Tasty but moderate-effort holiday dinner for a small crowd?
December 16, 2017 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm hosting a Christmas Eve open house where anywhere from 5-25 people might show up over the course of the day. I've got drinks and snacky food covered, but I like to make real dinner, too. Doing the cooking makes me happy, but I don't want to spend ALL my energy on it. What can I make that's tasty, kinda special, suitable for serving ~8-10 people, and not too labor-intensive? (Prime rib + a couple key sides worked well last year.)
posted by rhiannonstone to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about beef wellington? It's basically just wrapping a piece of meat in pastry, looks super impressive though.
posted by dilaudid at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2017

My first thought was Chicken Provencale. It doesn't take but a few minutes to put together and you only baste it once while it is roasting. Plus that super-crispy skin is wonderful! You could serve it with oven-roasted asparagus, which can be prepped ahead (I just shake together the asparagus, some olive oil, and seasonings in a zip-loc bag, then spread it out on a foil-lined baking sheet) and put into the oven after basting the chicken. A little acorn squash, or perhaps a spinach and strawberry salad, and you've got yourself a great dinner that will wow the guests without requiring much time away from said guests.
posted by DrGail at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2017

Pork tenderloin.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:15 AM on December 16, 2017

We’ve done cioppino for similar events in the past and it was a huge hit—you can make a big batch and leave it on the stove so latecomers can help themselves, serve with good bread and salad and you’re done! This is the recipe I like. You can also have guests bring components and then make cooking the cioppino part of the party; one year we had one couple bring shrimp, another mussels, another whitefish, etc.
posted by stellaluna at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ham. I just bought spiral-sliced ham at Whole Foods for 3.99/ lb. I have served Trader Joe's spiral-sliced ham before and it was delicious, and I'm sure WF's will be good. A big ham is festive, is low-worry for spoilage, and tastes great with little effort. Plus, leftovers. A glaze is nice; Mom's method of good mustard thinned with pineapple juice is a tasty version. Serve with some mustards and maybe chutney. Growing up, we always had ham with potatoes au gratin. I just slice potatoes and onions with the food processor, pretty thin, layer into a baking dish with grated swiss or gruyere, top with more cheese, and pour in milk to about 1/2 way up the side. I can't eat dairy, so I can't make it anymore and I miss it. Very good hot, pretty darn good lukewarm from a buffet table.
posted by theora55 at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2017

I literally always recommend Nom Nom Paleo's slow cooker kalua pork in response to questions like these, but that's because it's got the single greatest pay-off of any recipe I know. For three ingredients (and absolutely NO pre-browning, brining or chopping of any sort) you can have a huge tray of the most delicious pork you can cook indoors. Serve it with a big bowl of slaw and hawaiian rolls for folks to build their own sliders with. I am making this for Christmas lunch this year. I made it for Christmas lunch last year. I'll be making it for Christmas lunch until pork goes extinct. I serve it alongside a huge casserole dish of mac and cheese for the vegetarians and call it a day. It's really, really good.
posted by DSime at 2:19 PM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Homemade enchiladas with a bunch of toppings available so people can customize. Satisfying and familiar, yet labor-intensive enough to be special. Especially if you make your own sauce.
posted by Temeraria at 4:12 PM on December 16, 2017

Beef brisket.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:40 AM on December 17, 2017

Momofuku's Bo Ssam is very delicious, impressive and is extraordinarily low effort.
posted by mmascolino at 10:13 AM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Lasagna was always the tradition in our family for just this reason. Freezes well if only a few people show but a decent sized casserole dish can feed an army if you add a salad and some garlic bread.
posted by FakePalindrome at 6:38 PM on December 17, 2017

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