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Cooking for a holiday crowd

  • 6 min to read

Decorations and shopping draw much of the attention come the holiday season, and rightfully so. But many people’s fondest holiday memories occurred around the dinner table during meals with friends and family.

Holiday dining

Determining how much food to serve involves figuring out a few key items

Holiday foods tend to be rich, flavorful and time-consuming to prepare. However, all the effort is usually worth the satisfied smiles on the faces of loved ones.

Planning holiday meals is challenging, and hosts often doubt if they have enough food for everyone. No one wants guests to leave feeling hungry, nor do they want to have tons of leftovers, much of which will inevitably end up in the trash. Determining how much food to serve involves figuring out a few key items, including the mix of guests (ratio of children, men and women), the length of the occasion, the timing of the event, and the type of meal one plans to serve. For example, if the holiday gathering is an after-dinner cocktail party, hosts can get away with offering very little food. However, hosts of holiday dinners have a lot more food to prepare.

To get started, consider these general guidelines, courtesy of Allrecipes.com and The Spruce, a home living resource.

• Think about which foods you plan to serve. Popular foods tend to go more quickly than other items, so serve more than the general portion guidelines suggest. Shellfish appetizers, roasted or mashed potatoes, wings, and slices of rich meat are examples of popular fare.

• The more foods you offer, the smaller the portion sizes can be. But because guests will likely want to try all the offerings, expect the average person to consume more food per individual when several foods are offered.

• Most people will eat two to three portions each of appetizers or snacks. In fact, appetizers (for a hungry crowd) may be consumed in greater abundance than subsequent courses.

• Average portion sizes for each guest include: 3 ounces of dips; 3 ounces of salad; 6 ounces of meat or main entrée; 5 ounces of starch; and 11⁄2 pieces of dessert. These estimates can be used to calculate how much food will be needed.

• Think about adding “safety” items to the menu that can be pulled out in a pinch and don’t require much prep work. These can include cheese and crackers, extra bread, nuts, olives, or pretzels.

Hosts who are overly concerned that guests may go overboard can tame portion sizes by hiring servers who can oversee buffet lines. Otherwise, serve guests plated meals directly from the kitchen, from which hosts can dole out the right amount of food to ensure everyone gets enough to eat.

Recipes

Appetizers

California Continental Cheese Board

California Continental Cheese Board

California Continental Cheese Board

Recipes courtesy of Real California Milk

1/2 ounces California Brie cheese per person

1/2 ounces California toma cheese per person

1/2 ounces California pepper jack cheese per person

walnuts

breadsticks

fresh herbs

On cheese plate, arrange cheeses, almonds, crackers and cherry tomatoes.

Red, White and Blue Cheese Board

Red, White and Blue Cheese Board

Red, White and Blue Cheese Board

1/2 ounces California cheddar cheese per person

1/2 ounces California blue cheese per person

1/2 ounces California mushroom jack cheese per person

walnuts

dried cranberries

crackers

fresh apple slices

On cheese plate, arrange cheeses, walnuts, cranberries, crackers and apple slices.

Main courses

Holiday Roast with Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce

Holiday Roast with Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce

Holiday Roast with Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Roast:

Butcher’s twine

1 Omaha Steaks chateaubriand roast (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons, canola oil, divided

Omaha Steaks Private Reserve Rub

Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce:

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium red bell peppers, finely diced

1 cup red wine

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds

6 tablespoons dried cranberries

6 tablespoons dried currants

1/4 teaspoon salt

To make roast: Heat oven to 250 F.

Using butcher’s twine, tie roast to maintain shape. Coat all sides with 2 tablespoons canola oil and season with rub.

In medium skillet, heat remaining oil. Sear all sides of roast 2 minutes each.

Place roast in roasting pan and bake 1 hour, 30 minutes.

To make Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce: Heat medium skillet on medium-high heat.

Add olive oil and diced red pepper; saute 3-5 minutes.

Add red wine, red wine vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, cranberries, currants and salt. Bring mixture to boil then turn temperature to low and simmer 20 minutes, or until liquid is mostly evaporated and thickened.

Top each serving of roast with Red Pepper Cranberry Sauce.

Note: Mostarda can be made up to 3 days in advance.

