Cooking Christmas dinner can be as doable as any other meal, as long as you go for the right recipes. This year, skip the 40-ingredient dishes in favor of some easier eats. Methods like roasting and braising often deliver complex-tasting dishes without relying on any fancy knife work or advanced techniques. You can even make your own bread without waiting around for yeast to do its work. With these seven delicious recipes, your feast will be the hit of the holiday season.
1. Horseradish-and-Herb-Crusted Beef Rib Roast
Every December brings a new onslaught of recipes for beef roasts boasting some sort of new-and-improved technique. They might deliver great results, but it hardly matters if it takes hours of butchering, filling, and tying to get there. Going the simple route can yield a pretty impressive entrée without making you feel like pulling your hair out. Need proof? Check out Pat Berrigan’s impressive rib roast, featured on Food & Wine. Just make a compound butter with some horseradish, garlic, and herbs, slather it on the beef, and let it bake.
This recipe is flavorful enough as is, but real horseradish fans can whip up an easy sauce for even more of the spicy flavor. Just stir together some sour cream, prepared horseradish, a bit of mustard, and some chopped fresh parsley or chives. Season it with salt, and you’re good to go.
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 head of garlic, cloves coarsely chopped
- 1 cup prepared horseradish
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
- 1 (16-pound) beef rib roast
- Salt and pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, combine butter, garlic, horseradish, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Process until well combined.
Stand roast in a large roasting pan, and season generously all over with salt and pepper. Set fat-side up, and spread horseradish butter all over the top. Bake for about 3½ hours, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 125 degrees Fahrenheit for medium rare. Transfer to a carving board, and let rest at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Carve roast, and serve.
2. Cider-Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions
Braising is a seriously underrated way to cook around the holidays. This slow cooking method gives you a tender piece of meat, a flavorful sauce, and you can make it days in advance. Give it a try this Christmas with Epicurious’s pork shoulder cooked in cider. Best of all, it only takes five ingredients.
This recipe calls for bone-in pork shoulder, but you can use boneless if it’s all you can find. Just check the meat every 30 minutes or so. Boneless pork shoulder will cook faster, and going too long will dry the meat out. And if you do decide to make this recipe in advance, just pop the braise back in the oven or let it gently heat on the stove until the meat is heated through.
- 1 (3- to 4-pound) bone-in fresh pork shoulder half
- 2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ pounds onions, halved lengthwise, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¾ cup unfiltered apple cider
Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Score the fat and skin on pork in a crosshatch pattern, and make slits all over with a small knife. Insert a garlic sliver into each slit. Pat dry, and season pork generously with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart ovenproof pot over medium-high heat until hot. Brown meat on all sides, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Add onions to pot, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Season with ¾ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are golden and caramelized, about 8 to 10 minutes longer.
Stir in cider, then add pork to pot. Cover, and transfer to oven. Braise until very tender, about 2½ to 3 hours.
Transfer pork to a serving dish. Boil juices and onions until reduced to 2 cups, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve pork with reduced sauce.
3. Pecan-and-Dill-Crusted Salmon
Please the pescetarians in your life by roasting Southern Living’s elegant side of salmon. A coating of pecans and dill adds great flavor and a bit of crunch, which make this seafood dish feel extra special. It’s also a lot easier than you think because baking a whole fillet reduces the chances of overcooking.
- 1½ cups pecan halves
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ teaspoons dried dill weed
- 1 (3- to 3½ -pound) boneless, skinless side of salmon
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Pulse first 4 ingredients together in a food processor, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Season salmon with salt and pepper, and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Spread pecan mixture evenly over salmon. Transfer to oven, and bake 18 to 20 minutes, or just until salmon begins to flake. Serve.
4. Yorkshire Pudding
This traditional British bread makes a great accompaniment to any holiday meal, and it also happens to be one of the easiest recipes you’ll find. The batter gets its rise from the rapid accumulation of steam thanks to a really hot oven, which means you don’t need to mess around with yeast or even baking soda. The batter also comes together in a matter of minutes, making this dish one of the best options for those who typically find baking too time consuming.
You’ll find plenty of recipes for Yorkshire pudding online, but we really like Food Republic’s version. Instead of going the traditional route of making one giant pudding, this recipe makes individual ones. This gives you a great ratio of crispy exterior to tender interior.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 3 eggs, beaten
- Large pinch of salt
- ½ cup roasted meat drippings, bacon grease, or light cooking oil, divided
Directions: Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, then mix flour, milk, eggs, and salt in a large bowl until smooth.
Divide drippings evenly among cups in a large, six-muffin tin, and transfer to oven for 5 minutes. Drippings should be very hot before proceeding.
Remove tin from oven, and carefully divide batter among the cups, filling just over halfway full. Return to oven, and bake for about 20 minutes. Then lower temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until golden all over. Serve at once.
5. Creamed Kale
Give this classic dish a new twist by using kale instead of spinach with Saveur’s easy recipe. In addition to shaking things up, opting for the sturdier green means this dish will retain its texture better. Make it even more luxurious by stirring in some grated Parmesan cheese.
- 2 heads kale
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup cream
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Directions: Separate kale leaves, and remove stems. Place kale in a large skillet, add chicken stock, and simmer over medium heat until skillet is almost dry, about 10 minutes.
Add butter, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add cream and sugar, season with salt and white pepper, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, and serve.
6. Oven-Roasted Squash and Beets with Arugula
A beautiful presentation can make a good dish phenomenal. Instead of trying to get the effect by plating your salad with tweezers, go for contrasting colors with this simple beet and squash side from Midwest Living. To make it even more impressive, sprinkle the finished dish with some chopped, toasted hazelnuts.
- 2 pounds beets, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
- 1 (2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
- 2 cups baby arugula leaves
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a shallow roasting pan, combine beets, 2 tablespoons oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat. In a second shallow roasting pan, combine squash with remaining oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.
Place roasting pans on separate racks in oven, and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until tender, stirring, and switching pan positions once during roasting.
Transfer beets and squash to a large bowl. Add arugula, and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.
7. Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Cayenne
Whether your family is fearful of the negative health effects associated with bacon or they’re just sick of it showing up in every dish, it’s safe to say your Brussels sprouts need some new ingredients this Christmas. Since nearly everyone goes nuts for sweet and savory dishes, these spicy maple sprouts from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food are sure to be a hit. You may want to make a small batch sans cayenne in case you have heat-sensitive family members.
- 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil and season with salt. Roast until sprouts are browned in spots and tender when pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway through. Meanwhile, combine syrup and cayenne in a small bowl. Drizzle syrup mixture over sprouts, stir to coat, and roast 1 minute longer. Serve.