We were sitting around the table the day after Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house. Dear, Sweet, Pat says, “What are Christmas plans this year?” Crickets
“Well,” said I, “I’m planning to have Christmas Dinner on Christmas day. We’re picking up Ben so he can be with family for the holiday.” Realizing this is a 7-hour drive down, an overnight stay, and a 7-hour drive back up, I’d have to get most of my pre-cook dishes done and stored before we left.
I don’t know how you do your Christmas planning, but I used to start mine in June. I’d get everything ready so on the day of Christmas dinner, all I had to do was thaw, pour, heat and eat. To understand this, you will need to picture a zombie apocalypse shelter filled with canned food (home canned so in jars) a freezer full of side dishes like breads and stuffing, containers of fudge and candy, and a todo list on a spreadsheet with times and instructions. Now Pat is talking about having the family assemble at Grandma and Grandpa’s house…so 13 people in all. OK, I just need to amend the recipes a bit. But when I thought about it, THERE WAS NO WAY I could get it all out of the oven hot at the same time!
So I started delegating guests to bring a side dish. We got Creamed Corn, Sweet Potato Casserole, Pumpkin Cheesecake, and Bundt cake. Yum! I only had to do mashed potatoes, string beans, cranberry sauce, rolls, pumpkin bread, cranberry/orange bread, the gravy*, turkey, and ham. We set the time to gather at 11 AM so we could eat at 12. We weren’t sure my middle boy was going to have to work that night so we needed to be done by about 2 PM.
Best laid plans: (AND THEY WERE GREAT PLANS!)
Do the turkey in the roaster and the ham in the crock pot! All the other heatables could be done on 2 racks in the oven. Problem Solved. Except… The ham didn’t fit into either the crock pot or the roaster. In fact, it didn’t fit into the roasting pan without having to use a foil lid instead of a regular one. It was too tall to add another shelf. Oops.
Then I started the rolls. DO NOT USE BUTTER-FLAVORED CRISCO to make bread. It doesn’t form the gluten very well so it doesn’t rise. (Note to self.) I kneaded that stuff for about 30-35 min and it never got that “roll dough” texture. This is Christmas morning, so to get the turkey into the roaster, the stuffing mixed up, and everything else figured out, I was up at 5 AM. It’s now 9:30 and I’m needing a nap! I form the rolls anyway, and they’re pathetic little teeny things. The kitchen smells marvelous, however!
Kids are supposed to arrive at 11. I’ve got time. Ding Dong…?? 10:30 and they’re here? Well, they certainly didn’t get that from my side of the family.
Oh, and BTW, the corn has to be baked for 30 min at 325. Oh, and BTW, this sweet potato casserole has to bake for 10 min at 325 (No, it’s in a glass dish and it won’t warm up the center that fast). My rolls haven’t baked yet. I’m smiling. I have 2 granddaughters helping me now! Cooking buddies! One is finishing up my gravy. One is cutting up potatoes for the mashed potatoes and I’m washing dishes to get counter space and microwaving the beans. We have the potatoes heating, the sauce is strained, and it’s time to take the ham out.
- The ham is heavy
- It has 7 cups of liquid in the roaster
- I have a bodybuilder for a son
- He expertly moves the rack with the ham out and sets the liquid waves in motion. (we can’t see this because it’s in the foil.)
- He deftly lifts the pan 4 inches and 1 -2 cups of liquid spill out on the inside of the oven door, but he gets it to the stovetop.
- The creamed corn and the sweet potato casserole go in.
My rolls have not risen. They’ve been not rising for over an hour now. My middle boy suggests we air fry them, which, since he has an air fryer, he knows how to do. We get it out of the garage and set it up and do the rolls. They are still pathetic and teeny, but now they are brown.
Wait, why aren’t my potatoes boiling? Oh. The back burner is small and I have a stock pot on it. So we move the stock pot full of water and potatoes to a front burner. They begin to boil in about 10 min. I have one of those paddle-type stand mixers where the paddle moves and the bowl is stationary. I used to have one of those with the beaters and the revolving bowl. When you add potatoes to that, the beaters break up the potatoes and everything stays in the bowl, more or less. I don’t have that mixer anymore. I thought it would have the same effect, though. We pour the potatoes and some of the water into the bowl to mash. Bad idea. Remember the exploding flour when we made gingerbread trees? Exploding potatoes with scalding water makes it a suicide mission to turn the thing off. Now, in the kitchen are my 2 oldest granddaughters, my youngest son, me, and my daughter Pat. “Look out!” and screams of fear bring MORE people into the kitchen. We get it stopped and use a potato masher to cut the potatoes into smaller chunks. There…that ought to do it. Turn it on…YIKES. It didn’t quite work. Now we’re wondering why we thought putting it into a mixer was the shortcut.
We plate the side dishes and put the decorative bowls on a card table. Pat has cut up the pumpkin bread and cranberry/orange bread onto a platter. Hubby and Pat’s husband are carving the turkey and the ham. Plastic dishes and our flatware are put out and people serve themselves buffet-style. Then I realize I haven’t put out glasses for drinks. Youngest retrieves the glasses and we have sparkling grape juice, and I have wine.
I have to write all these things down because I’ve been informed that my memories of past Christmases are totally fictional. But this was, without a doubt, one of the best Christmases ever!
*The gravy is a brown warm sauce from a French cookbook that I got for a Christmas present 40-some years ago, and it must be referred to in italics–it’s that good.