How to Plan an English Christmas Dinner
Don't forget the steamed pudding.
If you’re desperate for a Thanksgiving do-over or can’t wait till next year to trot out your turkey basting skills, you’re in luck. Everything you need for a traditional English Christmas dinner is basically a repeat of American Thanksgiving — with all the trimmings! But if you’re tired of turkey, you’ve got options. Here’s how to plan an English Christmas dinner, from appetizers to dessert — or should we say, starters to puddings — that’s fit for the Queen.
For your appetizer spread, think posh. Smoked salmon is an entertaining staple this time of year that can be served on a platter or as individual canapés. Try Ina Garten’s Blini with Smoked Salmon, in which homemade blini are topped with thinly sliced smoked salmon and a dollop of crème fraîche. Layering the salmon on top of English cucumbers, as Ree Drummond does with her Smoked Salmon Cucumber Bites, makes for a lovely yet simple bite.
Prawn cocktail, as the English call it, sounds fancier than shrimp cocktail, but in this case they’re the same thing. You can buy pre-cooked shrimp, but there’s something about Ina’s fan-favorite Roasted Shrimp Cocktail that helps concentrate the shrimps’ briny sweetness. The homemade cocktail sauce is delightfully heavy on the horseradish and lemon juice.
Pigs in a blanket are a crowd-pleaser on English and American tables alike, but if you want to step up your game, try Bacon-Wrapped Cocktail Sausages (because the Brits wouldn’t dream of calling them weenies).
Let’s Talk Turkey (Or Ham or Goose)
If you need a primer on how to roast a turkey, may we recommend one of the on-demand classes on the Food Network Kitchen app? Say, Amanda Haas’ master class where you can learn to stuff and cook a simple roast turkey or upgrade to a buttermilk-brined version. Or fall back on one of these practically fool-proof recipes, like the world’s simplest roast turkey or Trisha Yearwood’s No-Baste, No-Bother Roasted Turkey, which calls for nothing more than a slather of butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
If you can’t fathom making another turkey, but still want to dine like a royal, you can get fancy with fowl with this Roasted Christmas Goose recipe, complete with a brandy-spiked basting sauce and chestnut stuffing. For a less involved approach to your Christmas main, go the glazed ham route a la Ree’s Christmas Ham, which calls for a glaze of raspberry preserves and mustard to add a balance of spice and sweetness.
Sunday roast beef dinners are an English tradition, but you can up the ante come Christmas by preparing a standing beef rib roast. Try Ina’s English Rib Roast, which gets its excellent crust from the addition of Dijon mustard. Or opt for an impressive (yet shockingly easy) Beef Wellington (pictured).
Speaking of Yorkshire pudding, you should definitely have these as part of your sides spread whether or not you plan to make beef. Make individual ones like these mini Yorkshire puddings or Claire Robinson’s thyme-infused version and serve them in place of bread rolls.
Anchor your sides with a roster of veg. The Brits are fans of extra-crispy roast potatoes, so try the aptly named Crispiest Ever Potatoes recipe, in which creamer potatoes are boiled, then lightly tossed with olive oil and aromatics before being smashed on a baking tray. This pro move increases the amount of skin that meets the hot pan, yielding a super-crispy exterior and a fluffy interior. Glazed carrots, roasted parsnips and roasted Brussels sprouts are also de rigeur, but for a time-saving trick, ‘em all together with Giada De Laurentiis’ Roasted Potatoes, Carrots, Parsnips and Brussels Sprouts recipe — the key is to cut the veggies into roughly the same size so ensure even cooking.
If you want to double down on the brassicas, include a side of braised red cabbage, which gets its savory-sweet-tangy flavor profile from the addition of bacon, Granny Smith apples and red wine vinegar, and the cinnamon stick adds a festive touch.
On the sauce front, you’ll want cranberry sauce spiked with Port (thank you very much), and gravy for liberally pouring over turkey, potatoes and veggies, yes, but also for dunking those Yorkshire puds into.
In the U.K., pudding is the catch-all category for dessert. The most traditional this time of year is Christmas pudding, in which a steamed cake, studded with almonds, apples and dried fruit is doused with brandy just before serving and then lit on fire (quite dramatic).
Another quintessential English dessert that’s a crowd-pleaser (and less likely to singe your eyebrows) is sticky toffee pudding. Here, a date cake is served soaked with and in a pool of warm toffee sauce. For a classic, restaurant-worthy rendition, try Anne Burrell’s Sticky Toffee Pudding (pictured), or riff with Nancy Fuller’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake recipe, baked in a Bundt cake pan and poured over with a toffee “pudding” then garnished with toffee chips.
Trifles make for another elegant option, in which cake, custard, fruit and whipped cream are layered in a trifle dish (or deep glass bowl). Try Tyler Florence’s bright lemon curd-infused trifle with fresh berries, or Ina's Eton Mess, a quick-and-easy take on a traditional Christmas classic.
You also have the option to take things savory with a cheese board, perhaps accompanied with jams, chutneys and fruit. Unify your cheese selection around wedges and wheels from England, like Stilton blue or Somerset cheddar, then learn to assemble like a pro with Ina’s Ultimate Cheese Platter class on the Food Network Kitchen app.
And for a final flourish, send everyone home with scones to enjoy tomorrow.