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A Sensational Make-Ahead Holiday Dinner

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Wrap up a filet of beef and a savory mushroom filling like a gift to create the centerpiece of this do-ahead menu

Those of us who love to cook and entertain are often torn when it comes to holiday parties: make a spectacular meal that will delight and satisfy your guests, or actually spend some quality time with those guests? This menu lets you have it both ways. It will surely garner you many compliments, and yet it won’t cause last-minute stress. The soup and dessert can and should be made days ahead, while the main course is assembled in advance, and popped in the oven just as you and your guests sit down to the first course.

Download a pdf of this menu, including all recipes, shopping list, and timeline.

Menu Timeline

Three days ahead:

  • Make the tomato soup. (This could also be made up to two weeks ahead and frozen.)

Two days ahead:

  • Make the chocolate mousse.

One day ahead:

  • Make the mushroom filling. (This could also be made up to two weeks ahead and frozen.)
  • Clean the spinach.
  • Brown the filets.

That morning:

  • Assemble and refrigerate the beef croustades.
  • Make the chocolate shavings for the mousse garnish.

Two hours before:

  • Cook the spinach. (Leave it in the pan to reheat at serving time.)
  • Lightly whip the heavy cream for the mousse garnish; refrigerate.

As guests arrive:

  • Reheat the soup over low heat.
  • Heat the oven.
  • Open wine for dinner.

Just before dinner:

  • Put the croustades in the oven. (When you clear the soup plates the croustades will be ready.)
  • After the first course, take the croustades out of the oven and let them sit a minute while you reheat the spinach.

Shopping List

Fresh Produce

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 medium shallots
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 medium baking potato (9 ounces)
  • 1 pound fresh white button or cremini mushrooms
  • 2 1/2 pounds baby spinach
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh chives

Meat and Dairy Items

  • 6 filets mignons, 6 ounces each and about 1 3/4 inches thick
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 packages (5.2 ounces each) peppercorn Boursin cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 pints heavy cream

Other Groceries

  • 2 28-ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes (without basil)
  • 1-pound package phyllo dough (with at least 24 sheets, preferably more)
  • 10 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate, plus extra for shavings
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Whole nutmeg

Pantry Staples

  • Olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Ground coffee
  • Granulated sugar
  • Ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

The Menu


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