have ham on December 25.2In the United Kingdom, where this meal is eaten at mid-day or early afternoon on the 25th, most tables will have turkey or goose or some other poultry as centerpiece.The majestic roasted poultry will be served in all its golden glory, accompanied by a nutty stuffing, cranberry sauce, roasted root vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and generous lashings of gravy. To cap the meal, there will be a truly rich plum pudding, set aflame with brandy. Although all these make up a really full feast, some cooks will make pigs in blankets, tiny sausages wrapped in bacon, as a side dish, and there is simply no refusing these tasty bits.
Each part of the world has its own version of the old fashioned Christmas dinner, but all these versions will have one thing in common - they keep alive the bonds that families create as they sit down to a familiar meal prepared with love and generosity.
A Menu as Old Fashioned as it Gets
All families have their own treasured Christmas dinner recipes, and these recipes will bestow their own unique touch on traditional dishes. One family may like to do their stuffing with hot Italian sausage instead of what everyone is familiar with, and another family may like to season their turkey with a little cayenne. There are, however, some very basic items that will be present in any Christmas dinner. Here is a traditional menu that generations of families have sat down to share on Christmas day.
Roast turkey with Sage and Onion Stuffing
Pigs in a Blanket
Roast Potatoes and Parsnips
Buttered Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts
These dishes have been around for the longest time; and most of them have become traditional fare in Australia, as well as South Africa.
Turkey the Way Grandma Made It
Turkey is always a challenge to cook. For one thing, it is difficult enough to make sure that such a huge piece of poultry is going to be golden brown on the outside, and moist yet cooked through on the inside. To make this task even more complex, people usually roast a whole turkey only once or twice a year – hardly enough practice to develop expertise.
Here are some tips to help you come up with the perfect turkey this Christmas.
- 1Thaw your bird slowly and thoroughly.
2At least 24 hours before roasting the bird, season it generously to make the meat absorb the flavors you want it to have.If the bird is fully defrosted two days before you roast it, so much the better.
- To do this, make sure you thaw it first in the refrigerator so that it defrosts gradually, without oozing out its juices.
- If you have a large bird because you have a lot of people coming over for dinner, you may need as many as four days to thaw your bird properly.
3Before you roast it, take it out of the refrigerator and let it sit in the kitchen till it comes to room temperature.This will help the turkey roast more evenly, and help guarantee the inside is cooked.4Invest in the best meat thermometer you can afford.Get one that you can plunge easily into the thickest part of the turkey knowing it will do its job. There are digital thermometers on the market now, and these allow you to monitor the internal temperature of the turkey without opening the oven door.5Most cooks will agree that roasting your turkey at 375 to 425 degrees will give you a perfectly roasted bird.If you have been cooking your turkey at a higher temperature, you might get beautiful golden skin but alarmingly pink meat. Lower than this, your bird take too long to cook; it will be dry and a little tough.6Do not overcook your turkey.As a rule, an unstuffed, 10-18 pound turkey will need 3 to 3 ½ hours to cook while a stuffed turkey weighing the same will take 3 ¾ to 4 ½ hours to cook. Take a good look at the instructions that come with the turkey and follow them.7Lift the turkey off the tray by putting it on a rack when you roast it.Allowing air to circulate while it cooks will improve your chances of getting evenly brown, crispy skin.8Do not over baste your turkey.You will not get crispier skin by doing this. Instead, you’ll get limp soggy skin for all your efforts and the turkey will take longer to cook because the oven loses heat each time you open it.9Allow your bird to rest for a few minutes before carving it.Cutting into the meat directly after the bird is removed from the oven will make the juices run off the turkey and down the platter.
- You can rub it thoroughly with salt, pepper, and whatever herbs you want to use.
- Do this inside, outside, and under the skin of the turkey.
A Simple Turkey Recipe
Here is a simple, tasty turkey for you old fashioned Christmas dinner. You will need:
- 1 whole turkey (about 18 pounds)
- 2 cups salt
- ½ cup butter melted
- 2 large onions, peeled and minced (any kind)
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced fine
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 1 cup dry white wine (good enough to drink)
- 1Rub the turkey with the regular salt thoroughly, and place in a large stock pot.Cover the turkey with cold water and leave in the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours.2Preheat oven.
