Holiday Dinner Party Menu

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If it’s not obvious from the content on this blog I cook a lot. Like, all the time because the kitchen is my happy place and cooking is what I like to do to de-stress. But even though I feel pretty confident whipping up a meal for me and my guy I tend to get a bit overwhelmed at the thought of cooking for a group. Part of it is overthinking everything…the perfect menu, the right table setting, good music, fun cocktail…but some of my anxiousness comes from the worry of serving something delicious (and making it to the table hot) without having to stand over the stove the entire time company is there. What I’ve learned after a few failed attempts and a few successes is one pot meals, especially things that can be roasted or baked are great options because you take the guesswork out of it, knowing the meat will turn out moist and removing yourself from the active cooking portion of preparing a dish.

The following is a tried and true menu you can follow to host one of your upcoming holiday meals without having to worry about slaving away in the kitchen. In fact, almost all of the prep work and cooking can be done ahead of time leaving you to enjoy the party because it’s a crock pot meal…queue the angels singing. Everyone wins!

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Savory Maple Dijon Pot Roast (in the crock pot!)
Creamy Polenta
Roasted Rainbow Carrots
Side Green Salad

Savory Maple Dijon Pot Roast, recipe courtesy of The Kitchn, Serves 4 to 6
2 1/2 to 3 pounds beef chuck roast
4 to 5 slices bacon, diced (or neutral cooking oil)
3 large onions, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 1/2 to 2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika (I used smoked paprika)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Fresh thyme or parsley, for garnish

Pat the beef dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper.

Set a large dutch oven or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until fat starts to render and it begins to turn golden. Remove the bacon to a paper towel and add the beef. Sear both sides until golden brown, about 10 minutes per side, and transfer all the meat to the bowl of the slow cooker.

While meat is searing make your sauce. Whisk chicken stock (but reserve a few tablespoons for later), Dijon, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, paprika, salt, and pepper until combined. Set mixture aside.

Back to the skillet…reserve 2 tablespoons of the meat fat in the skillet or dutch oven and reduce heat to medium. Add the onions and cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Pour in your leftover tablespoons of chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping up any of the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the onions and pan juices into the bowl of the slow cooker. Now add the maple dijion mixture over the roast. Close the lid and cook on LOW heat until the meat falls apart and is incredibly tender, about 8 hours.

Transfer the roast to platter and cover with foil. Pour the cooking liquids into large saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the gravy is reduced to desired thickness, range can be from 10-20 minutes depending on desired consistency. Cut the roast into chunks and pour hot gravy over the top. Serve on top of creamy grits alongside roasted carrots.

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Roasted Carrots
12-14 medium or large rainbow carrots
olive oil or a higher smoking point oil like brown rice or coconut oil
salt & pepper
fresh herbs on hands to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut carrots into large pieces and assemble on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and generously coat with salt and pepper. Roast for around 20 minutes or until turning golden brown.

Day before dinner…
-peel and cut carrots, store them for roasting the following day
-make polenta according to package directions or your liking (I love Bob’s Red Mill), let cool completely and store in fridge overnight
-make a simple vinaigrette dressing and store in fridge
-assemble salad (minus the dressing) and cover tightly in fridge overnight
-slice all onions and store for cooking the next day

Day of dinner…
-in the morning prepare the meat according to the recipe instructions and get into crock pot to cook for the day
-before company arrives put the polenta back on the stove to reheat on low, you may need to add a bit more stock or water to get it nice and smooth, stir occasionally
-arrange carrots on a baking sheet and put in the oven right after your guests arrive (depending on when you want to eat)
-10-20 minutes before you want to eat take the roast out and let it rest on a cutting board under a piece of foil
-pour juices from roast into a pan on the stove and cook until gravy is your desired consistency
-cut roast into large pieces
-once ready to eat, pour the polenta onto the base of your largest serving platter and top with cut pieces of the roast, spoon gravy mixture on top, move carrots to their own serving platter, and dress salad

Move to the table because you’re ready to grub!


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