In movies and TV shows, you always see the impeccably dressed matriarch slaving away in the kitchen for days to present her family with a magnificent feast at the impossibly glossy and beautifully set dining room table. The patriarch then stands and says a few words before rolling up the sleeves of his oxford shirt and cashmere pullover to carve the beautiful bird. The family gazes up adoringly at this patriarch as he slices off picture perfect slices of golden turkey that isn’t at all dry. The boys straighten their ties and the girls straighten their pearls. They almost always look like Ozzie and Harriet.
In my family, it’s quite a different picture. There are card tables and folding chairs scattered throughout the house, almost everybody is in jeans, everybody brings a dish or two and we set the casseroles and platters on the kitchen counter and each member goes through the buffet line, helping themselves to the bounty. Sounds a little more attainable, right? The only problem with the potluck style supper is that inevitably, everybody needs to warm their dish “just a few minutes” on the stove or in the oven.
Avoiding this problem is simple with a little preplanning when deciding which dish you’re going to bring. For example, prepare the yummy and oh-so-satisfying baked spinach and gruyere casserole or the savory and sweet rye and apple dressing, bake them at home and transport them in an insulated bag or cardboard box lined with towels. For as long as I’ve known her, Grandmama keeps a cardboard box lined with an old beach towel in her truck for just such occasions.
Desserts are always an easy contribution. Cheesecakes can be made ahead and refrigerated. Layer cakes can be iced far in advance and easily transported in a cake carrier. Brownies, cookies and pies can be prepared the week before pulled from the freezer the day before to thaw. Cranberry sauce is another easy way to contribute a holiday staple without getting underfoot in the kitchen. Daddy prefers the cranberry gelatinous cylinder while the rest of the family goes for the homemade cranberry-orange sauce. Either way, it’s prepped and ready to go ahead of time. In true Southern fashion, the green beans we eat at Christmas have been cooked to death and usually arrive hot. This leaves the kitchen free for the last minute dishes like the maple glazed carrots, gravy and roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans.
Even if your Christmas dinners look more like the Nelson family’s than mine, a little forethought and preplanning can save you or the host(ess) a great deal of stress and last minute prep work. And that’s the way to really enjoy the holidays.
Blue Potatoes Au Gratin
2 1/2 pounds blue potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup shredded Gruyere
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish or similar sized casserole dish. Arrange the sliced potatoes in the prepared dish. In a medium saucepan, saute the minced garlic in butter over medium heat until softened and fragrant. Stir in flour and cook for 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the cream until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour cheese sauce over the potatoes in the dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until browned.
*from the Food Network
Rye and Apple Dressing
½ stick unsalted butter
½ loaf rye bread, cut into ½ inch pieces (about 6 cups)
½ loaf sourdough bread, cut into ½ inch pieces (about 6 cups)
2 onions, chopped
4 stalks celery, cut into ½ inch pieces
Salt and pepper
2 Granny Smith apples, cut into ½ inch pieces
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. fresh parsley, chopped
¼ c. fresh sage, chopped
2 large eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a deep 3 quart casserole. Place bread on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until golden, 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, celery and ½ t. each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the apples and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable mixture, parsley and sage to the bread and toss to combine. Mix in the eggs. Transfer to the prepared dish and cover loosely with buttered foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 12-15 minutes.
3 lbs. carrots, sliced ¼ thick on the diagonal
¼ c. maple syrup
2 T. unsalted butter
Salt and pepper
In a large skillet, combine the carrots, syrup and butter with 1/3 c. water, ½ t. salt, and ¼ t. pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring once, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has reduced to a glaze, 12-15 minutes.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pecans
2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 c. pecans, roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Heat oven to 400 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss Brussels sprouts, pecans, oil and garlic with ½ t. salt and ¼ t. pepper. Turn the Brussels sprouts cut side down. Roast until golden and tender, 20-25 minutes.
All recipes and carrot image from Real Simple Magazine
Article originally published here.