5 Tips for a Quicker-Cooking Holiday Dinner

The holidays can be a busy time of year — there's no getting around it. But a few smart moves will help get your holiday feast on the table in record time.

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Tip #1: Assemble Salads in Advance

Try a salad that uses heartier greens — escarole and frisee, for example, won't wilt into a soggy mess. Or try this pro trick that doesn't require assembling a salad a la minute: Start by adding some dressing to the bottom of the salad bowl, then top with the heartiest ingredients that aren't prone to soaking up dressing, like cucumbers and tomatoes. Layer the fragile ingredients on top, such as the lettuce or herbs, and top that layer with garnishes like cheese or croutons. The salad will keep for a few hours without wilting or soaking up any dressing; at the table, toss the salad and season it with salt and more dressing, as needed.


By Teri Tsang Barrett

Get the Recipe: Escarole With Pancetta

Tip #2: Cut Up Vegetables Before Cooking to Save on Time

Fall vegetables that are a mainstay at the holiday table — think winter squash or root vegetables — take a while to cook, especially when left whole. Whether a dish requires boiling or roasting, the smaller the vegetables are cut, the less time it will take for each piece to cook through.

Get the Recipe: Cheese-Crusted Squash

Tip #3: Skip Vegetable Casseroles and Whip Up a Rich Sauce Instead

Top a cooked vegetable — boiled, roasted or grilled, as they all work — with a rich flavorful sauce, and do away with any elaborate or multistep prep previously required for decadent vegetable sides.

Get the Recipe: Leeks with Walnut Vinaigrette

Tip #4: Downsize from the Holiday Goose and Try Cornish Hens

Not only will these mini birds take a fraction of the time to cook, they're perfectly sized for individual servings and they still offer special occasion flair.

Get the Recipe: Butterflied Cornish Hens with Sage Butter

Tip #5: Skip the Roast and Grill Steaks Instead

Steaks require minimal cooking time compared to their whole-cut counterpart. Throw them on the grill for some extra depth of flavor, and elevate the meal to feast status by serving with a rich sauce.

Get the Recipe: Grilled Flank Steak with Gorgonzola Cream Sauce and Asparagus