Steps to make Christmas dinner a great success



For first-time turkey chefs, making Christmas dinner can seem a little intimidating, but planning ahead can ease the stress.


Julie Trozzi will celebrate Christmas this year for the first time in her life and she will also be cooking her first turkey. The 35-year-old Brampton, Ont., resident and her siblings were members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses until recently.

“We never celebrated Christmas because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it is a pagan celebration,” she says.

Now Trozzi is looking forward, albeit a little nervously, to be cooking a traditional Chistmas dinner for 16 in the new home she and her partner Darren Fernando recently moved to.

Heather Howe, senior test kitchen home economist at Canadian Living magazine, says most of their readers appear to follow a traditional route when it comes to Christmas.

“Many people go back to their childhood and they want to serve what their moms or grandmothers made in the past,” she says.

However, she and the other test kitchen staff endeavour to inject something new each year into the holiday for those who like something unusual.

“My family still want the traditional turkey, stuffing, homemade gravy and mashed potatoes,” Howe says.

For first-time turkey chefs, here is a Christmas countdown from Canadian Living’s new book The Complete Christmas Book (Transcontinental Books) by the editors of the magazine.

Christmas Dinner Countdown

Up to a week ahead:

  • Check that dishes, glasses, cutlery, linens and serving items are sufficient for the crowd. Make sure you have the necessary pots, pans and other equipment.

  • Leave enough time for turkey to thaw: in refrigerator, 10 hours per kilogram (five hours per pound); or covered well in cold water, two hours per kilogram (one hour per pound), changing water every hour.

Two days before:

  • Make potato and turnip dishes.

  • Make and simmer turkey stock, if desired.

One day before:

  • Prepare stuffing and sage butter for turkey.

Christmas Day:

  • Stuff turkey and roast.

Forty-five minutes before sitting down:

  • Arrange salad

  • Add peas to steamer insert; cover.

When turkey comes out of the oven:

  • Pop extra stuffing into oven.

  • Make gravy.

  • Serve salads.

Finishing touches:

  • Remove stuffing to warm bowl and cover.

  • Carve turkey.

  • Heat potato, turnip and other vegetable dishes in microwave oven.

  • Steam peas; toss with butter, salt and pepper.

Join your guests at the festive table and enjoy!