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Mise En Place – The Rules for Cooking the Perfect Christmas Dinner

The big day’s drawing nearer. Soon enough, you’ll have all of the joyful chaos of Christmas descending upon your house. All of the presents and the torn wrapping paper. The kids running through the house playing with their new toys.

And of course…Christmas dinner.

As wonderful as the meal always is, there’s no denying that Christmas dinner can be a pain to create. Even if you love cooking, the prospect of getting such a huge feast prepared can seem like a daunting task. And the task only gets larger when you have more people coming to the meal.

The idea of getting it all sorted is enough to give anybody chills.

For you, we have three words…

Mise En Place.

That does that mean?

It’s a French term that means “everything in its place”. And when it comes to Christmas, applying this line of thinking will ensure that you’re 100% ready for everything that the Christmas meal rush has to offer.

Simply put, you need to get prepared. And these are the rules you have to follow to make sure the Christmas meal goes off without a hitch.

Rule #1 – Pre-Make the Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce is one of those traditional Christmas meal things that we all like to have. But if you’re making it from scratch, it’s yet another task to add onto the many when you’re preparing the meal.

But here’s the great thing about cranberry sauce…

It keeps well in the fridge.

Instead of leaving it until the day of the meal, get your cranberry sauce prepared well in advance. In fact, if you use frozen cranberries, you can have the sauce a couple of months ahead of the big day.

Rule #2 – Make the Italian Wine Selections Early

You’re going to want to serve wine with the meal. And of course, you want to ensure that every guest has something that suits their tastes.

The key here is to make your choices based on each course that you’re going to serve. Typically, that means a white wine with the starter, a red with the main, and something a little sweeter or bubblier for the dessert.

Of course, this may vary depending on what you’re serving for each of the courses.

There are plenty of options on the Xtrawine website for you to peruse. But our key tip here is to plan ahead and get the wines in storage ready for the meal. And always buy a bottle or two more than you think you’ll need. You may end up using them if the night runs away with you. And even if you don’t, it just means that you have a couple of bottles of wine ready for another occasion.

Rule #3 – Create a Timetable

You’re going to be cooking all sorts of meats, veg, and desserts for Christmas dinner. And everything that you make has its own instructions. It’s not a case of popping everything in the oven and calling it a day. Some things take a lot longer to cook than others and you have to get the timings right if you’re going to have everything ready and warm at the same time.

Remember… Mise En Place.

In this case, we’d recommend creating a timetable that runs in 15 minute blocks. Create a list of everything that you need to cook and plot it onto the timetable. Add the cooking instructions for each thing so that you know, for example, to boil a pot of water ready for the vegetables.

Hang the timetable up on the fridge and keep referring to it as you cook. Get it right, and you’ll never find yourself panicking about what you need to put in the oven next.

Rule #4 – It’s Not About Shortcuts

A lot of people start looking for shortcuts to cook the meal as quickly as possible. But in the end, that just leads to things getting missed out or meals that don’t reach their full potential.

The real secret is to give the cooking as much time as it needs. Relish in it but, most importantly, don’t try to cram it all into one day.

Joe Wright, who’s a chef at a restaurant called Joseph Benjamin in Chester, England, has this rule that he lives by during Christmas:

“The key for me is to do as much cooking as possible the day before to save time on Christmas morning, such as stuffing, gravy, pigs in blankets, bread sauce. So on the day you only need to think about roasties, veg and the meat.”

Not everything needs to get cooked on the day. Prepare as much as you can beforehand and you don’t need to worry about much else on the day itself.

Rule #5 – Get Your Pots and Pans Ready

So, you’ve got the ingredients ready, the ovens preheated, and you know what you need to cook and when.

Now is not the time to discover that you’ve misplaced a couple of pans!

We recommend rifling through the cupboards a couple of weeks before the meal. Make sure that everything you need is there and that you store it so that it’s ready to go on Christmas. It’s even worth making a list of all of the utensils and apparatus that you’ll need to prepare the meal.

Check early and check often. That way, you won’t find yourself falling behind because you’re having to waste time searching for a specific pot.

It’s Time to Prepare

At the end of the day, Mise En Place is really all about being prepared. It’s about knowing what you need to do and when. And it’s also about making sure that you have everything where it needs to be so that you can just place your hand on it when it comes time to cook.

If you follow these rules, cooking Christmas dinner will be a far less stressful experience.

Just remember, a little work right now will save you a ton of panicked running around on Christmas morning.

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