The Happy Hostess Plans a Christmas Dinner Party (Includes Recipes in a PDF)

As I described in an earlier post, my Thanksgiving menu is set indefinitely in my eyes. Christmas, on the other hand, is not. The first word that comes to mind is celebration, then slightly fancy. It’s difficult to make a potluck of 20 sides appear elegant, so I always leave that for Thanksgiving. As I set out to plan this year’s Christmas dinner, I planned around some of the first things that pop up when I think of a celebratory dinner: champagne, multiple courses, and a special dessert. Game on.

Green beans with walnut sauce, mustard-coated rack of lamb, and celeriac and potato mash

Since champagne is the first thing I think of, why not start the night off with it? One of my favorite ways to begin a dinner is with a cheese plate and champagne. The spread of artisan cheeses and glasses full of bubbly have an instant wow factor without a single iota of stuffiness, and the perfect tone is set for the evening. The bonus for the host/hostess is that a cheese plate requires absolutely no prep, no oven time, no nothin’ – unless you count unwrapping the cheese. It never fails to be a crowd-pleaser. Who doesn’t like artisan cheeses and champagne? My little secret: Scardello. Well, it’s not so much of a secret; we’ve written about it here, but they always have the best cheese selection and an incredibly knowledgeable staff to help you with all the pairings.

The next requirement to Christmas dinner is multiple courses. It’s a great way to not only make the dinner more special, but also make the dinner last longer. Control the length of the dinner by controlling the spacing between courses. Little breaks in the dinner allow you to savor each course and build anticipation for the next one.

The pie crust before blind baking.

The options for special desserts are almost limitless, but I’ve been perfecting this cherry pie recipe since October for its Christmas debut. I first fell in love with this pie in college. My undergrad roomie, a connoisseur of all things sweet, tipped me off to this pie’s existence at a local pie shop. I’ve finally produced a copycat that stands up to the original. It’s my Christmas gift to you. Happy holidays!

Cherry pie with almond crumble.

Cheese plate with champagne

Roasted red pepper soup

Gruyere puffs

Mustard-coated rack of lamb

Celeriac and potato mash

Green beans with walnut sauce

Cherry pie with almond crumble

Cheese plate. Cheeses and crackers from Scardello.

Grocery shop
Marinate lamb
Mix pie crust
Blind bake crust
Mix pie filling


Make soup
Bake pie
Make potato mixture
Trim green beans
Make walnut sauce


Bake Gruyere puffs
Set out cheese plate
Roast lamb
Blanch green beans
Reheat soup and potato mash

My fridge the morning of the dinner. Almost every element can be prepped to some extent ahead of time.

Click here for the recipes.


  • Don’t skip the cheese plate. I know this doesn’t sound like a shortcut, but I must reiterate that cheese plates require zero work. Take advantage. If you don’t have time to do it all, forget the soup course.
  • Buy a refrigerated pie crust or an entire pie for that matter. You’ll be missing out on the best cherry pie of your life, but it will save you time.