Christmas is in full swing here at The Masons Arms in Gargrave. The World Cup has been and gone, so we can get fully Christ-Messi now! Sorry, that was a terrible joke, even for me…! It’s less than one week until the big day, so we thought we’d put together our top tips for keeping your Christmas Day as stress-free as possible. Whoever gets landed with the job of cooking the dinner, has the most amount of responsibility on their shoulders, and with that, often comes a huge amount of pressure. And as we all know, the only thing that gets rid of stress is a bottle of wine in the Masons…! Just kidding, here’s our run down of all the little things you can do to make sure your Christmas Day goes without a hitch. Let’s dive in.
1. Start Early, Plan Ahead
The first and one of the most vital tips is plan ahead, and do it early! Get everything your planning on cooking written down and decide if it’s going to be too much or not enough for the amount of people you’re inviting. We’ve all had mountains of food left over which eventually finds itself in the bin, and equally, running out of pigs in blankets could be considered a sackable offence! Once you’ve decided on the menu, write each element of the meal down, and decided what you need to order for each component. There’s also plenty of elements of a Christmas Dinner that can be cooked in advance, so no more getting up at 4am to start peeling the vegetables, which brings us nicely onto our next tip!
2. Prep veg in advance
One of the easiest ways to get ahead is to get all the mundane veg prep done in advance. Depending on how many people you have coming for the big day, this could easily save you a couple of hours. Get those carrots and parsnips peeled and remove the outer leaves from the sprouts (and no, you don’t have to put a cross in the bottom like Granny used to do!). Another good tip here is to include some veg that doesn’t need cooking on the day, and would actually benefit from being cooked a day or two before. A good example is braised red cabbage. It’s a firm festive favourite, but for goodness’ sake don’t cook it on Christmas day. It needs long, slow cooking for one thing, but the flavours also get better and better if your leave it to cool in the fridge then gently reheat either in a pan, oven, or microwave on Christmas Day. Pack it full of festive flavours such as cinnamon and raisins!
3. Par cook the roasties
In a similar vein to preparing the veg in advance, you can actually peel and par cook the roasties in advance too! We’d recommend doing this the night before rather than a couple of days ahead though. Simply peel and par cook the roasties as normal, then leave to cool fully and toss in a little oil before storing in the fridge overnight. The oil will stop them going black as can sometimes happen with cooked potatoes. Then, the next day when you’re ready to roast them, simply put them in the hot oil/goose fat as you normally would, straight from the fridge!
Similar to par cooking the potatoes, you can even do this with your carrots and parsnips if you’re planning on roasting them as well. Just par boil them the night before so that they’re still firm, leave them to cool and then place in a baking tray, cover and put in the fridge. Add some herbs such as rosemary and thyme, a drizzle of honey, then just put them in the oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour on the big day.
4. Get the pigs in their blankets
This is an easy one! There’s really no reason to be wrapping these bad boys on Christmas Day. Get everyone in the house to down tools for 15 minutes and help out with this task on Christmas Eve, or earlier! In our experience, you can never have enough pigs in blankets, but they can be a pain to wrap when you’ve got a lot to do. Get them onto a baking tray, cover and put in the fridge ready for the oven. Our advice would be to use chipolatas sausages and streaky bacon here. You can even add honey and mustard 5 minutes before they’ve finished cooking, for that sweet, sticky finish which complements the meat perfectly. They only need around 30 minutes in the oven so it’s a perfect tray to put in when the turkey is resting. Another job done!
5. Keep the Turkey simple!
Okay, we know there’s plenty of recipes out there that claim to be the ‘Ultimate Roast Turkey’, or ‘Best Roast Turkey Ever!’. But honestly, who needs all that faff at home? Leave that to us at The Masons! Our final and most important tip if you want a stress-free Christmas Day (and to actually spend more time with your family than out in the kitchen on you own), is to keep the Turkey simple. By this we mean, no brining or massaging, and no stuffing with all things under the sun! Just let the wonderful flavour of the succulent meat shine through. Drizzle with a little oil and butter, put some chicken stock into the bottom of the tray, then roast! Cooking times will depend on the size and weight of the turkey so always double check this. And remember, the turkey will need at least 30 minutes to rest when it comes out of the oven, which actually gives you time to finish all the other bits now that there’s room in the oven!
And there you have it, our tips for a stress-free Christmas Dinner! This really should free up some valuable time on the big day, so much so that you might even be able to squeeze in a festive tipple down at The Masons Arms! We’re open on Christmas Day between 12pm – 2pm, so join us while that Turkey is in the oven and everything else is pretty much done ahead of time!
However you’re spending Christmas this year, we hope you have a good one, and of course we hope to see you at some point in the pub!
Thanks for reading, and Merry Christmas!
The Masons Arms Team