No time? An elegant holiday meal can be easy

Beef rib roast is on sale almost continually between Thanksgiving and Christmas
Beef rib roast is a relatively easy holiday meal.
Beef rib roast is a relatively easy holiday meal.

Want to open your home and share a holiday table with family and friends, but don’t know where to begin and don’t have a lot of time? Here’s a menu for an easy meal, one you can do some prep work for ahead.

Make it easy on yourself. You can shop for things a few days ahead, and if you like to bake, a pie or cake will still be fine a day or two after it’s baked.

It’s the holidays — start with something special — a beef roast.

Beef rib roast is on sale almost continually between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year it was as low as $5.99 a pound. We’ve tried them all, and the inexpensive cuts are as good as the Angus. That’s because the fat is where the flavor is, and rib roast has lots.

Just look for roasts that have fat evenly distributed throughout, not just in thick spots. Plan on one rib for every two people — that should give you plenty, with leftovers.

Ask the butcher about how much to buy if you’re not sure. In my experience, they are happy to help you buy the right amount of meat for the number of guests you’re having, and they’ll even tell you how to cook it properly.

A roast is the easiest thing to cook; you just put it in the oven. Use a thermometer to check the temperature and cook it to your preference, taking it from the oven about five degrees below the final temperature you want. Let it rest a while; the temperature will rise to the desired point through residual heating, and the meat will keep all its juices that way.

Go to bettycrocker.comhow-to/tipslibrary/charts-timetables-measuring/time able-roasting-meats, which will take you to a page with an easy-to-use roasting chart. Or any of your standard all-purpose cookbooks will have one too.

When it’s done, I cover the roast in the pan with foil and push it to the back of the stove, where it will keep warm until it’s ready to slice.

Early in the day, I prepare the potatoes, cover them with foil and put them in the refrigerator, then clean up the mess. When the beef is done, I slide the potatoes into the oven and cook them for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees, just until they’re heated through and the cheese is melted.

You can do the green beans ahead and keep them chilled until microwaving just prior to serving. I’ve been using frozen green beans — their quality is better than the fresh ones lately.

Have some snacks before dinner, but not too many. A few sliced New York state apples, some grapes, local cheeses and sliced baguette are tasty and won’t fill you up. Arrange the fruit and cheese on lettuce leaves for an attractive presentation.

Those are the basics of a handsome, memorable meal. It’s supposed to be easy, so pick up dessert, something seasonal and special, perhaps a Buche de Noel from Bella Napoli in Troy or Latham, or Italian pastries from there or Villa Italia in Schenectady.

And go easy on yourself. Your guests won’t mind and probably won’t even notice if everything doesn’t come out exactly perfect. They’re just happy to be there, at your table, sharing the holiday with you.

Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized Onions




1 bag frozen green beans or haricots vert

1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings

1/4 cup sliced almonds

5 Tbs. butter, divided

Salt, to taste


Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan over low heat, then add the almonds. Stir frequently, and keep the heat on low. Cook until browned on both sides. Remove browned almonds to an oven-safe serving dish. If butter is browned, pour it out.

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in the same pan, then add the onions. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Cook until onions are caramelized and browned, about 20 minutes. Remove onions to serving dish.

Microwave green beans according to directions on package. Do not overcook. Cut bag across one side, add ice cubes and fill bag with cold water. When beans are chilled, drain and add to serving dish.

Top the beans with 2 Tbsp. butter and salt to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Microwave to reheat, and toss ingredients together before serving.

Serves 6

Bake-Ahead Mashed Potatoes


3 pounds Russet or other starchy potatoes, peeled and cut into 4 or 6 pieces

4 ounces (half stick) butter

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk or cream

1 tsp. salt, or to taste

3 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (orange-colored cheese looks best)


Place the potatoes in a pot with water that covers the potatoes by at least an inch. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to simmer. After 10 minutes, pierce potatoes with a fork. If they are soft, they are done. If not, cook 5 minutes more and check again.

Drain potatoes and place in mixer bowl with butter, salt, and milk or cream. Beat until evenly mixed. Add sour cream, and check salt for taste. If it’s too stiff, add more milk.

Transfer to an oven-safe baking dish, top with grated cheese. Cover with foil, place in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Cover loosely with foil, keep warm until ready to eat.

Serves 6

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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