Everyone will enjoy these easy meals—especially the cook!

By Laura Rege
October 15, 2020
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Credit: Marcus Nilsson

While holiday gatherings will likely be much smaller than usual this year, adding even a few extra people to your home will change the amount of food you need to put on the table. And if any of your guests plan to stay before or after the main holiday, it's important to have a few delicious, simple meals up your sleeve—they'll make extended hosting a whole lot easier.

Whether you're hosting family or friends, if you have guests who are joining you for a longer period of time—perhaps as part of your state's travel or quarantine rules—consider organizing a few dinners outside of the main event. To keep hosting fun, we selected some of our favorite meals that serve six to eight; each comes with a built-in tactic to simplify or minimize the amount of time you spend in the kitchen. What sort of tricks work for us? Start by embracing technology (both the slow cooker and Instant Pot have a place here), look to quick-cooking roasts (we like salmon and beef tenderloin), or pick large format dishes you can whip up for a crowd (lasagna is always well-received). Read on for recipes that follow these ideas and more.

Acorn Squash with Mixed-Grain Stuffing

This is a great back pocket recipe with vegetables front and center on the plate. Packed with seasonal flavors and an eye-popping presentation, these stuffed acorn squashes are filled with a flavorful grain stuffing and topped with the crunchy sweet pop of a pomegranate. Prepare the stuffing and relish in advance, then stuff and bake as mealtime approaches.

Pressure Cooker Coq au Vin

Bring bistro flavors to dinner, with a French themed evening. We adapted the classic French dish popularized in the U.S. by Julia Child, coq au vin, for the Instant Pot, and it was an instant hit. In just a fraction of the usual time, a fabulous chicken dish is ready, no need to worry about checking on the bird in the oven or the white meat drying out. Don't forget to serve with a baguette and a bottle of French wine.

Slow Cooker Marmalade and Vinegar Pork

Sometimes the magical combo of simple ingredients and time create the most sophisticated and delicious dishes. A prime example of this, our tender slow cooked pork recipe. The secret to this irresistible sauce—marmalade. The best part is how easy this dish is to make: Just put the ingredients in the slow cooker, then set it and forget it.

Fireside Beef Stew

Yes, it's possible to upgrade stew from standard weeknight fare to a dish worthy of serving to guests. The secret? A dollop of sour cream and a spoonful of parsley-horseradish pesto. Besides only using one pot (as you know, less dishes equals less time), this stew can also be made up to three days in advance, meaning dinner can be ready before the guests even arrive. As the stew sits the flavor continue to meld. Just cook then cool to room temperature, cover the pot and store in the refrigerator. Reheat before serving with a crusty loaf of bread.

Shrimp Cobb Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing

It's surprising how appreciated a well-prepared and -dressed salad with all the good mix ins can be. This zesty shrimp Cobb salad with cilantro and lime dressing breaks up indulgent holiday eating and creates a colorful centerpiece on the dinner table. Have the salad ready-to-go in the fridge since the ingredients won't get soggy from being tossed together—just wait to dress it before serving. 

Lasagna

Simplify the lasagna making process with a recipe that uses no-cook noodles, a quick flavorful sauce made with ground beef and Italian sausage, and a ricotta cheese filling. Assemble the dish in advance and bake about an hour and a half before dinnertime. Check out our visual guide for step-by-step instructions.

Beet-and-Dill-Roasted Wild Salmon

Don't be intimidated by fish. It's surprising how speedy and foolproof it is to cook salmon for a crowd. Beyond the gorgeous beet colored hue of this salmon, there is no need to worry about flipping the fillet, which ensures a beautiful presentation. The fish only roasts about 12 minutes but factor in a bit extra time for the potatoes to cook.

Pepper-Crusted Beef Tenderloin

Bring the steakhouse to your home. To make it easy on the cook, rather than individual steaks, buy a piece of beef tenderloin which is the same cut of meat fillet mignon is sliced from. Make sure to allot an hour for the steak to come to room temperature, but other than that, super tender slices of steak are just 16 minutes away. Slice the cooked roast into steaks and serve. Wouldn't hurt to make a little blender hollandaise to spoon over top.

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