The perfect Christmas dinner is about planning; not just the food, but all the other little details too.
Every 365 days you get just one shot, so you really want to make sure you get it right. The perfect Christmas dinner is not an easy thing to achieve, and it doesn't just arrive on a plate. Well, you know what I mean. It's not just the food; it's the company, the decorations, the music, the crackers...and the food. Of course, the food. The most important thing to bear in mind, though, is this: my perfect Christmas dinner is not the same as your perfect Christmas dinner. What follows is just a suggestion.
The social minefield of who to invite for Christmas dinner is probably the best place to begin, because getting this one wrong can ruin Christmas for everyone involved. (No pressure.) Tension is the thing. Human relationships often involve tension, which tends to bubble away under the surface most of the time. It only spills over on big occasions, especially where alcohol is involved. There's no point inviting your parents and his or her parents if both sets get on scarcely better than the Capulets and Montagues. You don't necessarily have to invite either set (whisper it!). If you've got friends who would otherwise be spending Christmas on their own, invite them instead; they'll love you for it, and will probably offer to wash up.
It's Christmas time, so make sure your guests know it as soon as they enter your house. They might even know it before they enter your house. Perhaps the spray snow on your windows, fairy lights on the cherry tree in your garden, and neon Santa with six reindeer and 24 ft sleigh gallivanting across your roof will give them advance warning. Either way, make sure they know it's Christmas with some seasonal decorations. Make sure your table looks the part too, with some tasteful home accessories. The 'Zurich Aubergine' tablecloth and matching napkins would be spot on.
This is another potentially divisive area. If you go shopping, or listen to commercial radio, you've probably heard Last Christmas by Wham approximately 748 times already this year. You want to play Christmas music while you eat your Christmas dinner, but you don't want to empty the room. If you and your companions are real indie-heads, try Christmas by Low, released in 1999 as a gift to their fans; it's lovely, if brief. Otherwise, go for anything Christmassy by Sinatra or Nat King Cole: Evergreen.
It's not Christmas dinner without crackers: End of story. It doesn't matter where you get them from; they're all rubbish. Still, you need them. You can get posh ones with proper things in, but the jokes are no better.
The most divisive subject of all. Turkey, goose, beef, or lamb? Stuffing, or no stuffing? Gravy or 'jus'? Just about the only constant seems to be the sprouts. We will insist on having sprouts for Christmas dinner, even if we hate sprouts and only eat them one day a year. There's a fix. You want to hear it? Ok then. Come closer...
Don't boil your sprouts. Get a frying pan on, and throw in some cubed bacon, or lardons as they are known in the trade. Finely slice your sprouts and add them to the pan with a clove of finely chopped garlic. Stir it all around until the sprouts are lightly colored in places but not burned. Throw in some flaked almonds at the last minute. Season with salt and pepper. You will never boil another sprout, and will have saved Christmas for everyone. Huzzah!Patricia runs a catering company, and has cooked Christmas dinner over the years for hundreds of clients. She is a carrot peeling expert, and is hoping to set up her cookery blog in 2014.
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