A 100% Make-Ahead Menu for a Stress-Free Gluten-Free Holiday

When it comes to hosting a glorious gluten-free holiday dinner, I’m all for having a happy, relaxed cook. The secret is prepping everything ahead of time—starter, main attraction, side dishes, dessert and all.

A majestic American turkey is undoubtedly the bird of choice for our major holiday feasts, but the truth is these big birds have a built-in problem. The back end and the front end don’t roast to perfection in the same length of time.


It might sound radical, but for the best of both worlds I cook the legs and breast separately. Currently, my favorite way to prepare the dark meat is by wrapping boned and stuffed turkey thighs in lightly smoked prosciutto, called speck. These mini turkey roasts become unbelievably tender and tasty and are so easy to carve.


Poaching rather than roasting a turkey breast in the manner of Swedish brined goose is undoubtedly different, but it gives great results. The brining process prevents the turkey from drying out, creating much juicier white meat.

In addition simmering the breast gently in an herb-scented, gluten-free chicken broth adds flavor and results in a silky texture. Needless to say, when cooked this way any light or dark leftovers make peerless sandwiches for later in the week.


An uncomplicated starter of mixed baby greens with goat cheese, orange segments and pomegranate seeds sets the scene.


Side dishes of fluffy pureed cauliflower—which is so like creamy mashed potatoes that it fools people—and updated green beans can also be prepped ahead of time.


And for an unexpected grace note, try serving ready-made wild lingonberry sauce instead of cranberry sauce to complement the meat. A perky horseradish cream that whips up quickly offers your guests a completely different flavor option.


No holiday dinner would be complete without a decadent dessert. My taste testers swooned over the tiramisù cheesecake. This dessert has to be chilled for 24 hours before serving—and can sit for up to three days in the refrigerator—so it, too, can be prepared ahead of time.

In short if you spread the prep work out during the week, there’s not much left to do on the big day except enjoy the party with your guests. Happy holidays!


Make-ahead guide

This step-by-step primer will make the big day a cinch. It’s not difficult, but if you’ve never tried doing this kind of prep work before I warmly recommend having a trial run on a weekend some time before the big event. You’ll enjoy a great dinner, and familiarity will make for speed and confidence the next time around.



 Three days ahead

  • Make a list and shop for needed ingredients. Make sure you include kitchen string, foil and plastic wrap.
  • Prep and bake the cheesecake crumb crust. Store it at room temperature under a large upturned bowl.


Two days ahead

  • Bake the cheesecake and refrigerate.
  • Locate table linens, cutlery, platters, etc.
  • Clear lots of space in the refrigerator.
  • Rub the turkey breast with lemon and salt and refrigerate.


One day ahead

  • Prep the turkey-thigh rolled roasts and refrigerate.
  • Poach the turkey breast and refrigerate.
  • Mix the salad dressing and refrigerate.
  • Section the oranges.
  • Steam and puree the cauliflower and refrigerate.


On the holiday

  • Roast the turkey-thigh rolled roasts.
  • Blend the horseradish-mustard cream.
  • Tip the store-bought lingonberry sauce into a serving bowl.
  • Steam the green beans and set aside.
  • Assemble the salad.
  • Reheat the cauliflower
  • Toast the almonds and reheat the green beans.
  • Slice the turkey breast and the turkey-thigh rolled roasts.


Recipes © copyright 2015 by Jacqueline Mallorca.

The author of more than a dozen cookbooks, Gluten-Free Living Food Editor Jacqueline Mallorca has written titles including The Wheat-Free Cook and Gluten-Free Italian.