The Simply Luxurious Soiree

Robin Davis
Our triple threat? Cranberry Wensleydale, Manchego and Stilton from Curds and Whey in the North Market. Larch Wood cutting board, $155 at Helen Winnemore Craft

Yes, you can play the high-achieving hostess and relish the party, too. Here's our recipe for elegant but enjoyable holiday entertaining

The holidays mean celebrating-whether it's Thanksgiving or Christmas, New Year's Eve or just a gathering of the girls. And what could be more festive than an exquisite menu that the hostess can also enjoy?

A key to a successful dinner party is having a plan to get each course on the table with minimal stress. And this menu does just that, without sacrificing taste.

Here's how: Set out the cheese tray just as guests arrive to give them something to nibble (a glass of Champagne is a nice way to greet them, too). Have the salads assembled, then dress them just before serving. Put the already-seasoned beef in the oven while guests start the salad. Pop in the soufflés when the beef comes out. By the time the carrots are cooked and the beef is sliced, the soufflés will be coming out of the oven, ready to serve. And the trifle needs to be made ahead of time, so you can simply dish it-and delight in it.

Cheese Tray

Mike Kast of Curds and Whey in the North Market suggests using three to five cheeses, but notes that in a pinch, you can just set out a block of really sharp cheddar, which is always a crowd pleaser. For the ultimate plate, consider his recommendations.

Something creamy: D'affinois, Italian taleggio or locally-made chevre

Something firm and flavorful: Manchego

Something harder, more robust: Abondance or sharfe maxx are particularly good with red wine, while Wabash Erie Canal and comte pair well with white

Something blue: Stilton is often called the king of blue cheese

Something fun: Stinking Bishop, or a cheese with cranberry, lemon or mango

Roasted Pear and Pomegranate Salad

Makes 8 servings


2 ripe but firm pears, peeled, cut into thick slices

1 tablespoon butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup bottled pomegranate juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

12 cups mixed greens

Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss pears with butter, brown sugar and cloves. Arrange on a baking sheet. Roast until tender and golden, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour pomegranate juice into a small skillet. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool.

Pour pomegranate juice into a bowl. Whisk in vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil.

Place greens in large bowl. Add enough dressing to coat. Toss.

Divide greens among plates. Top with pears and pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Spinach Parmesan Souffles

Makes 8 servings


1/4 cup unsalted butter

6 tablespoons flour

1 1/4 cups milk

1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

6 large egg yolks

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

8 large egg whites


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter eight 1-cup soufflé cups. Place on a large baking sheet with a rim.

In a heavy large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually whisk in milk. Stir in spinach, Parmesan, egg yolks, salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Using an electric mixer with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Gently fold whites into spinach mixture in three additions. Divide dishes among prepared cups.

Bake soufflés until puffed and brown on top, about 30 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Roast beef tenderloin with horseradish cream and glazed carrots

Makes 8 servings


1 beef tenderloin (3 1/2 to 4 pounds), trimmed

1 1/2 cups sour cream

1 jar (5 ounces) prepared white horseradish, drained

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 green onions, minced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 pounds carrots, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch thick slices

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary


Let beef stand at room temperature 30 minutes to an hour.

Mix sour cream, horseradish, parsley and green onions. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until serving.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a heavy large roasting pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat (two burners if necessary). Pat the beef dry. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add to pan and cook until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes.

Roast beef until a thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 125 degrees for medium-rare. Transfer meat to a cutting board. Tent with foil. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrots. Cook until beginning to brown, about 5 to 8 minutes. Cover skillet and cook until carrots are tender, about 5 minutes. Uncover. Add honey and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Toss until carrots are glazed.

Cut beef into slices. Arrange on a platter. Arrange carrots around beef. Serve with horseradish sauce.

Limoncello Trifle

Makes 8 servings


4 large egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1 cup mascarpone cheese

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 purchased or homemade pound cake (about 1 pound), cut into cubes

1 1/2 cups limoncello

Fresh raspberries for garnish


In the top of a double boiler, whisk yolks, sugar and lemon zest until tripled in volume and 140 degrees on a thermometer. Remove from heat. Whisk in mascarpone. Cool to room temperature.

Beat cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into yolk mixture.

In the bottom of a glass bowl, arrange half of cake cubes. Sprinkle with half of limoncello. Spread half of yolk mixture over. Arrange remaining cake cubes over. Drizzle with remaining limoncello. Spread remaining yolk mixture over the top. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Garnish with berries.

* Local touch: Use locally-made Tessora Classico for the limoncello in this recipe. You can also serve small glasses alongside.