Gone are the days when there are plenty of house helpers and relatives to help prepare the Christmas day meal. It is the generation of potluck parties when every family brings a dish to the annual reunion. If, however, you prefer to be the host or hostess who prepares everything from appetizer to dessert, there is a technique to make sure that you don’t look like a harassed cook by the time your guests walk through the front door. Do the preparations in segments to prepare a delectable Christmas day menu without tiring yourself. Yep, having time to glam up for the party is a must.
What do we have in this menu? This is a sample Filipino-themed menu. The main dishes are pork estufado, chicken relleno and slow-cooker morcon. The vegetable dish is sigarilyas at tinapang bangus sa gata (winged beans and smoked milkfish in coconut milk). There’s buko (coconut) and pandan jelly drink, yellow rice with fresh mussels for the carb component of the meal, and fresh fruit salad with cream cheese and whipped cream dressing for dessert.
Of course, you may always opt to go with other dishes. The point of this post is not to tell you what to cook but to show how the the work can be spread over several days so that holiday entertaining does not leave you tired and stressed.
Is this really doable? Yes, even one person alone can do all the cooking (an assistant or two to at least wash and clean up afterwards would be nice though). Some of this dishes can be cooked a few days ahead so take advantage of that.
Note that you will need a lot of space in the refrigerator to pull this through.
Note, too, how a steamer with stackable baskets is used to make sure that the hot dishes are served at the correct temperature with no risk of overcooking anything.
Three Days Before
1. Buy all the ingredients that you will need for the meat dishes.
2. Debone the chicken for the relleno and marinate (get the recipe).
3. Cook the morcon (get the recipe), cool and keep in the fridge.
Two Days Before
1. Stuff the deboned chicken and bake.
2. While the chicken bakes, cook the pork estufado (get the recipe). For convenience, use a cookware that can go from the stove to the fridge to the steamer to the dinner table.
3. Cool the chicken, wrap in two layers of foil brushed with a little oil and keep in the fridge.
4. Cool the pork estufado and keep in the fridge.
One Day Before
In the morning
1. Buy the ingredients for the vegetable, rice, drink and dessert dishes.
2. Shred the coconut meat. Put in a large bowl and pour in the coconut water. Cover tightly and keep in the fridge.
3. Soak the mussels in the fridge overnight (see tips).
In the afternoon
1. Cook the rice, cool and keep in the fridge.
2. While the rice cooks, prepare the gelatin for the buko pandan drink. Allow to set, cut into squares and keep in a covered container in the fridge.
On the Day of the Party
Four Hours Before
Make the fresh fruit salad. Cover and keep in the fridge.
Three Hours Before
1. Take the pork estufado out of the fridge.
2. Unwrap the chicken relleno and slice. Transfer to a covered serving platter.
3. Lift the morcon out of the sauce. Slice the morcon and arrange on a heat-proof serving platter.
Two Hours Before
1. Cook the yellow rice with fresh mussels and transfer to a heat-proof serving platter.
2. Cook the sigarilyas at tinapang bangus sa gata and transfer to a heat-proof shallow serving bowl.
3. Mix the buko pandan drink in a punch bowl. Cover and keep in the fridge.
4. Prepare the steamer with four stackable baskets.
One Hour Before
1. Set the table.
2. Take a shower. Put on your party dress and the bling. Relax.
15 Minutes Before
1. Boil water in the steamer. Set the heat to low so that the water is barely simmering.
2. Place the pork estufado in the bottom basket and start reheating (steaming prevents scorching).
10 Minutes Before
Place the sliced morcon in the second steamer basket. Pour the sauce over the meat. Place the basket on top of the one with the estufado.
5 Minutes Before
1. Take the platter of rice and mussels and place in the third steamer basket. Set the basket on top of the one with the morcon.
2. Take the fourth steamer basket and place the bowl of sigarilyas at tinapang bangus sa gata in it. Place the basket on top of the one with the rice and mussels.
3. Add ice to the buko pandan drink.
After Your Guests Have Arrived
1. Place the punch bowl and cups on the table.
2. Take the hot dishes out of the steamer and transfer to the table.
3. Remove the cover of the platter with the chicken relleno and arrange on the table.
4. Announce that the meal is served and invite everyone to sit down and enjoy.
5. When everyone is done with the savory dishes, take the fresh fruit salad out of the fridge and place on the dinner table.
6. Offer coffee or tea.