December 18, 2022. Let’s start with How: easily. When: four hours of active preparation time – Christmas morning or the day before – gets you a delicious, aromatic, beautiful and wildly impressive 7-course meal.
Why: it’s Cheaper and Healthier than almost any alternative. Less than $10 per person. Less than 650 calories per person. And a Glycemic Load of less than 10. Really.
Let’s look at two alternative preparation schedules, step by step. Then we’ll do the Chicken Math.
You could start early on Christmas morning and be ready for guests by early afternoon. Or you could do almost everything in advance; then just add heat on Christmas Day. I’m a do-it-in-advance guy so I’d do most of it the day before. Just like this.
Step 1: Roast a chicken. To yield the chicken meat for Curried Chicken Salad and a carcass to make the chicken stock for your Christmas Chicken Soup with Vegetables and Whole Grains.
Step 2: While the oven takes 20 minutes to preheat to 500F for roasting the chicken, take 9 minutes to make the hardboiled eggs for Eggs Mayonnaise. While the eggs cook themselves, use 5 of those minutes to whisk up your amazingly luscious homemade garlic mayonnaise. When the eggs are ready, chill, peel, wrap and refrigerate. Put the mayo in the fridge, too.
Step 3: Put the roasting chicken in the preheated oven. It’ll be in there for 40 – 45 minutes. Which gives you enough time to make that big pot of the irresistible Coq au Vin.
Step 4: You’re now 1 hour into the prep schedule. Take the Coq au Vin off the stove and let it come to room temperature before packing it up for the overnight in the fridge. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then carve it and remove the skin from the breasts, wings and legs. Put the carcass and skin in a big pot of water and make chicken stock on the stovetop. Takes 5 minutes to get it going; then let it simmer for 2 hours.
Step 5: Take 10 minutes to slice the chicken and whisk up the dressing for the Curried Chicken Salad. Option: Set aside some of the chicken to add to your soup.) Take ten more minutes to prep a raw, skinless chicken breast for your Chicken-Bacon-Sage Rolls. Wrap it tight and refrigerate overnight.
Step 6: You’re now about 90 minutes into the schedule and you’re well on the Way to completing the active preparation for 5 of your 7 courses. Let’s make dessert. Less than 30 minutes to make Chocolate Mousse. Pack it up tight and refrigerate.
Step 7: You’re now 2 hours into the prep schedule. Take a break. Put on some music and dance. You’ve got 1 hour until your chicken stock is ready.
Step 8: Take a few minutes to filter the stock. Pack it up tight and refrigerate overnight. Three hours have passed since you started preparation for the feast. You were busy for two of those hours.
You might do this the day before, before you put out cookies for Santa. Or you might do it Christmas morning, long after he’s disappeared back up the chimney. Either Way, there’s really not much left to do.
Step 9: One hour before your guests arrive, take everything out of the fridge except dessert. Unwrap the Chicken-Bacon-Sage Roll and take 20 minutes to cook it. Then set it aside. All that’s left to do: slice and plate it a few minutes before serving.
Step 10: 40 minutes before dinner, put your chicken stock in a covered pot over low heat. Same for the Coq au Vin.
Step 11: 30 minutes before the party starts, prep the final savory course: Herb & Garlic Roasted Chicken. Shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to stuff it with herbs, slide the garlic slivers under its skin and chop the accompanying vegetables.
Step 12: 15 minutes before the feast begins, slice the vegetables and add them and the quinoa and optional chicken to your Christmas Chicken Soup. Open a bottle of wine. Take sip.
Step 13: T-minus 10 minutes and counting. Slice and plate your Eggs Mayonnaise.
After-Theater Dinner: The Real Show
Step 14: Be like Santa: check your list twice. Eggs Mayo are on the table. Christmas Chicken Soup is ready when you are. The Chicken-Bacon-Sage roll is ready to be sliced and served. Coq au Vin and Curried Chicken Salad: ready when you are. The aromatic Roasted Chicken is ready for the oven; preheat it to 500 F and put the chicken in 50 minutes before you plan to serve it. 25 minutes later, add the vegetables to the roasting pan. Last but certainly not least: take the Chocolate Mousse out of the fridge 5 minutes before you want to delight your adoring fans with it. And whip some heavy cream if you want a big spoonful on top.
Now, you’ve spent three to four hours being really, really nice. Sit down at the table and spend a few on the edge of naughty.
The Chicken Math
7 masterpiece-conversation piece courses for $10? Yes! If you’re serving 6 festive diners, you’ll buy 3 whole roasting chickens plus 1 skinless half breast. You should be able to find that much free-range organic chicken for about $30. Plus a dozen eggs from equally high quality chickens for $5 or less. Add a few dollars worth of organic vegetables from the Farmers Market, a few tablespoons of cocoa powder and some olive oil, butter, milk and some other basics. Divide by 6 diners. Should be Way less than $10 per smiling, thoroughly satisfied eater. And you’ll probably have leftovers. Serve 4 for close to $10 each and have days of spectacular leftovers. Or buy less chicken and have a wonderful feast for the two of you.
Less than 650 calories? A Glycemic Load of 10 for the entire meal? Well, chickens and eggs are great for that. An average of 45 calories per ounce of chicken. 70 calories per egg. And a Glycemic Index of zero for both.
$14 for a 3-course meal in a bag from Kentucky Fried Chicken. One Roast Chicken Caesar Salad: $4.79. One chicken breast with a biscuit, green beans and cole slaw: $7.35. One Pecan Pie: $1.99. Total Cost: $14.13. For a 1725-calorie meal with a Glycemic Load of 90. Way Better is Way Cheaper.
Let’s Do The Math
Two hours to walk off your fantastic Feast of 7 Chickens. Just under 6 hours to walk off KFC’s 3 courses in a bag.