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.)
I’m totally smitten with Ashley Rodriguez’s brand new cookbook, Let’s Stay In, that’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.
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…
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
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.
The Dessert: Black and White Popcorn
Get the recipe here!