Chef’s Ahead Tips to Save Time on Christmas Day
With less than a week until Christmas Day, there’s still plenty of time to prepare in advance or make a small change now, in order to make a big difference when it’s time for the main event.
Chef Jamaica Pessoa joined “Good Morning America” on Tuesday to help share some pro tips with home cooks, whether they’re hosting holiday dinners or simply helping out.
Chef’s tips for preparing for Christmas
Huge holiday meals can be stressful, but breaking tasks down into several smaller jobs over the week leading up to the main event can help keep spirits bright.
Check out all of Pessoa’s tried-and-true tips below, plus fun, easy-to-make appetizers, to help keep your holiday feast going.
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Prepare and freeze appetizers ahead of time
While desserts like cookie dough, cakes or unbaked pies are freezer-friendly staples, Pessoa also encourages hosts to prepare appetizers ahead of time that can be frozen and put in the oven when they’re ready to serve and enjoy.
Easy and Cheesy Holiday Appetizer Recipes: Christmas Tree Pizza, Brie Wreath
Christmas tree baking has been all over social media this season with a variety of flavors and fillings. Pessoa has a duplicate version of the dish that she said would be perfect for preparing and freezing in advance. (See her full recipe below and shop the ingredients online here.)
By cooking pans
Make the casseroles in advance and place them in the refrigerator or freezer. Partially cook all items and cool completely before assembling. Just remember to adjust cooking times and temperatures later if you are baking a product from a frozen solid state.
advice: Assemble casseroles in aluminum pans with aluminum lids. These pans are easy to stack in the fridge and throw away when you’re done. Most importantly, decorate those pans with a comforting casserole dish. The warmth adds a festive touch and makes the casserole easy to transport if you’re on the go.
Back to basics: Mise en place puts ingredients in their right place to make cooking easier
Stop, cut and go. Before you cook anything, stop and review all of your recipes and see how many chopped ingredients you’ll need. Just chop them all up now, and you’ll be ready to go the next day.
advice: I like to organize all of my cut ingredients into ziplock bags and label them so I know exactly which dish they’ll be in. You can also chop a large bag of onions and use them as needed. Chopped vegetables such as onions, celery, bell peppers, and carrots usually keep for three to four days in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them. The main thing is that you don’t want to chop onions and cry on Christmas Day.
Reduce and reuse containers for any ready-to-use items
Everyone appreciates food they can take home, but your favorite containers shouldn’t go with them.
advice: Stock up on holiday containers and package guests’ favorite desserts or savory treats from the meal. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and make great, inexpensive gifts that your guests will love.
Make a “just in case” gift basket.
For the hostess who says, “No, don’t bring anything,” you can still show up empty-handed. I suggest this to-go gift basket be filled with essential items that everyone tends to run out of at the last minute of cooking. The basket is filled with items such as olive oil, aluminum foil, parchment paper, garbage bags, chicken broth, vanilla extract, coffee, and a bottle of their favorite wine. This creative basket will be greatly appreciated, and you will be the hero of the meal. Apply in advance and come down a few days before the meal or bring your own day.
Pesto Pull Away Christmas Tree Bread Roll
Shop for ingredients online here.
serves: 10-12 people; Makes about 24 rolls
13 ounces packaged pizza dough
2 tablespoons flour, for dusting
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (bite size).
1/3 cup chopped dried tomatoes
Egg wash (a large egg mixed with a tablespoon of water)
1/4 cup pesto (store bought or homemade)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle. Cut into 24 equal squares using a pizza wheel.
Divide the sun-dried tomatoes and cheese evenly into the center of each square. Carefully fold the edges around the tomato and cheese filling, then press the ends together to secure it into a round ball.
Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray, then arrange the dough balls into a Christmas tree shape. Brush the tree evenly with the egg wash.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese inside has melted.
Remove from the oven and spread the pesto over the rolls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
NB: If prepared in advance and frozen, fill the dough and shape into round balls. Place them on the baking sheet, about an inch apart, then freeze until firm (about 2 hours). Store in a freezer-safe bag in the freezer until ready to bake. To bake, arrange the frozen dough balls in a tree shape on the prepared baking sheet. Allow to thaw for 1-2 hours on the counter before baking. Brush the top with egg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese inside has melted. Garnish with pesto and grated Parmesan cheese and serve warm.