A joke is a joke, but for a hostess Christmas is probably the most difficult time – as it is necessary to prepare 12 fasting meals and besides that some nonfasting, tasty and various feast meals for the next day `what if someone comes… so that we won’t be ashamed…` Of course, we don’t speak about madness literally, though who of us while preparing for a feast never lost the temper because `the husband wasn’t helpful` and the children `were hanging around`. And someone choses the role `Everything by myself, everything alone` worring for household so when it’s time for the party instead of enjoying it she is jawning by the pretty layed table (as an illustration see the famous Bidstrup’s picture)…
Come to think of it, a household like many other areas is governed by a principle, known as Iron Traingle: `Fast, good or cheap. You may pick two.` If you want delicious and budget-friendly meals, it is possible to prepare them though it usually takes a lot of time standing by a cooker. If you have an unlimited budget, you may order delicious Christmas meals from numerous caterers. But it will cost you, of couse.
So what’s the way out? The answer is planning and planning again. Let’s consider an average family menu for traditional Christmas Eve – borshch with vushka, varenyky and fasting holubtsi with mushrooms gravy, Vinaigrette salad to stuffed carp or pike and marinated herring, bread, pampukhy, uzvar and, of couse, kutia; and for Christmas itself – chicken or turkey broth with homemade noodles, sausage and ham, liver pâte, kholodets, burachky, homemade ketchup, several salads like Olivier, `herring under furcoat`, cheese salad, mushrooms salad, roast pork with risotto as a main course, some desserts like cheesecake, apple mille feuille, poppy and walnuts cake, waffles – these are minimum 🙂
First you may consider the recipes from the list as some steps. Let’s say borshch can be cooked in 4 steps – preparation (to soak dried wild mushrooms and beans, to boil the beetroots), then there is the step of stewed onion andcarrots, then the step of boiled vegetables (beans, potatoes, cabbage) and finally – the step of seasoning with prepared beetroots and spices etc.
No doubt if it were possible to serve fresh borshch, that would be great and 100% healthy. But in the busy time before Christmas that mission is supposed to be impossible. From the other hand our common sense advises doing some steps long before and freezing that undercooked stuff. Some meals can be prepared the day before, and some part is to be done on that day. Let’s make a chart with green colour of advance preparation, yellow one of the previous day preparation and red colour of the very day preparation:
|Borshch||dried wild mushrooms and beans (soak), beetroots||carrots, onion||potatoes, beans (boil)||season|
|Varenyky||potato, filling||dough||pinch, cook||onion, dress|
|Gravy||dried wild mushrooms||onion||stew|
|Carp or pike||separate skin, fillet and bones with scales||broth, filling||cook|
|Vinaigrette salad||beans||beetroots||potato, carrots||pickled cucumbers, sauerkraut, onion|
|Kutia||soak wheat berries||boil||poppy seeds||walnuts|
|Olivier||carrots, eggs, chicken||mayonnaise||onion, mix|
|Cheeze salad||eggs||mayonnaise||grate, mix|
|Herring under furcoat||beetroots||carrots, potato, eggs||mayonnaise||grate, arrange|
|Mille feuille||dough||bake||apples, cream||assemble|
As you can see the steps coloured red – `urgent, immediate`- make about the third of all that exhausting stuff. Another third should be done the day before and the last coloured green you might do in advance, even quite long before Christmas 🙂
So let’s start from long advanced processes:
|For example, after coming home from work one evening, you can prepare fish for stuffing: clean, gut and fillet. Freeze separately 1) the skin, 2) the fillet and 3) everything for the fish broth. What is left is nothing comparing the preparatory step. Another helpful thing is to prepare sourdough, it is kept in the fridge as long as you wish.|
|The other day you can prepare dried wild mushrooms for the borshch, gravy and vushka: you need to soak some mashrooms in the morning, cook them in the evening and freeze separately the drained mushrooms and the mushroom broth (portionally in disposable cups). Some of it you may add to the borshch – a perfect natural flavor!, and some of the broth will be added while cooking the gravy, even without defrosting.|
