Spend more time with family and friends― and less time in the kitchen―when you follow these party planners.

By Julia Rutland
November 10, 2008
 Hungarian Brisket
Becky Luigart-Stayner; styling by Jan Gautro

Hanukkah Magic
Traditional foods are important for any Hanukkah celebration, and Judi Gallagher’s menu features many favorites that can be made ahead. The exception? Tricolor Vegetable Latkes. Potatoes tend to darken when shredded early, and it’s crucial that the latkes come to the table hot and crispy. Fortunately, the Hungarian Brisket just gets better overnight, so make it the day before and reheat before serving. Mesclun Greens with Dried Figs and Goat Cheese can be assembled early. Bring the dressing to the table in a pretty cruet and let guests pour it themselves. In addition to their great taste and elegant good looks, Judi’s Pumpkin–Cream Cheese Napoleons can be made in part the day before, then assembled two hours before dinner.

Tricolor Vegetable Latkes
Hungarian Brisket
Mesclun Greens with Dried Figs and Goat Cheese
Pumpkin–Cream Cheese Napoleons

Wine and Dine Drop-In
Go ahead―ask friends to stop by the house later. You’re covered, because you have a great selection of appetizers at the ready. Always keep a bottle of Champagne and white wine chilling in the fridge and you won’t have to worry about impromptu guests. You’ll be the savviest, calmest host this season.

Brie and Cranberry Chutney Melt
Marinated Olives and Manchego
Tapenade Twists
Blue Cheese–Walnut Wafers
Caramel-Coconut-Pecan Brownies


A Grand Buffet
This menu makes good use of double ovens. When your guests pop into the kitchen―and they always do―your stove and sink will be tidy, and your countertops ready for a sumptuous buffet. Prepare the soup the day before, then reheat slowly and keep warm on the stove. When ready to serve, place on the buffet table with a ladle. Assemble the salad, but instead of tossing with the dressing―which makes salad wilt quickly―serve it alongside. Roast the lamb, then start roasting the beans 30 minutes before the lamb is done. If you have one oven, use the bottom rack to roast the green beans and mushrooms, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. When your lamb comes out of the oven to cool (at least 10 minutes before slicing), put the cobbler in. It will be piping hot when guests are ready for dessert.

Roasted Red Pepper–Tomato Soup
Garlic-Roasted Lamb with Oregano Pesto
Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese, Cranberries, and Walnuts
Roasted Green Beans with Mushrooms
Sweet Potato–Apple Cobbler