Dinner parties are great, and the holiday season is ripe for them. It always seems like a good idea to throw one -- and once it is well under way, we are delighted that we did. But somewhere in between the formal invitation to the arrival of the first guest, we begin to wonder why we put ourselves through such an undertaking. A dinner party is no small feat; between the cleaning, the grocery shopping and the cooking, there is quite a bit of work involved.
Well, fear not. We've taken one item off your to-do list: planning the menu. Selecting the dishes for a dinner requires a fair amount of thought. For one, you have to consider if your guests have any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Second -- and arguably more importantly -- you want to be sure that everything from the appetizer to the dessert complements one another harmoniously. A well thought-out menu should be a cohesive production, not a sum of odd dishes.
Click through the slideshow below to explore the various menu options we have for your next dinner party. From a rustic family-style menu to a vegetarian harvest meal, we have a menu for every party. If you are looking for the perfect wine to pair with your dinner, check out wines to buy for the holidays.
The Family-Style Rustic Dinner Menu
<strong>SEE NEXT SLIDES FOR RECIPES</strong> Serving a meal family style is a great way to create a more welcoming and intimate environment. When everyone serves themselves from the same plate, we feel like we are family. But that does not mean that the food should be subpar. Delicious, succulent meals can be put together and served this way.
Caramelized Onion & Cheese Squares
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/caramelized-onion--chees_n_1061217.html" target="_hplink">Caramelized Onion & Cheese Squares</a> recipe</strong> These savory tart squares are made with slow-cooked caramelized onions, drawing out their natural sweetness. Add pungent blue cheese and tangy goat cheese and you have got one richly flavored appetizer. Cabernets pair very nicely with blue cheese dishes such as this.
Peppered Tri-Tip Roast
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/peppered-tri-tip-roast_n_1062594.html" target="_hplink">Peppered Tri-Tip Roast</a> recipe</strong> This lesser-known cut of meat is worth seeking out. It is robust in flavor, and almost guaranteed to be juicy and tender (so long as you don't overcook it!). Serve it sliced, and garnished with your favorite topping -- the Argentinian Chimichurri makes a nice pairing.
Crispy Roasted Potatoes With Thyme And Garlic
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/crispy-roasted-potatoes-w_n_1055248.html" target="_hplink">Crispy Roasted Potatoes with Thyme and Garlic</a> recipe</strong> Roasted potatoes are a simple side dish, but they never disappoint. Regardless of how many times people have eaten this side, they will always be happy to see it on the table and will often times go back for seconds. And really, how can you go wrong with thyme-garlic potatoes to accompany a peppered roast?
Apple Bread Pudding
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/apple-bread-pudding_n_1058197.html" target="_hplink">Apple Bread Pudding</a> recipe</strong> Bread pudding is one of those desserts where the effort is far exceeded by the mouth-watering results. This autumn version uses the additional sweetness of apples, which are a plenty this time of year.
The Traveler's Eastern-Spiced Dinner Menu
<strong>SEE NEXT SLIDES FOR RECIPES</strong> While many of us dream of taking trips to foreign lands, not all of us have the opportunity to do so. But sometimes it is nice to just get away -- and you don't have to go further than your kitchen to do so. Take your guest on a journey through the east with this exotic dinner menu.
Roasted Red Pepper And Walnut Dip
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/roasted-red-pepper-and-wa_n_1059263.html" target="_hplink">Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Dip</a> recipe</strong> A take on the classic Syrian red-pepper dip, muhammarra, this smooth and spicy dish is a great teaser for an eastern-spiced meal to come. Serve alongside a generous amount of toasted pita chips -- they tend to go fast!
Lamb Simmered In Chermoula, Honey And Saffron
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lamb-simmered-in-chermoul_n_1057598.html" target="_hplink">Lamb Simmered in Chermoula, Honey and Saffron</a> recipe</strong> A lamb that is slow roasted for 7-8 hours is sure to be tender, and this one definitely is. And while it sounds like a lot of time to be spending in the kitchen, once prepped and in the oven, the dish essentially takes care of itself (besides the occasional basting). After you taste the succulent meat, you will be assured that it was well worth the effort.
