Try this delicious holiday menu for drop-in guests (and get most of the work done ahead of time)
Easy Open-House Buffet
James Carrier

Sometimes it’s nice to take a looser approach to entertaining during the holidays and let friends and family swing by all day, instead of throwing a sit-down dinner party. You could do a ham or a turkey ― but why not serve something less expected (and quicker to make)? 

Peggy Knickerbocker suggests succulent, aromatic spice- and seed-encrusted pork tenderloins, accompanied by an hors d’oeuvre of tender little bay shrimp on endive leaves (replenished now and then from a tray in the fridge), flavorful roasted vegetables, an escarole salad that stays crunchy for hours ― and a luscious, earthy Barham Mendelsohn Pinot Noir from Au Bon Climat. On a side table, she sets out a couple of surprising desserts: sliced oranges sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and fizzed up with sparkling wine, and a moist, almost black gingerbread made with Guinness stout.

Peggy based this menu’s recipes on ones in her fun and graceful book Simple Soirées (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2005; $35). All of them may be made several hours ahead if not the day before, and all taste fine at room temperature ― which means that you don’t have to scurry around at the last minute reheating anything. You can just put out the food, sit back, and enjoy your company. 


Day before the party

• Shop for all ingredients and fresh flowers
• Arrange flowers
• Make aioli for bay shrimp
• Make seed rub, and rub tenderloins with it
• Hard-cook eggs
• Make salad dressing
• Make gingerbread
• Chill wine
• Make sparkling oranges
• Wash escarole; wrap it in towels and refrigerate

Morning of the party

• Get ice, if needed
• Roast vegetables (in two batches)
• Set up bar with glasses and drinks
• Set up buffet table with linens and napkins
• Assemble bay shrimp mixture on endive; chill
• Finish escarole salad and chill
• Cook pork tenderloins
• Whip cream for gingerbread; slice gingerbread

An hour before guests arrive

• Light candles and fireplace, if you have one
• Set up buffet
• Give yourself a minute to relax