The holidays are the time to indulge; we want to treat our families — heck, we want to treat ourselves! — and when it comes to dining that means we reserve this time for the biggest roasts, the most succulent cuts of meat, the best bubbly, and of course ALL the appetizers and desserts.
However, it's undoubtedly stressful trying to figure out how to offer a traditionally upscale holiday meal while still making a profit. Luckily, with these tips you can tame the higher costs while still stunning your guests at the table.
Wrap It Up
There's really nothing a few flaky sheets of puff pastry can't dress up. Skip the tedious time it takes to make from scratch and order pre-rolled sheets of buttery goodness that can transform any and everything into an elegant and delicious appetizer or entree.
Do you have a house bechamel you're pre-batching anyway? Spread a dollop on a square of pastry, top with mixed mushrooms and rosemary for an easy, yet impressive, appetizer. Twist thin strips of pastry and prosciutto around stalks of asparagus or any other vegetable you have in excess — another affordable appetizer that can quickly be upgraded for the holiday table.
Give It Up for Ground
Speaking of apps, another sure bet this season is meatballs. Not only can they be doctored up your way with mixed-in veggies and infinite sauce selections, they incorporate beef in its most affordable form. While you might not be serving burgers on your holiday dinner menu, you can still reap the profits of utilizing ground beef by finding more upscale ways to incorporate it.
Mix ground beef with blue cheese for elevated stuffed mushroom caps. Create a flaky shepherd's pie that can be served to the whole table (or also pre-cooked for hosts to pick up and easily reheat at home!) for a comfort-food showstopper. Or there's always the Italian classic: red wine beef ragu spun up with some homemade tagliatelle. Give ground beef a chance on your holiday menu and you'll see bigger profit margins in your stocking.
Ready to Impress
Save time and money by ordering quality ready-to-serve apps and desserts you can easily, yet elegantly, spruce up and make your own. Decadent items like crab cakes and candied pork belly can be ordered these days ready-to-serve — just whip up a homemade remoulade or spiced cranberry jam to bring a little extra holiday flair.
Even high-quality gluten-free and vegan desserts that can be tricky and time-consuming to master from scratch can be ordered already made; you just have to decide what to top them with. Pre-made bread pudding that's just waiting for a drizzle of your warm, homemade browned butter bourbon sauce? Now we're talking.
Check In with Chicken
Usually when we think holidays, turkey takes all the glory, but chicken is a perfectly fine alternative. Why? A smaller bird translates to less time in the oven, which also leads to juicier meat. And because whole birds take less processing, whole chickens are the cheapest way to go, which is perfect for showcasing a golden and glistening roasted holiday bird. For another option, consider the rustic French dish coq au vin, which traditionally uses the cheaper (but tastier) chicken leg quarters simmered in red wine. For crispier thighs, start them skin-side down in cold cast iron first. Julia Child would be proud.