For big group dinners, and in the winter especially, it seems like the default entree is lasagna, which makes sense because it’s:
b. a one-pot meal
c. can be scaled as large as necessary
d. can be vegetarian
e. (and I think this is the biggie) can be made ahead of time — even frozen!
Image from Alana D. Davis.
I honestly spend hours poring over cookbooks and recipes for hours all in search of the perfect lasagna alternative… and the funny thing is… sometimes even with the best laid plans you end up making the make-ahead thing right before the door bell rings, but anyways! When you do make ahead you feel so prepared and your guests benefit as they get to enjoy you more. The great thing about all of these dishes, too, is that say you’re making something for tonight… you can double the batch and freeze half.
I’m sure you’ll think I’m completely out of my mind, but I’ve actually checked entire frozen casserole dishes and tupperwares, flying between San Francisco and Salt Lake City. The plane’s underbelly is so cold, the items are always rock solid when they get to the other end. Now that we’re in Hong Kong it’s not as feasible, but I have taken things like red pepper jelly and granola along with me to spice up menus!
So here’s my master Sundance recipe list. Hopefully it appeals to you, too, as we’re approaching the mid-end of winter and are maybe sick of soups and lasagna, but are still up for heartier, one-pot dishes.
—Hazelnut and butternut squash lasagna. All the basic principals of lasagna but a very different and healthier take on it as the noodles are replaced with squash. I find it very annoying to peel hazelnuts, but otherwise it’s super easy.
—Swedish meatballs. The meatballs can be frozen ahead of time and then you’re just left to the sauce and egg pasta day-of. Try to find some lignonberry jam, the traditional Swedish accompaniment, make your own pickles (so easy!) and you’re in business!
—Moussaka. Anyone who knows me will think of this as my signature dish 🙂 It’s really close to lasagna, but not–keep the tomato sauce and stet the pasta, add ground lamb, which has a different flavor without being too different to be a crowd pleaser, and eggplant, which is both affordable and healthy. I like the Cook’s Illustrated recipe.
—Chicken enchiladas. My friend Tammy gets the credit for teaching me this beloved dish. Mexican spice really adds some interest to this time of the year that can really drag on!
—Cassoulet. Bacon. Sausage. Beans. Pork shoulder. And maybe even duck? Need I say more? This is a meat lovers paradise. I love the crunchy breadcrumb topping.
Image from André Baranowski for Saveur
—Ratatouille. Another French classic. So much love and care goes into this dish, which is also awesome for vegetarians.
What are the make ahead, winter dishes that make you want to empty your plate!?