Grilled Onion Couscous
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/grilled-onion-couscous_n_1059862.html" target="_hplink">Grilled Onion Couscous</a> recipe</strong> Couscous is a great grain to serve alongside the slow-roasted lamb. Its small size allows it to soak up the juices of the lamb easily, making sure that none of that potent flavor goes to waste.
Poached Pears With Prunes
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/poached-pears-with-prunes_n_1058618.html" target="_hplink">Poached Pears with Prunes</a> recipe</strong> Pears are simply delicious this time of year. And this recipe highlights their flavors well. It is adapted from one of Morocco's most ambitious chef's, Fatima Mountassamin, and is strongly spiced with bay leaves and cloves.
The Elegant Saturday Night Dinner Menu
<strong>SEE NEXT SLIDES FOR RECIPES</strong> If you have got a dinner party planned for Saturday night, it means you have got all day to prepare your seamless, elegant dinner. And if you have people coming over that you would like to pamper (or just impress) with a good meal, than this is the menu for you.
Scallops With Potato Pancakes And Caviar Sauce
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/scallops-with-potato-panc_n_1058673.html" target="_hplink">Scallops with Potato Pancakes and Caviar Sauce</a> recipe</strong> This appetizer makes the perfect introduction for an elegant meal. A golden seared scallop, atop of a mini potato pancake and drizzled with a Champagne and caviar sauce -- it is the definition of decadence.
Rack Of Lamb With Mustard-Shallot Sauce
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/rack-of-lamb-with-mustard_n_1061041.html" target="_hplink">Rack of Lamb with Mustard-Shallot Sauce</a> recipe</strong> Not only is a rack of lamb a delicious entree, but it also makes for a nice plate presentation -- which is something to keep in mind if you want to take your dinner party up a notch.
Lemony Quinoa Salad With Shaved Vegetables
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lemony-quinoa-salad-with-_n_1058524.html" target="_hplink">Lemony Quinoa Salad with Shaved Vegetables</a> recipe</strong> Quinoa pairs wonderfully with lamb, and makes a great, light side dish. The lemony flavor will add a fresh, lively element to the meal and the shaved vegetables atop add to the overall presentation.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/chocolate-hazelnut-trifle_n_1059558.html" target="_hplink">Chocolate-Hazelnut Trifle</a> recipe</strong> The trifle has a long history at the dinner table, and it has seen many variations. This one calls on the stellar combination of chocolate and hazelnut; and when you add pound cake to that, you know you have a dessert that will win everyone over. The best part about it is, while it looks fairly impressive, it is a cinch to put together.
The Vegetarian's Harvest Menu
<strong>SEE NEXT SLIDES FOR RECIPES</strong> While many of us mourn the end of summer's bounty, we should really just be embracing what the cooler months can bring. With an array of leafy greens and sweet winter squash now available, there are a number of exciting recipes to explore.
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/cabbage-and-mushroom-toas_n_1061071.html" target="_hplink">Cabbage-and-Mushroom Toasts</a> recipe</strong> Topped with browned porcini mushrooms and cabbage, these hearty toasts make a great start to a winter vegetarian meal.
Squash And Leek Lasagna
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/squash--leek-lasagna_n_1049648.html" target="_hplink">Squash And Leek Lasagna</a> recipe</strong> Squash is a very versatile winter fruit. Roasted or pureed, it is delightfully sweet. It also makes a great substitute to the more traditional meat filling in this Italian favorite.
Braised Swiss Chard
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/braised-swiss-chard_n_1057092.html" target="_hplink">Braised Swiss Chard</a> recipe</strong> Swiss chard is a wonderful complement to the squash in the lasagna. And it also is a delicious way to get more greens into your menu. If you are coming across more kale than chard this time of year, you can easily swap it in the recipe.
Lemon-Curd Cakes With Poppy Seeds
<strong>Get the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/27/lemon-curd-cakes-with-pop_n_1058519.html" target="_hplink">Lemon-Curd Cakes with Poppy Seeds</a> recipe</strong> The fresh flavor blast of lemon is a great note to end a meal on. And this particular presentation is a fun take on the beloved lemon poppy seed muffin.
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