Individuals may be presented with plenty of opportunities to cook for a crowd over the course of a typical year. But no time of year is more synonymous with large sit-down meals than the holiday season.
Certain foods, such as pasta dishes and casseroles, are ideal dishes to cook for crowds. However, for those home cooks who want to prepare in advance and then enjoy themselves on the actual holiday, it may be best to choose foods that taste better the day after the dish has been cooked. Many recipes develop deeper flavor profiles after they have been left to rest and are then reheated. Holiday hosts can explore these ideas for meals that can be cooked in advance and taste even better when reheated after a day in the refrigerator.
A stew that’s been simmering on the stove or in the slow cooker all day will have a winning flavor. But stew can be even more delicious the next day. The starch in the potatoes will enable the sauce of the stew — whether it’s tomato-based or comprised of a mix of brown gravy and meat drippings — to thicken. The meat may continue to cook and tenderize while reheating. As a one-pot meal, stew is simple to prepare in advance and then serve in an attractive crock for the holidays.
The herbs and spices in a meat loaf continue to release their flavors, and letting the loaf sit can improve the texture and the ability to slice it without it falling apart. Consider pan-frying individual slices of meatloaf until they’re browned so they’ll be crisp on the outside and tender in the middle.
Lasagna is a layered pasta dish featuring flat noodle sheets, cheese, sauce, and sometimes meat like ground beef or sausage. Lasagnas that are served right out of the oven can be runny even if they taste scrumptious. Baking it and letting it sit overnight allows all of the layers to gel together, making for a much more cohesive and fortified dish the following day.
Curries are typically made with many spices that help to make the dish flavorful. A curry that is freshly made may feature intense flavor because each of its components can be tasted individually. After a night of resting in the refrigerator, those flavors meld and mellow. Furthermore, if potatoes are used in the recipe, a night in the fridge gives the potatoes an opportunity to absorb the spices, making for an even tastier meal.
Many meals can be made ahead of time for holiday dinners and will taste even better when they are served the following day.