A Genius Holiday Party Menu for When You Don’t Have Time to Cook

It’s a party, not a production.

By Camille Styles

My first rule of throwing a holiday party: as the host, you should actually have fun. And that’s pretty much my only rule, because I believe that gatherings shouldn’t be stressful or filled with expectations – they should be about bringing your favorite people together and expressing your authentic style. I’ve thrown enough holiday parties to have learned a few things the hard way, and the secret starts with crafting a menu that’s make-ahead, not too labor-intensive…and super delicious (obvi.)

easiest dinner menu

I’m totally smitten with Ashley Rodriguez’s brand new cookbook, Let’s Stay Inthat’s brimming with menus and recipes for meaningful family meals and effortless entertaining – all created with her signature appreciation for the magic of meals shared with others. I tapped Ashley to put together an easy holiday party menu that would be a light lift on the host while still treating her guests to something really special – and she did it using all recipes from the new book. Scroll on to find out what’s on the menu and get the recipes (I seriously cannot wait to copy this genius idea for Le Grand Aioli!) and be sure to pickup her book for lots more ideas that’ll have you convinced: staying in is the new going out.

holiday dinner ideas

The Main Course: Harvest Le Grand Aioli

From Ashley: Le Grand Aïoli is a tradition from Provence that includes a stunningly arranged platter of poached fish and vegetables alongside a garlic-tinged aïoli.

I’ve taken a few liberties with my version but the heart of it all—celebrating the season with family and friends over a heaping platter of vegetables and aïoli for dipping—is still there.

It’s the sort of meal that causes all the ooh’s and aah’s with minimal effort. Sometimes I include hard-cooked eggs, there’s always bread, and traditionally there is fish. My local fish market makes the best whole smoked trout, so I love to include that here. Or if you’re using the sweet maple aïoli, a simple roasted chicken is particularly good.

Plan for at least half a pound (230 g) of vegetables per person, more if you’re not including eggs or fish. Le Grand Aïoli turns an everyday into an occasion. Call up some friends, ask them to bring a bottle of rosé, a loaf of bread, perhaps some good chocolate for dessert, and sit around the table dragging purple beets through creamy aïoli. Laugh and love and leave the dishes for the morning.

Scroll to the bottom of the post for the recipe…

hot chocolate recipe

The After-Dinner Drink: Hot Chocolate with Cocoa Whipped Cream

From Ashley: In the winter, we make large batches of this to enjoy around the fire with friends or pack it into mugs to warm us on our walk around the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights.

*Serves 4 – 6

Hot Chocolate
4 cups whole milk
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate
Pinch of sea salt

Cocoa Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

To make the hot chocolate: In a large saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat. Once the milk reaches a steady simmer, lower the heat to low, then whisk in the chocolate and sea salt. Once the chocolate melts, turn off the heat.
To make cocoa whipped cream: Place the cream in a large bowl. Sift in the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar, then whisk the cream to soft peaks.
Serve the hot chocolate topped with a heaping dollop.

black and white popcorn recipe

The Dessert: Black and White Popcorn

Get the recipe here!

Harvest Le Grand Aioli

Serves 8-10

A Genius Holiday Party Menu for When You Don't Have Time to Cook

By Camille Styles

Harvest Le Grand Aioli


1/2 pound carrots, peeled
1 pound winter squash, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
1 pound small fingerling or new potatoes
1/2 pound fennel, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 pound bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch /1.3 cm strips
1/2 pound beets, trimmed and quartered
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 roasted chicken
6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved
Your choice between Maple Rosemary Aioli, Caper and Preserved Lemon Aioli, or Olive Aioli


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C.
  2. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl, excluding the beets. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, and several grinds of black pepper to the bowl. Toss until well coated. Spread the vegetables on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Place the beets on a separate sheet pan, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.
  3. Roast all the vegetables until frizzled and tender, between 30 and 45 minutes.
  4. Arrange the roasted vegetables, chicken, and eggs on large platters along with the aïoli.

Maple Rosemary Aioli


1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 medium-size garlic clove, grated
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt


  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Can be made 3 to 4 days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator.

Caper and Preserved Lemon Aioli


1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl. For a looser aïoli, you can blend all the ingredients in a food processor to create more of a sauce.

Olive Aioli


1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt
1 cup best-quality mayonnaise


  1. Finely chop the garlic, olives, and capers and place in a small bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon, pepper, a pinch of sea salt, and the mayonnaise. Stir well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

excerpt with permission from Let's Stay In

Comments (2)

  1. Michelle & Watson says:

    There is nothing like homemade hot cocoa for the holidays!!

    Woof Xo,
    Michelle & Watson


  2. SJ says:

    Hello, in regard to the Harvest Le Grand Aioli, you mentioned there were some changes to the aioli. Can you share what you did? Your photo looks awesome! Thanks! 🙂

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