3Lay the turkey breast side down on a rack at least 2 inches away from the bottom of the pan.After 2 hours, turn the turkey so it is breast side up, brush with the remaining butter and roast for 1 ½ to 2 hours more.4When the thermometer placed at the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees F, your turkey is done.Remove from the oven and let rest for half an hour before carving.
- Rinse the turkey thoroughly, and brush with half of the melted butter.
- Divide the vegetables and stuff the cavity with half. Insert the thyme and bayleaf in the cavity as well.
- Scatter the other half of the vegetables around the pan and cover with the white wine.
Of course, you need the gravy!
You will need:
- ½ cup butter
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups pan drippings (or see options below the recipe)
- 1Drain pan drippings and strain through a fine sieve.Let sit and remove any fat from the top of the drippings.2Measure liquid until you have 4 cups.If you don’t have enough drippings, use chicken stock.3Melt butter in a medium saucepan, and add flour.Whisk thoroughly over medium-low heat till well incorporated.4Slowly add the liquid while stirring to dissolve any lumps.Continue cooking till slightly thickened. This should take about 5 minutes.5When the gravy is starting to thicken, taste and correct seasoning.Do not let it thicken completely. Turn off the fire and keep away from heat. Reheat gravy just before using.
Sage and Onion Stuffing to Complement the Turkey
For the traditional sage and onion stuffing you will need:
- 10 cups of white bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 pound yellow onions, diced fine
- 4 large stalks celery, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage leaves
- Leaves from 4 stalks thyme
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 2 cups turkey, chicken, or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 1Preheat oven to 225 degrees F.Spread bread cubes on a large baking sheet and bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours. Stir every 20 minutes or so. Continue baking until crisp.2Melt butter in a skillet and add onions, celery, garlic and cook until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes).3Beat eggs with salt, pepper, and stock.Fold together baked bread cubes, onions, and celery. Quickly stir in the egg-broth mixture.4Spread the mixture in a baking dish (about 3 quarts), and drizzle with the melted butter over the mixture.Bake covered in preheated oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees F. Finish baking uncovered for 15 minutes or until top is pleasantly browned.
Always, a Sweet, Sweet Ending
A British Christmas dinner is at its most traditional when it ends with a Plum Pudding.
This dessert is truly the heartiest, the richest, and the most intensely flavored of all desserts, and it is as dramatic as Cherries Jubilee. If you are determined to go the extra mile for an old fashioned dinner, here is a recipe for you.
Plum pudding should be made at least 2 weeks before the big day. Some people will actually prepare this months and months ahead of Christmas.
You will need:
- 1 oz/25 g chopped mixed candied peel
- 1 large cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- Zest and juice of 1 large orange
- 1/3 cup brandy, plus a little extra for soaking at the end
- 2 oz/55 g self-raising flour, sifted
- 1 level tsp ground mixed spice
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 oz/110 g shredded beef suet
- 4 oz/110g soft, dark brown sugar
- 4 oz/110 g white fresh bread crumbs
- 1 oz/25 g whole shelled almonds, roughly chopped
- 2 large, fresh eggs
- 1Lightly butter a pudding pan (2 ½ pints).2Mix all dried fruits, candied peel, apple, orange juice, and brandy into a bowl.Let stand overnight.3In a large bowl, stir together and mix the flour and spices well.Add suet, zest, sugar, bread crumbs, and nuts. Add the soaked fruits and mix well.4Beat the eggs lightly and quickly stir into the mixed batter.You should get a rather soft consistency.5Spoon into greased pan or basin, gently pressing down to make sure the mixture settles in.6Cover with parchment paper, then aluminum foil.Tie with a string, and steam for 7-8 hours.7Remove from steamer, remove paper and sprinkle with brandy.Repack, and store in a cool dry place till Christmas day. Steam for 15-30 minutes before serving.8
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