|Once cooking soup for your family beforehand, you can stew twice amount of carrots and onion, the odds can be frozen for the borshch. You may soak in advance some beans for the borshch and Vinaigrette salad, then peel those for the borshch and cook for the salad and freeze. You might even peel and freeze the vegetables for kholodets and the chicken broth – that will save you a little time later.|
|You may spend some spare time long before Christmas for homemade noodles – make the dough, cut it and freeze. And then on the 24th of December or 6th of January you can place them unfrosted in the boiling water and cook. The same way you prepare the yeast dough for pampukhy (it is to be unfrosted though), chocolate dough for the cheesecake and shortbread dough for the mille feuille.|
|While preparing the holubtsi – not for Christmas Eve, but beforehand – you may feel comfortable to separate more cabbage leaves than you need, cut away the thick center stem from each leaf and keep spare small ones frozen untill the 23th of December/5th of January.|
|A week before Christmas you may cook some beetroots for the borshch, Vinaigrette salad, `herring under fur coat`and burachky. Then peel, grate or dice and freeze separately, prepare burachky, place into a jar and keep it in a fridge – this starter would be good for at least a couple of weeks. Meanwhile you tick off the items on your list – for the borshch (finally you just add unfrosted beetroots), the Vinaigrette salad and `furcoat`will be prepared much easier and burachky are ready!|
|Like burachky, you can make ketchup beforehand, marinate the herring, and spread the filling on the waffles. Let’s say spend for those recipes the evenings of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of December/the 3rd, 4th and 5 th of January accordingly. About that time you may marinate the meat, 3 days before you are going to smoke it (if you are smoking meat 20-21st of December/2-3rd of January then you are marinating it 16-17th/29-30th of December ) or roast it (not earlier than the 23rd of December/5th of January then marinate it the 19-20th of December/1-2nd of January ). At the same time you may shell and chop walnuts for the kutia and grind them for the cake.|
The most time-consuming `yellow` processes are the kholodets (whole), the stuffed fish (to finish), the mille feuille and the bread – so let’s start with them. While the broths are simmering you may kneed the bread and let it prove, in the meantime you may bake the layers of the mille feuille (remember, the dough is made) and the cheesecake (the chocolate part is made, and the cheese one takes just 20 minutes to prepare). In the morning you need to wash and soak dried fruit for uzvar. Pay attention to onion – we will add it to varenyky, holubtsi, pâte, stuffed fish – so we are chopping it and a little more, frying and grinding – it won’t definitely be too much. Later we may prepare the cream and spread it on the cake (by the way while preparing the apple filling for the mille feuille you may also share the filling for the pâte). When there is a spare place on a cooker we may boil the eggs and the vegetables for the salads – Olivier, `furcoat`and Vinaigrette salad. Don’t forget about the borshch – we need just to peel and dice some potato for it (the rest is prepared, isn’t it?) but keep in mind we need potato for the varenyky and the holubtsi filling. So we are cooking the holubtsi, then the pâte, boiling the chicken broth – it’s easy with prepared vegetables and noodles and we are roasting the chicken breasts for 2 salads and finish the fish. In the evening before Eve don’t forget to bake doubled in size bread, arrange and pour the kholodets and soak the wheat berries overnight. Now we may sigh with a relief for a while.
For the 24th of December/6th of January we will have `red` processes – to cook the wheat berries (it is boiled for a long time, but doesn’t require our hands), meanwhile we can bake the poppy and walnuts cake (sharing the poppy seeds for the kutia, too), dice and season all salads, pinch and boil the vushka and the varenyky, finish the mushroom gravy and the kutia (the ingredients are ready!). The last treat is to deep-fry the pampukhy – to serve them the freshest, and to roast meat and make risotto on the 25th of December/the 7th of January to serve them hot.
That’s it! It’s time to lay the table and don’t forget to thank mothers-grandmothers-aunts who used to prepare everything for you. We hope you could use these ideas to arrange your preparation and get ahead at Christmas to make the holidays full of joy and happiness as they should be.