Christmas is at yours this year? We hoped so. When it comes to hosting one of the year’s most anticipated holidays, we assure you, you don’t need years of experience for the night to be a success. If you’re new to running the show (or even if not), we recommend reading up on the hosting essentials here. As for the food? This menu guarantees a memorable night. We know when to lean on tradition (charcuterie board, we see you) and when to introduce new ones, like our braised main and its decadent veggie side. If you’re feeling intimidated, book a Culinista chef to help you out. Don’t be surprised when you’re asked to host next year, too.
Charcuterie & Cheese Board
As your guests trickle in, this array of soft and hard cheeses with ribboned meats will welcome them. The key to any board is choosing a variety of cooked and raw ingredients, which can combine into texturally interesting bites. Sprouted almonds, candied walnuts, dried apricots, and concord grapes are some of our favorite additions. Let your meats and cheeses come to room temperature for about an hour before serving to maximize their flavor (this is called tempering).
Big Green Salad
This simple salad lets peak-season lettuces and herbs do all the talking. Bitter leaves of magenta radicchio and wispy frisée get tossed with parsley and dill. Then a zesty shallot vinaigrette mellows the sharp bite, using two techniques: first, the shallot macerates in acidic lemon juice, becoming sweet and juicy; and, second, it follows our Essential Dressing Ratio below, to deliver max flavor from just a few ingredients.
Braised Lamb with Carrots
A menu has the power to introduce new traditions, and we can’t think of a better way to do so than giving this juicy, balsamic-braised lamb a seat at your table. Braising is a game of low and slow cooking, either stovetop or in the oven. Try not to fuss with it, but check to ensure the liquid stays ¾ up the meat and add water as needed to promote thorough tenderizing. After gently simmering for hours with carrots and shallots, the fork-tender result gets adorned with ruby red pomegranate seeds and sprigs of woodsy rosemary.
Balsamic Green Beans
Create menu harmony by selecting side dishes that share an ingredient with the main. Thanks to balsamic vinegar, these green beans become the ideal sidekick. Simply blanching green beans in salted water preserves their crisp texture and vegetal flavor, priming them to carry a balsamic reduction, made with sweet cipollini onions, currants, and thyme. To avoid burning the sugars, simmer the liquid on low until it reduces by half.
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Charred Cabbage Gratin
You’ve met the potato gratin, but it’s time you tried the cabbage rendition. After slicing cabbage into rounds, it gets deeply caramelized and tightly shingled in a baking dish. The charred, ruffled edges get doused in a creamy gruyère gravy, followed by panko for a surface that goes golden and crisp when baked. It’s every bit as indulgent as the original, and, perhaps most importantly, the kids will love it, too.
Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Save room for more than a bite of this bread pudding, even if your guests show up with cookies or pastries. Chocolate chips and brioche are joined by—and soaked in—a vanilla bean-speckled custard, before getting baked. Try to wait just long enough to serve it warm with vanilla ice cream that will melt into all the crevices. What’s better? It can be assembled the day before and stored in the fridge, so all you have to do is warm it in the oven before serving.
Fall & Winter Sangria Bar
Setting out chopped fruit, herbs, and alcohol for this Sangria Bar frees you from bartending while allowing guests to craft their drinks as they please. If you can’t choose between red or white, we couldn’t either, so this bar has both. Another hands-off route is batching your Sangria: combine winter citrus, apples, and wine with an aromatic rosemary-cranberry simple syrup overnight to meld their flavors.