Seared Salmon with Pine Nut, Caper and Fennel Topping

Seared Salmon with Pine Nut, Caper and Fennel Topping

Seared Salmon with Pine Nut, Caper and Fennel Topping

Recipe courtesy of Anolon Gourmet Cookware

Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 shallot, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and finely chopped

3 tablespoons drained capers

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange zest

2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon, plus 1/8 teaspoon, salt, divided

4 skin-on salmon fillets (6-7 ounces each)

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and cook, shaking pan often, about 4-5 minutes until lightly browned. Transfer pine nuts to medium bowl.

In same skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add shallot and fennel; cook, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes until slightly softened. Add capers and cook 1 minute. Transfer to bowl with pine nuts. Stir in remaining oil and orange zest. Let cool 5 minutes before adding basil and 1/8 teaspoon salt; reserve.

Season salmon with remaining salt and pepper. Heat skillet over medium heat until hot. Add salmon, flesh-side down, and cook 5 minutes until nicely browned. Flip salmon and continue cooking 4-5 minutes until skin is crisp and salmon is cooked through but still slightly translucent in center. Place one salmon fillet on each of four serving plates; top each with pine nut mixture.

Side dish

Long-Cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic

Long-Cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic

Long-Cooked Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic

Recipe courtesy of Anolon Gourmet Cookware

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup yellow onions, minced

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 1/2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed

3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

salt, to taste

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

In nonstick skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil.

Add onions and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, 7-10 minutes. Add garlic and continue stirring 1 minute. Add green beans and tomatoes; cover and cook over low heat until green beans are soft, 25 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, uncovered, until liquid is almost gone, 2-3 minutes.

Deserts

Stovetop Apple Pie

Stovetop Apple Pie

Stovetop Apple Pie

Recipe courtesy of Anolon Gourmet Cookware

Yield: 1 10-inch pie

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup, plus 2 teaspoons, sugar, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or apple pie spice

6 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into eight wedges each

1 refrigerated pie crust

2 teaspoons cream

In nonstick skillet over low heat, melt butter; remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon. Arrange apple wedges evenly in skillet, overlapping as needed.

Heat oven to 350 F.

In skillet over medium heat, cook sugar mixture until it is light amber in color and bubbly, 8-10 minutes.

Carefully place pie crust on top of apples; cut few slits in pastry to allow air to escape. Brush pastry with cream and remaining sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Rugelach

Rugelach

Rugelach

Recipe courtesy of California Walnuts

Prep time: 50 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Servings: 32

Dough:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup flour

Filling:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup apricot jam

1 cup finely chopped California walnuts

1/2 cup raisins, chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

To make dough: In large bowl, using electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and salt until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Scrape sides of bowl and beaters as necessary. Reduce speed and slowly mix in flour, about 30 seconds.

On floured work surface, form dough into ball. Divide into two equal pieces.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and press into two disks. Refrigerate 30 minutes, or until firm.

To make filling: Heat oven to 375 F and place racks at upper-middle and lower-middle positions.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; mix well and set aside.

On lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of dough into 11-inch circles, about 1/4-inch thick. On each round, spread 1/4 cup jam and sprinkle 1/2 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar mixture on each disk.

Using knife, cut each round into 16 even wedges. Beginning at wide ends, roll each wedge up into cookie.

Place cookies on prepared baking sheet with pointed end underneath cookie. Space cookies about 2 inches apart.

Using pastry brush, brush melted butter over cookies; sprinkle remaining cinnamon-sugar over top.

Bake cookies about 20 minutes until slightly puffed and pale gold, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Transfer hot cookies to wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Recipe courtesy of California Walnuts

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 38 minutes

Servings: 36

2 cups California walnuts, toasted, divided

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus additional (optional)

Heat oven to 325 F. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

In food processor, finely grind 1 cup walnuts, about 10-15 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl.

In food processor, pulse remaining walnuts about 5 seconds. Add to medium bowl with finely ground walnuts. Stir in flour and salt; set aside.

In electric mixer bowl, combine butter and granulated sugar. Beat 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Scrape sides of bowl. Add vanilla; beat 1 minute. Add flour and walnut mixture; beat 30 seconds, or until combined. Scrape down sides of bowl and beaters; continue hand-mixing dough until well combined.

Working with 1 tablespoon dough at a time, roll into 1 1/4-inch balls and arrange 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until cookies are lightly golden brown, about 18 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through.

Remove cookies from oven and cool on baking sheets 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack; cool completely. Roll cookies in powdered sugar.

Before serving, re-roll cookies in powdered sugar, if desired. Gently shake to remove excess.

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