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In spite of December being a busy month of shopping, decorating, baking and cooking, we want to do it all and still produce a magnificent feast on the 25th. After all, Christmas dinner is the meal we look forward to all year long. Here are lots of options to make the traditional Christmas dinner a delicious reality.
For the centrepiece turkey, there are simple and concise cooking directions, no matter what size of bird. For the all-important accompaniments, there are at least three options each for dressings, potatoes and side dishes. All have make-ahead directions designed so you can reheat them while the bird stands before being carved. We're also sharing secrets for a tasty, smooth and perfect gravy, something that you've shared your anxiety about in the past.
With these recipes, you can pick and choose and mix and match. You'll soon see that preparing the big feast is easier than you think. So go ahead and enjoy the day by the tree, in the kitchen, then at the table.
Part 1: Turkey how-tos
Leave turkey in original package. Never thaw turkey at room temperature.
• Refrigerator: Place turkey on large tray in refrigerator. Allow 5 hours per pound (500 g) thawing time. For 25 lb (11 kg) turkey, it takes 5 days.
• Cold Water: Place turkey in large container or sink and cover completely with cold water. Allow 1 hour per pound (500 g) thawing time. Change water at least every hour.
• Remove wrappings, giblets and neck.
• Pat dry inside and out.
• For unstuffed turkey, insert 2 bay leaves in body cavity and 1 in neck cavity. Quarter 2 onions and place in both body and neck cavities. Sprinkle cavities with 1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper and generous sprinkle of fresh or dried herbs, such as savory, thyme or sage.
Page 1 of 3 -- Discover what makes great homemade gravy on page 2
• For stuffed turkey, stuff both cavities loosely with stuffing just before roasting. Never stuff turkey ahead of time. Place any remaining stuffing in greased baking dish; cover with foil and set aside in refrigerator.
• Skewer cavities shut. Tie legs together with kitchen string and tuck wings under back. Place turkey, breast side up, on rack in large shallow roasting pan. In bowl, mix together 1/4 cup (50 mL) butter, melted; 1 tbsp (15 mL) dried herb, such as savory, thyme or sage; 1 tsp (5 mL) salt; and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper. Brush over turkey. Cover loosely with foil.
• Cook according to Roasting Turkey chart in 325°F (160°C) oven, removing foil for last hour, until thermometer inserted in thickest part of thigh reads 180°F (82°C), making sure thermometer does not touch bone. Differences in shape and tenderness of birds, as well as temperature of bird when put into oven, may affect cooking times, which are only guides.
• Lift turkey onto warmed platter. Remove skewers. Tent with foil and let stand for at least 15 minutes or for up to 30 minutes before carving.
• Turkey cooks more quickly in a convection oven than a conventional one. Reduce cooking time by 25 per cent and cook at same temperature as indicated in original recipe. It's a good idea to consult the manufacturer's instructions.
• Stuffing may not have time to reach the safe temperature of 185°F (85°C) before turkey is thoroughly cooked. We recommend baking stuffing in separate dish while turkey is standing.
Secrets to perfect gravy
Perfect gravy comes from good stock and a few tricks to keep it lump-free.
• Replace 1 cup (250 mL) stock with 1 cup (250 mL) red wine. Or add a splash of bourbon or rye.
• Whisk in 2 tbsp (25 mL) jelly, such as red currant, apple or sweet red pepper.
• Stir in 2 tbsp (25 mL) minced fresh parsley.
• It is important to gradually whisk stock into pan.
• Whisk constantly with flat whisk.
• Strain gravy through fine sieve.
Page 2 of 3 -- Find delicious recipes for stuffing, plus vegetable side dishes perfect for your Christmas table on page 3
Part 2: Choose a stuffing
These stuffings make enough for a 15 lb (6.75 kg) turkey. Increase them for larger birds, even doubling for a 25 lb (11 kg) one.
Grandma Grummett's Sage and Onion Bread Stuffing
Steve Pitt uses this stuffing for his Christmas turkeys
Chorizo and Rice Stuffing
Just a touch of heat from the sausage adds zip to this colourful mixture inspired by the Frizado family of Whitby, Ont.
Cranberry Egg Bread Stuffing
Use tart apples, such as Northern Spy or Granny Smith, for this delicious, fruit-accented stuffing.
Part 3: Pick a vegetable
Choose just one or an assortment of these enticing side dishes to match the big bird.
Baked Fennel Parmesan
While we all look forward to the traditional side dishes of Christmas dinner, tender fennel under a blanket of crispy cheese adds new personality to the meal.
Creamy Carrot Purée
This brilliant orange dish adds colour to the holiday table.
Brussels sprouts are simple, tasty pleasures suitable for any occasion.
Mashed Potato Patties
Make these patties for a Christmas-dinner change.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Serve everyone's favourite holiday comfort food as is or add bread crumbs and egg and form into crisp, baked patties.
Lemon Roast Potatoes
These crispy golden brown potatoes add zest to a familiar menu.
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