Party Planner: Ina’s Make-Ahead Holiday Dinner

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As the host of Barefoot Contessa on Food Network and author of nine cookbooks, Ina Garten knows how to make entertaining look effortless. This year, she showed us how to pull off a festive and relaxed holiday meal with strategies from her newest cookbook, Make It Ahead. Read on for our tips on how to throw a relaxed yet gorgeous holiday meal using recipes and expert advice from Ina.



Ina’s Make-Ahead Menu




The genius of Ina’s menu is that all of the components can be prepared ahead, leaving you with more time to enjoy your guests. The one thing you can make as guests arrive? Bright and festive Cranberry Martinis. Serve with garlicky Bruschettas with Sauteed Chard.


After cocktail hour, welcome guests to the table with a holiday feast. Make-Ahead Roast Turkey and Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy can be presented on a beautiful platter in the center of the table or buffet; choose large serving bowls to show off the vibrant colors of Carrot-Cauliflower Puree and Peas with Pancetta. Rich and savory Leek and Artichoke Bread Pudding rounds out the meal.


For a sweet finish, Make-Ahead Zabaglione with Amaretti served in individual crystal glasses looks elegant and enticing.



Party Planner


  • 1 week ahead: Write down a game plan for both the week and the day of the party; make gravy base and refrigerate.
  • 4 days ahead: Make carrot and cauliflower puree and refrigerate.
  • 3 days ahead: Set the table (as long as it’s not the same table you use throughout the week). Make sure linens are pressed and silver is polished. Make cranberry mixture for martinis, add vodka and store.
  • 2 days ahead: Begin brining the turkey; assemble bread pudding and refrigerate. Prepare zabaglione completely and refrigerate.
  • 1 day ahead: Saute chard, cover and refrigerate.
  • Day of: Roast the turkey and finish making the gravy; slice turkey and assemble on gravy, and then cover and let sit for up to 1 hour. Make peas and pancetta and refrigerate.
  • Just before serving: Reheat peas and carrot puree. Bake the bread pudding. Toast bread, reheat chard and assemble bruschettas. Top zabaglione with more amaretti crumbs. Strain the vodka mixture (reserving the cranberries), mix the martinis and relax!


More Make-Ahead Tips



  • A day ahead: uncork, taste, and chill (if appropriate) the wines.
  • A day ahead: pull the platters and serving pieces you’ll need and place Post-It notes on each one to remind yourself which food goes where.
  • A few hours ahead: put ground coffee and water in the coffee-maker (but don’t turn it on until you’re ready to serve dessert).
  • Before the party: run the dishwasher and empty it so you’re ready for the cleanup afterward.


Read more entertaining tips and make-ahead strategies from Ina; get her complete menu here.

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