It’s what every holiday host wants: A picture-perfect, main-event dish to set down in the middle of the table to applause. It’s the iconic image of the feast, and one new and seasoned hosts alike stress the most about. Fortunately there is a world of mouthwatering options, and most are probably less work than you think. Some are so simple you can even tackle them the day of meal, no advance planning needed.
So sit back, do a little imagining and find your way to a fantastic main course. It just might become a new holiday tradition.
A plump, browned, Rockwell-esque turkey is synonymous with Thanksgiving for most Americans. The good news is that there are numerous ways for the cook to get there; the bad news is that the sheer number of choices can seem overwhelming, from which bird to purchase to selecting a roasting techniques to carving. Sort most of those out at All Turkey, All the Time opens in a new tab, then relax and have fun perusing recipes.
For classic looks and pure holiday taste, you can’t beat Golden Roasted Turkey opens in a new tab, packed with traditional flavor from a simple assortment of aromatics. Or, for a new and super-easy way to brine — no bucket required — try Dry Brined Citrus Turkey opens in a new tab. This bird is infused with subtle flavor and produces a skin that’s a little crisper than wet-brined birds.
If your group will be on the small side, definitely consider cooking just a turkey breast. This Herb-Crusted Turkey Breast with Mushroom-Leek Stuffing opens in a new tab is outstanding for delivering the meat-and-stuffing experience in one neat package. Or for a simpler take complete with gravy, try Roast Turkey Breast with Apple Cider Gravy opens in a new tab. Both recipes serve six generously but can cover up to eight.
One of the most appealing aspects of ham as a centerpiece is how easy it is to cook and serve: Invest in a precooked spiral-cut ham and the host has little more to do than pop it in the oven, pause to brush on a glaze, and voila, a carved roast emerges about an hour after you started. And the leftovers! I’m a fool for them in everything from omelets to sandwiches to pizza to salads.
Honey-Glazed Ham with Fresh Pineapple Chutney opens in a new tab is an awesome recipe for serving up to 16, and you’ll still have a nice amount of yummy ham left over. Or try this stunning Sour Cherry Glazed Ham opens in a new tab, an awesome four-ingredient recipe that serves up to 20.
Beef Rib Roast
Standing rib, a.k.a. prime rib, says “holiday” with a delicious British accent. This cut of meat is so tender and flavorful there’s not much the cook needs to do beyond seasoning it with salt and pepper, although adding a few herbs pays off in flavor and aroma.
These two recipes are about as foolproof as it gets: Bone-In Beef Rib Roast with Dill-Black Pepper Rub opens in a new tab and Herbed Prime Rib Roast opens in a new tab. Both are huge on the “wow” factor and will give you an absolutely memorable meal.
A chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey, all layered with flavorful stuffing — do I have your attention? Turducken is one of the ultimate holiday indulgences, and it’s easier than ever to enjoy: Just order this birdie trio fully assembled in advance, and all you do is pop it in the oven for an effortless slow roast. Just remember that you’ll almost certainly need to reserve a turducken opens in a new tab in advance, so get in touch with your store or butcher as soon as you get the hankering to serve one.
This recipe for Roasted Turducken with Pan Gravy opens in a new tab shows you just how laid-back the cooking is. I highly recommend this for anyone who feels their group is ready for something outside the traditional menu — turducken is an experience!
I grew up in a vegetarian household, so cooking up fantastic meatless celebrations is something I’m familiar with. What’s the trick? Staying in the holiday flavor palate is one of the most successful strategies. That, plus having something to carve or slice up at the table — it brings that touch of drama we’re accustomed to at the year’s most special meals.
Savory tarts are a great idea. For vegetarians, you can’t beat Wild Mushroom Tart opens in a new tab, packed with meaty mushrooms and the luxurious flavors of shallots and wine. You can even add a tablespoon of chopped fresh sage or thyme to up its holiday credentials. For vegans, the popular Vegan Harvest Tart opens in a new tab is a great option that makes the most of the season’s great veggies.
A rich, crispy strudel is one of my all-time favorite vegetarian main courses for the holidays. This fantastic Mushroom Strudel opens in a new tab features meaty mushrooms balanced by tangy goat cheese and thyme and walnuts. It’s an easy recipe to double — you can even bake two strudels on the same baking sheet.
And for pescatarians, try a whole baked side of salmon. This wildly popular Roasted Salmon Stuffed with Spinach, Feta and Ricotta opens in a new tab will woo any holiday crowd. Or try Spice Crusted Salmon with Roast Beets opens in a new tab — a slightly off-the-beaten-path holiday meal that’s easy and incredibly delicious.
What’s your holiday showstopper? Let us know!