Instant Entertaining

Holiday hosting
goes low-key

By Aïda Mollenkamp
and Regan Burns

Cured Salmon
Cured Salmon

Braised Brisket with Beans and Ancho Chile

Braised Brisket with Beans and Ancho Chile

Braised Chicken with Prunes, Olives, and Capers

Braised Chicken with Prunes, Olives, and Capers

It’s a long stretch from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, with all that drinking, eating, and socializing. Here are 10 dishes to turn to when you want easy preparation for a family dinner or a meal for a small group.

1. Butternut Squash Lasagna. A hearty oven-to-table dish that should be in any cook’s repertoire. This one is both freezable and suitable for vegetarians. It’s full of satisfying ingredients like winter squash, mushrooms, and chestnuts, and tastes even better when it’s made in advance.

2. Cured Salmon. This recipe will please hungry houseguests. There’s no cooking involved; the fish cures for 24 hours and lasts up to five days (unless you eat it all first). It can be used in countless ways. Try pairing it with our Marinated Potatoes and Fennel for a light lunch, with some crème fraîche and chives on a baguette for a quick hors d’oeuvre, or on top of our Fennel, Parsley, and Celery Salad for an elegant first course.

3. Red-Cooked Pork. For this preparation, pork shoulder is cooked slowly with ginger, star anise, and other Asian flavorings, leaving you with a meltingly tender, flavorful dish that needs only steamed rice and stir-fried green vegetables to round it out.

4. Harissa-Marinated Tri-Tip Roast and Hoisin-Marinated Tri-Tip Roast. A beef roast definitely feeds a crowd, but the most common cuts for roasts—rib, tenderloin, and sirloin—are costly. Ask your butcher for a less expensive cut like beef tri-tip. We’ve created two simple variations for this oddly shaped roast, both meant to be left overnight and then roasted right before guests arrive.

5. Braised Brisket with Beans and Ancho Chile. This can be made well ahead and warmed when you get overrun with guests. The beans are a built-in side dish, so all you need to do is serve it with a green salad for a full meal.

6. Roasted Rack of Lamb. Seasoned with herbs and cut into rosy-centered chops, it looks fancy but actually is very simple, especially if you have your butcher clean the lamb racks for you.

7. Smoked Chile Mussels. This recipe can be made at the last minute and is ideal for a group of four to six people. The smoked paprika and chipotle add a hint of heat and a nice depth of flavor, and there is plenty of sauce for dipping crusty bread.

8. Chicken Chile Verde. A one-pot meal you can make well in advance; when hunger sets in, just warm it up and top it with sour cream and tortilla chips. For our Build Your Own Burrito Bar party, we stuffed this into tortillas, but it’s hearty enough to eat on its own.

9. Orrechiete with Broccoli Rabe, Chile Flakes, and Anchovies. If you’ve got company crossing the threshold, pasta is the dish to turn to. Keep pantry staples like red chile flakes, anchovies, garlic, and pasta on hand so that all you’ll need to finish it off is some broccoli rabe. By the time you’ve pulled the cork from your wine, dinner will be on the table.

10. Braised Chicken with Prunes, Olives, and Capers. This recipe showcases a trio of ingredients that people either love or hate: prunes, olives, and capers. All three add depth and complexity to dishes like this braised chicken. And to make things stress free, this can be prepared ahead and warmed on the stove when company arrives.

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