The 7-Day Plan That Will Keep You Sane When Hosting Christmas Dinner
You'll be cool as a Christmas cucumber with this holiday plan.
by Erin Henderson
Don't freak out, but Christmas is one month away.
I know what you're thinking, "I've got time." You don't. You really, really don't. We all know the prevailing North Pole winds cause a strange time warp that blows in Christmas record time.
That's why we here at The Wine Sisters are strong advocates of our time-tested, and time-proven, 1-2 Plan. The plan that has you organizing your holiday dinners as far back as 2 months out.
But seeing as you are reading this now, it means you fell for the fantasy that you actually had time, and now you're in full-blown panic mode.
Don't worry, we have a 7-Day Plan to keep you from totally losing it.
There’s a common term in cooking called mis en place, which translated from French means ‘everything in its place.’
As any good chef knows, it’s crucial to get your kitchen in order before service, otherwise, quite frankly, you’re screwed.
When we were kids we bore witness to many a harried holiday meal, where the host and hostess were more flustered than festive, leaving guests to entertain themselves in the living room while they buried themselves in the kitchen, scrambling to peel the potatoes, sweating over the stuffing, and getting into near fisticuffs when they realized they had run out of butter in the final hour.
Once we started working in restaurants, we quickly saw how the successful ones had their prep time down to a (lengthy) science (in many restaurants the kitchen staff would arrive as early as 7am to get ready for the lunch rush; dinner cooks began coming in around noon to get ready for the evening). So taking a page from the pros' books, we employ the same steadfast ritual to planning, prepping and getting things done way ahead of time.
And just like a professional kitchen, we know that many hands make light work. We divide and conquer, one of us taking care of the protein, the other taking care of the sides. Someone else may do the shopping and yet another will vacuum up the pine needles before guests arrive.
The key to a successful party is to get the heavy lifting done in the week leading up to The Feast – just doing a few simple tasks everyday means we can still have a life, and not crumble under the weight of a family-sized anxiety attack during the most wonderful time of the year.
This plan means on The Big Day all we have to do is cook off the last minute items, like the turkey. The rest is reheated, assembled, or simply served as-is, and we can have a holly-jolly Christmas, too.
One Week Out
- Get a list together. Decide on the menu and write a list of all ingredients you will need, double checking on the ones you swear you have enough of in-house. Don't forget candles, lighters, flowers, extra TP, and paper napkins.
- Also make a list of the dishes you plan on using so you don't double book grandma's antique gravy boat.
- Decide on drinks you will be serving.
- Organize music playlists.
TIP: Plan your menu with items that can be served room temperature and cold. We all know oven space is at a premium on holidays, so having many things that can be made ahead and simply brought out of the fridge or left in the root cellar, will be a huge stress off your shoulders.
6 Days Before
- Pick up your wine and alcohol. Try to do this as soon as stores open to avoid the crazy line ups. Wondering how much to get? People generally drink two glasses in the first hour, and then slow down to one drink per hour after that.
- Launder your tablecloths and linen napkins.
- Polish your silverware and glassware that's been out of use since the last major holiday you hosted.
- Set up the guest bedrooms if overnight guests are coming.
Related: Video – How to Polish Wine Glasses
5 Days Before
- Clean out your fridge and/or cold room to make room for the bountiful delights that will need to be stored somewhere.
4 Days Before
- Shopping! It's important to do this a good amount of time in advance as the traditional holiday items, like sage, fly off the shelves. Remember when we suggested to select a menu with items that can be stored for a few days without going bad? This is why.
- Thaw the turkey! Estimate one day of thawing in the fridge for ever 4-5 pounds of turkey. You may need longer or shorter depending on the weight of your bird.
- Make ahead #1: Items that can be frozen like pies, cookies, soups and re-heated or baked on the day.
3 Days Before
- Make ahead #2: Items that will last a few days in the fridge. Think dips, dressings, and sauces.
2 Days Before
- Make ahead #3: This is the final stage of your mis en place so tomorrow, all your ingredients are ready to assemble. Consult your written menu. Toast the nuts, sautée the mushrooms, chop the veg, grate the cheese, seed the pomegranate. You want all your ingredients neatly prepared, like a chef.
1 Day Before
- Assemble the sides that can be stored and tossed, baked-off, or reheated tomorrow: stuffing/dressing, casseroles, gratins, hearty salads, etc.
- Set the table. It not only knocks another thing off your to-do list, but is a beautiful site for your arriving guests tomorrow.
- Set up the bar. Bring the wines and spirits you purchased a week ago out of the basement, line up the polished wine glasses, set up the ice buckets (without the ice, of course.)
The Big Day!
Who is feeling cool, calm and collected? You, that's who!
Knocking off a chore or two everyday for the last week means you've not only made it to Christmas Day relaxed and joyful – but you actually able to throw your holiday party and have fun at it too!
Only a few small tasks to finish up today, and you are the Mother Effing Host With the Absolute Most.
- Stuff the turkey & get it in the oven (exact timing depends on size of bird).
- Tidy up the house from the morning's debris: wrapping paper, pine needles, fresh towels, and candles in the guest washroom.
- Remove your coats and boots from the hallway closet making room for guests.
1-2 hours before guests arrive
- Unwrap cheeses & assemble the cheese board at least an hour before serving to let it come up to room temp.
- Lay out veggies and dip (already prepped the day or two before), but keep assembled platter in fridge and take out 30 minutes before guests arrive.
30 min before guests arrive
- Light candles
- Turn on music
- Pour yourself a drink and relax!
À la minute
There are some thngs that obviously have to be done when guests are present, but who cares? Grab a bottle of wine and a few pals and head into the kitchen to finish up the last minute stuff:
- When turkey's done, bring it out to rest for 30 minutes or so, and put the gratins, casseroles and other serve-hot items into the hot oven to bake through.
- Make the gravy
- Dress the salad (both already assembled and made in the last few days)
While everyone's eating
Put the pies/cookies/baked goods in the oven.
And that, my well-organized friends, is Christmas Dinner. Snap.