Make Ahead Holiday Friends Dinner

This year the holidays snuck up FAST! One day I left the Midwest for Boston and it was warm, and by the time I landed it was cold and miserable. And Thanksgiving is right around the corner! I was looking over a calendar the other day and realized that I am gone for all but FOUR NIGHTS between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which meant I needed to get my holiday ass in gear.

Cue the Christmas Present making (post to come once the gifts have been given), Holiday Card printing (hint here and you can buy them here), and Holiday Dinner cooking! I love entertaining and throwing especially festive dinners when there is a reason, and what better reason than getting your friends together one last time before the New Year?

For dinner I chose to make the below menu mainly because it could all be made ahead. I learned from my mother that big meals are best to be made ahead to avoid stressing the day of. While I didn’t have time to make everything the day before, I was able to make the pot pie filling, the crust, and the tart all before noon, and then wrap up the dates and bacon well before anyone arrived so they were ready to pop into the oven when guests arrived. In addition to looking like a real Martha when my friends arrived, everything was cleaned and ready for the oven or a glass when they got there, so no mess. Best idea ever!

Enjoy the menu below and let me know if you make any of the recipes! Everything was delicious!

Menu for Holiday Make Ahead Dinner

Sip On A Rosemary Baby

(recipe adapted from here, find it pinned here)

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For the Rosemary-Infused Aperol:
1 bottle Aperol
3 long sprigs fresh rosemary
For the honey syrup:
4 ounces warm water
4 ounces honey
For the punch:
18 ounces rosemary-infused Aperol
10 ounces bourbon such as Four Roses Yellow Label
6 ounces honey syrup
24 ounces sparkling wine
24 ounces seltzer

    1. Place 3 long sprigs of fresh rosemary in a bottle of Aperol. Let sit for 3 hours at room temperature, strain.
    2. Combine honey and warm water. Stir together thoroughly, or combine in a jar and shake until mixed.
    3. Mix rosemary-infused Aperol, bourbon, and honey syrup in a punch bowl. Top with sparkling wine and seltzer. Garnish with grapefruit slices and rosemary sprigs and serve with ice.

Snack On Bacon Wrapped Dates

(recipe adapted from here, pinned here)

1 tub of dates (I wasn’t particular about what kind)
1/4 lb parmesan cut into sticks (~1/4-1/2in thick x 1in long)
1 package of bacon (thin or regular sliced)

    1. Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice the date down one long side, and slip in one of the parmesan sticks and close the date around it.
    2. Put the bacon at the top of the strip of bacon, and roll until the date is completely wrapped plus a bit of overhang. Cut the bacon and put the bacon date on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. (This is where you can stop and refrigerate your dates)
    3. Bake for ~10-15mins depending on how crispy you like your bacon!

Dine On Short Rib Pot Pie

(recipe found here, pinned here)

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3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup vegetable shortening or beef lard
Filling and assembly:
3 pound boneless beef short ribs, cut into 2″ pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 10-ounce package frozen pearl onions, thawed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
2 sprigs rosemary
6 sprigs thyme, plus 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
Heavy cream (for brushing)

For crust:

    1. Pulse flour and salt in a food processor; add butter and shortening and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Transfer flour mixture to a large bowl and drizzle with 1/2 cup ice water. Mix with a fork until dough just comes together.
    2. Knead dough lightly, adding more water by the tablespoonful if needed, until no dry spots remain (dough will be slightly shaggy but moist). Form into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.

DO AHEAD: Crust can be made 2 days ahead; keep chilled.

For filling and assembly:

    1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Season short ribs with kosher salt and pepper; toss with 1/2 cup flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat and, working in batches, shake excess flour from ribs and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply browned, 8–10 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl.
    2. Add onions to same pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown; season with kosher salt and pepper and, using a slotted spoon, transfer to a small bowl. Reduce heat to medium, add garlic to pot, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.
    3. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until slightly darkened in color, 5–8 minutes. 4. Add wine, rosemary, and thyme sprigs, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up browned bits, until liquid is reduced by half, 8–10 minutes. Add 6 cups water to pot and bring to a boil.
    5. Return short ribs to pot; season with kosher salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, until short ribs are almost falling apart and liquid is thick enough to lightly coat a spoon, 2 1/2–3 hours.
    6. Add onions and chopped thyme to pot and stir to break up short ribs; season filling with kosher salt and pepper. Remove herb sprigs.

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DO AHEAD: Filling can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat gently before assembling pie.

    7.Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8″ thick. Transfer filling to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Place over filling and trim, leaving overhang. Tuck edges under and crimp. Cut a few slits in crust. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sea salt. Alternatively, you can use 8 individual dishes.
    8. Place dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake pot pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, 50–60 minutes (35–40 minutes for smaller dishes). Let sit 5–10 minutes before serving.

Sweeten with an Apple and Maple Tart

(recipe adapted from here, pinned here)

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For the Walnut Crust:
2½ cups walnut pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 egg white
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For the Custard:
1½ cups milk (I used 1%)
6 egg yolks
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup cornstarch
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 apples (I used Gala), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced (keep in lemon water until ready to use)
juice of a lemon
¼ cup honey, warmed

For the Walnut Crust:

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. In a food processor or chopper, pulse the walnuts until the are finely chopped, and the pieces are about the size of breadcrumbs.
    3. Place the chopped nuts in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, tossing together with a fork.
    4. Press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
    5. Bake for 15 minutes.

For the Custard:

    1. Pour the milk into a small pot and place over medium heat until small bubbles form around the edges.
    2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the maple syrup, cornstarch, and salt.
    3. Slowly pour the hot milk over the egg mixture, while whisking, to warm the eggs.
    4. Place the mixture back into the pot and place over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a bubble and becomes very thick.
    5. Stir in the vanilla and transfer to a heat safe container. Lay plastic wrap over the surface. Chill for 2 hours.

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Assemble the Tart:

    1. Spread the maple custard in the walnut tart shell.
    2. Warm the apple slices in the microwave until pliable. (I did about 20 seconds)
    3. Roll a slice of apple into a tight spiral and stand it up vertically in the custard. Continue to arrange apple slices in a concentric pattern, around the first one, building a rose pattern.
    4. Warm the honey and thin it with lemon juice. Brush this glaze over the apples, for shine and to prevent browning – mine stayed looking good for ~2days in the refrigerator.

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Join the Conversation (2)

  1. Your apple walnut tart looks fabulous!!!

    November 24, 2014
  2. Niki says:

    I love how impressive that apple tart is! I seriously just want to show up to a party holding that! Lol

    June 25, 2015