Start your ovens! It’s time (well, in a day or so) to start cooking your Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner! 2020 is such a strange, hard year, but just because so many of us are alone this year, doesn’t mean that we can’t do something special for Christmas.
If you haven’t done this kind of thing before, this post will help you succeed in cooking your first multicourse meal.
If you are a seasoned cook, but maybe don’t do this kind of thing just for yourself, I hope that you will have a wonderful time cooking and savoring every last bite.
A celebration for yourself
This is supposed to be fun, a celebration you make for yourself. All to often, “cooking-for-one” advice treats meals—sitting down to a set table, putting away the phone, and focusing on what you’re doing in that moment—like something for other people, the ones with families or dates at the table.
Meals made for yourself and eaten with intention by yourself express value for yourself. It sounds cheesy, but you are worth time and attention. If you haven’t tried this before, it might not change your life, but it can add a great deal to your enjoyment of it.
Having said that, maybe Christmas isn’t the time for your solo dinner. Maybe it sounded like fun when you first read about this, but you wake up on Christmas, and you just absolutely do not feel like cooking. That’s OK (just try to make sure that you can freeze/store things you’ve bought). Take care of yourself.
If you’re still in, awesome! Bust out your apron, put on some shoes you can stand in (and spill on), and let’s figure this out.
So what’s the plan?
You’ve planned your menu and bought your ingredients. Now all that’s left to do is cook and eat! So how do you do that and get everything to come out at the right time, and actually enjoy yourself in the process?
How long is this going to take?
In working out the timing, the most important things to remember are:
- How much time each of your recipes are going to take, including prep time. Hopefully I’ve made clear how important it is to read your recipes. Otherwise, you don’t know what you’re getting into. For prep time, if you’re new to things, allow yourself extra time
- What needs to be made ahead, what should be made ahead, and what can be made ahead. The latter factors into how much time you want to spend in one go cooking
- What you need to be doing when (think: I can’t constantly whisk two things at the same time)
- Your space considerations (how much is on your stove/oven at once)
Everything in its (mise en) place
Have you ever heard the term mise en place? It’s French for get your shizzle together. Well, literally, it means “everything in its place.”
The idea is that you have everything ready to go—things measured out, cut, etc.—so that you have what you need when you need it. Doing this will save your cooking life.
Some recipes have lots of time cooking in between steps, and, then it would be okay to spread out your prep. Even then, make double, triple sure that you have everything you need BEFORE you start cooking.
Clean as you go, as you can. You’ll have enough prep dishes, and you’ll also have a less daunting task at the end of your evening. Again, if you have a dishwasher, I am eternally jealous.
Here’s my plan for My Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner
To show you, I’ll talk you through my plan.
Here’s my menu:
- Smoked trout and caper spread, olives
- Cauliflower soup (making a half recipe)
- Steak with Sauce Bercy, mini Pommes Anna
- Green beans with lemon, rosemary carrots
- Dressed greens
- Cremont, baguette
- Mini Cranberry Pavlova
In order to come up with this plan, I’ve read my recipes. I know what can (and should) be made ahead. I know what I need to make just before eating, and I know how long (approximately) things will take.
I haven’t decided exactly when I will eat on Christmas Day, but my plan will allow me to choose when I will eat, as opposed to sweating and stressing (and swearing like a Banshee) over a stove.
Christmas Eve—Cooking Ahead
Both to save space and my sanity, I’m going to make the soup, cranberry curd for the pavlova, and mix the dough for the bread on the 24th. I will likely also prepare pavlova meringues. I’ve never made pavlova before, so this will be an adventure. If I utterly screw it up, I have ingredients for a decadent chocolate cake.
Getting My Feast on the Table
During the day, I will bake the bread, prepare the spread, and make a salad dressing (unless I decide to just use walnut oil, which I may). I’ll also make the pommes Anna (they can be reheated). I’ve made plenty of gratins, but never pommes Anna, so I’d like to make sure that I have enough time to get it right.
The main course and vegetable aren’t going to take that long. The steak will need to be at room temperature before cooking, but steak is fast otherwise. The carrots may well take the longest and won’t be harmed if they need to sit for a bit, so I’ll start cooking those first. I haven’t made this sauce this way before (I’m intrigued by the recipe I linked to above, so I thought I’d try it), but if I start it a before the steak, I’ll have it done by the time the steak is rested. Cooking green beans is a snap, haha. I’ll reheat the pommes Anna while the steak is cooking and turn on the soup (in a small, single-serving sized pot) to heat toward the end of the cook time.
For dessert, I will need to whip mascarpone just prior to serving. Such a chore.
Set the table, sit down, and feast
I’ll set the table after I’ve cleared it from my meal prep. Just before eating, I’ll put on a nice dress and cue up the Glorious Sound of Christmas, the album my dad plays each year, to remember those I am not with this year. I will express gratitude for the time, energy, and resources to make such a feast, and I will eat it, savoring each bite. Peace on Earth.
Have fun! Let me know how it goes!
Have a wonderful time making and eating your Merry Little Solo Christmas Dinner! Please let me know if you are planning to/did this in the comments, or tag a photo #MerryLittleSoloChristmasDinner on Instagram (I’m not going to be live ‘gramming my meal, but if you have a snap, it would be fun to see it).