It’s that wonderful time of year when our homes and hearts are warm with the glow of holiday lights and the love of family and friends. December offers us a chance to pause, gather our loved ones around the table, reflect on the past year, and anticipate the one that lies ahead. It’s an opportunity to take grateful stock of our blessings. A delicious meal, prepared with loving care, and a beautifully set table can only enhance this special moment.
Whether you’re hosting just a few close friends or a gaggle of extended family members, we’ve created a menu for a feast that strikes the perfect balance between cozy, welcoming ease and all-out celebration.
We’ve updated a few classics for a meal just fancy enough for the occasion without requiring too much fuss to prepare. Holiday cooking shouldn’t feel stressful; we’ve put the focus on elevated but approachable dishes that look impressive when presented on big serving platters. As with any larger dinner party, it’s always best to serve buffet style and let the guests assemble their own plates.
This month’s menu features an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Our Roasted Beets With Herbed Yogurt Sauce and Pistachios can be either a starter salad or a side dish, depending on what else you’re serving.
Roasting beets brings out their natural sweetness, which is balanced by the tangy yogurt seasoned with a mix of herbs and a little hint of acid from the lemon juice. The mix of red and yellow beet coins creates a visually stunning presentation, while the sprinkling of fresh herbs and the salty crunch from the pistachios bring the whole dish together.
The main dish is a Beef Tenderloin With Roasted Tomatoes and Parsley Sauce. As the most tender cut of beef available, tenderloin is also the most expensive. We promise it’s worth the splurge; this beautiful cut of meat pays you back in the confidence you’ll gain when cooking for special occasions.
There are many ways to cook a traditional beef tenderloin. Our favorite is this “high and fast” method, which yields succulent, flavorful slices of beef every time. The roasted tomatoes offer a juicy counterpoint to the meat, and the bright green parsley sauce is bursting with sharp flavors to excite the palate.
Finally, when it comes to creating fuss-free yet impressive desserts, you just cannot beat a Pavlova. This Chocolate Pavlova With Whipped Cream and Raspberries is a showstopper. The crisp and chewy chocolate meringue base, rich in cocoa and beaded nuggets of chopped bittersweet chocolate, provides a grounding layer beneath the fluffy whipped cream topped with sweet, bright red raspberries.
This holiday feast is a meal you could (mostly) prepare at least a few hours in advance, so you can better enjoy the company of your guests. With a little advanced planning and prep work, all that’s left to do is assemble the platters right before party time.
You could easily round out the spread with some mashed potatoes and a simple green salad. Break out the fine china if you’re feeling especially festive, and, no matter what, please don’t forget the Champagne toast. Wishing you and yours a very happy and healthy holiday season!
Roasted Beets With Herbed Yogurt Sauce and Pistachios
The beets can be prepared up to two days in advance; simply store the cooled, sliced beets in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble the dish. The yogurt sauce is best enjoyed the day it’s made, so if you’re looking to prep ahead of a dinner party, make the sauce in the morning, store covered in the refrigerator, and assemble the dish just before your guests arrive.
- 1 bunch medium red beets, trimmed and scrubbed
- 1 bunch medium yellow beets, trimmed and scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
- Handful chopped fresh mint
- Handful chopped fresh chives
- Handful chopped fresh dill
- Juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
- Salt and pepper
- Sprinkle of chopped mint, chives and dill (for garnish)
Preheat oven to 425 F. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, toss beets with olive oil and rub to coat evenly. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover baking dish tightly with foil and roast beets on center rack until tender when pierced with a knife, about 45–60 minutes, depending on size of the beets.
When cool enough to handle, rub beets with a paper towel to remove skins. Discard skins and set cooled, peeled beets on a cutting board. Cut beets into 1/4-inch-thick circles and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, fresh herbs, cumin and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon cold yogurt sauce onto a shallow serving platter and smooth into an even base layer. Lay beet circles on top of the yogurt sauce, creating a single layer to start and then adding another until all the beets are evenly laid out on top of the yogurt sauce. Sprinkle pistachios across the top and garnish with fresh herbs.
Beef Tenderloin With Roasted Tomatoes and Parsley Sauce
This dish has three components that come together quickly, as you can make the parsley sauce while the beef cooks. When the beef comes out of the oven, turn down the temperature to cook the tomatoes while the beef rests; then everything is ready to come together on the serving platter.
For the beef:
- 2–3 pounds tenderloin of beef, trimmed
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- Coarse sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
For the parsley sauce:
- 3 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the tomatoes:
- 2 pints cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 475 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Place the tenderloin on the baking sheet and rub the meat with olive oil and mustard, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
Roast on center rack for 30 minutes, then remove baking tray from oven and set it on the stovetop to cool, creating a “tent” around the meat with a large piece of aluminum foil. Let the meat “rest” like this 10–15 minutes without slicing into it. The meat continues to cook even after it’s out of the oven.
Meanwhile, make the parsley sauce. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, blend the parsley, garlic, vinegar, red pepper flakes, sugar and a pinch of salt and pepper until smooth. With the machine running, gradually drizzle in the olive oil and process until incorporated; the sauce will be smooth and supple.
Transfer sauce into a small serving bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the tomatoes, lower the oven to 450 F. Toss the tomatoes with thyme and oil on a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once halfway through cooking time, until tomatoes are blistered and beginning to burst, about 20 minutes total. Remove from oven and let cool.
Carve the tenderloin into half-inch-thick slices and arrange in a single row down the center of a serving platter. Scatter the tomatoes around the meat, forming a halo of sorts. Drizzle parsley sauce over the meat and tomatoes and serve warm or at room temperature, with more parsley sauce on the side for your guests to help themselves.
Chocolate Pavlova With Whipped Cream and Raspberries
Servings: 8–10 slices
You can prepare the components of this dessert early in the day and then assemble it just before your guests arrive. Just be sure to keep the whipped cream and raspberries chilling in the refrigerator until assembly. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can use a handheld mixer — just be prepared for a good arm workout.
- 6 large egg whites
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (extra fine)
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 cups raspberries
- Handful of bittersweet chocolate shavings (for garnish)
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Using a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until satiny peaks form.
Next, beat in the sugar, one spoonful at a time, until a stiff and shiny meringue forms. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and scrape any meringue from the wire whisk into the bowl.
Add in the cocoa powder, vinegar and chopped chocolate, then fold gently to combine until the cocoa powder is thoroughly mixed in and the chopped chocolate is evenly distributed. Mound this mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet in a flat circle, approximately 9 inches in diameter, smoothing the sides and top with a spatula.
Place in the oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 300 F and cook for about an hour. When it’s ready, it will look crisp around the edges and on the sides and dry on top. When you gently prod the center, you should feel the slightest bit of give beneath your fingers. A perfect meringue is crispy on the outside but a bit squishy on the inside.
Turn off the oven and open the door slightly. Let the chocolate meringue disk cool completely inside the oven while the oven cools as well.
The cooled chocolate meringue disk can be wrapped in plastic food wrap and set aside on the counter until it’s time to assemble and serve the Pavlova, up to 12 hours in advance.
Next, whisk the heavy cream until it appears thick but still soft, with soft peaks forming. You can use a stand mixer or handheld beater for this task. Whipped cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
When you’re ready to assemble and serve the dessert, place the chocolate meringue disk on a large cake platter. Pile the whipped cream on top of the meringue, smoothing it into a layer almost as thick as the meringue itself. Scatter the raspberries on top of the whipped cream, then top with chocolate shavings for garnish. Slice and serve while the whipped cream is still cold.