Now that we’ve got our planning down, let’s figure out what types of dishes are best for entertaining. When you are expecting a large crowd, individual portions become difficult to manage. Family style (or buffet style), is the way to go. But, what will you serve that will feed a crowd? You need dishes that spread.
Here are my suggestions for the types of recipes (appetizers to desserts!) that work best when entertaining a group of people.
Simple dips and crudite platters
You can make them in advance, and they can generally work for vegetarians and meat-eating folks. And, if you don’t have time to make your own dip or vegetable platter, you can purchase the individual items and assemble. There’s no shame in picking up a store bought hummus or guacamole. Do what works for you.
A big bowl of pasta is hearty and can feed many. Make a homemade pesto or marinara or any other sauce of choice and top it onto your favorite pasta. We do not have dietary restrictions in our house, but some of our guests do, so we make brown rice pasta and semolina pasta — two big bowls — both with the same sauce. You can also make a baked pasta — a lasagna or stuffed shells — or baked manicotti (which is what my family eats during the holidays). Generally, kids and adults are both happy with it!
They will go a mile and everyone enjoys them. My recommendation is to make a green salad and a grain salad. Not everyone at your party may be well versed on farro and quinoa, but everyone can relate to a nice green salad. Make both. Throw some seasonal ingredients into them to make them more festive — like pomegranate seeds, cranberries, toasted walnuts. You get the picture.
A big platter of vegetables is always welcomed. You can grill them and serve them along with other appetizers, including breads and cheeses. Or, you can include them on your buffet along with your other dinner items. You can never go wrong with grilled vegetables and they taste even better room temperature.
If it’s too cold to bust out your grill, try a roasted vegetable platter instead — beets, butternut squash, throw some nuts and maybe cheese on top. Yum!
Meat or Fish
This is a little more complicated because cooking meat and fish requires timing it, carving it, etc. That being said, if you don’t mind stealing away from your guests to do so, there are definitely some options. You can roast a whole fish or salmon fillets and arrange on a platter. You can also bake a ham or roast a whole filet mignon and serve it room temperature. I tend to include meat on my holiday table because the older crowd look for it, but I’m seriously considering skipping it this season — just to give myself a break and offer myself a chance to not cook while my guests are around.
Well, dessert is easy. Make a big fruit crisp. You can make it in advance, and just pop it in the oven to warm it before serving (with ice cream, or whipped cream or nothing because it’s so delicious on it’s own!). You can make cookies or cupcakes or a cake or pie or two. Just don’t make too much. I prefer quality over quantity.
In addition to the sweets, put out some fruit and nuts as well. Not everyone will be up for a heavy dessert after a big meal.
I hope these tips help make your holiday entertaining a bit easier and a lot less stressful.