Make Christmas dinner in 3 hours or less

11 Recipes
 Roasted Branzino with Tomatoes and Olives in a cast-iron pan on a table set with wine glasses and a stack of plates.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, Dec. 1, 2020: Ben Mims’ Roasted Branzino with Tomatoes and Olives from a recipe by Jonathan Melendez photographed for LA Times Food cooking section’s Holiday Travel story, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, at the Proplink Studios in Arts District Los Angeles. (Silvia Razgova / For the Times, prop styling by Kate Parisian, food styling by Ben Mims) ATTN: 661373-la-fo-Holiday-Cooking
(Silvia Razgova/Silvia Razgova)

11 recipes for a quick, easy, delicious Christmas dinner


So, it’s Christmas Eve and you have no idea what you’re going to serve tomorrow for dinner. Many of us have been there — and we have solutions. Here are some of our favorite, quick, easy-to-prepare recipes that will help you have a festive dinner on the table in a flash and leave you with enough energy to enjoy it with your company.

First things first: Start with dessert. It can bake while you get organized for the other dishes and will be out of the oven by the time you’re ready to pop something else into it. Gooey Butter Cake Squares are spectacularly delicious and a breeze to make — 10 to 15 minutes to get them in the pan and an hour to bake. A citrusy cheesecake-like topping blends into the chewy-cakey crust beneath for an addictive flavor and texture bomb. Jeremiah Tower’s Pumpkin Gingerbread With Rum Cream has the intense flavor and moistness of pumpkin pie with a lot less work. It will take about 15 minutes to measure and mix and will be out of the oven 40 minutes later. With dessert taken care of, you can turn to the main course.

For a more traditional holiday meal, Easy Thanksgiving Turkey (it’s easy no matter what the occasion) is in and out of the oven in under two hours. All you really have to do is season your fresh turkey, put it in a hot oven, let it rest for 30 minutes after cooking and then carve it. You’ll make the sides (below) on the stovetop while the turkey is cooking.

Super-fast to prepare, Yellowtail With Tarragon Aioli takes less than an hour, start to finish (the side of potatoes included). The fish itself will be in and out of the pan in about five minutes. (And if you don’t want to make the mayonnaise for the aioli, use store-bought and add the garlic and tarragon. )

Somewhere in that three-hour time period, you can prepare savory Roasted Branzino With Tomatoes and Olives; it’s rife with Mediterranean flavors and makes an impressive presentation. It will take about an hour to complete, depending on how quickly you slice and dice.

The sides below are made on the stovetop so you don’t have to wait on oven space to prepare them. Mix and match them with any of the above proteins — or forget about the proteins and just serve a few of these.

Mashed is the most requested potato preparation at this time of year. Creamy Mashed Potatoes (about 30 minutes from start to finish) are a classic accompaniment for turkey and would complement the branzino as well.

New Potatoes with Mixed Herbs (about 40 minutes to prepare) are a good alternative to a mash. And don’t stress to find “new potatoes” — any super small potatoes will work just fine.

Dry-Fried Green Beans and Mushrooms With Sizzled Onions (about 40 minutes) have great texture and the dry-fry technique brings out the umami. Steamed Asparagus With Tangerine Ponzu, Daikon and Nori (about 15 minutes) is full of citrusy, salty flavor and crunch.

The counter-play between the meaty king oyster mushrooms and the thin, crunchy wood ear mushrooms in King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms With Cilantro Persillade makes it an enticing dish. The persillade swaps the traditional parsley for cilantro minced with garlic and livens up the hearty mushrooms.

For a quick appetizer, “Oven-Fried” Artichokes use store-bought marinated artichokes. If you’re not going the turkey route, cook them right after dessert finishes baking. Alternatively, if you slide them in the oven to cook while the turkey is resting, they will be done — and piping hot before you’re done carving and your companions will have something to nosh while they wait for the main event. If a hot appetizer feels too stressful, start with a cheese and charcuterie board and/or a green salad.

There you have it: a luscious, elegant, dinner (and dessert) in three hours or less.

Let your dinner mates contribute wine and other beverages. Pour yourself a glass, sit back and enjoy the party.

Yellowtail with tarragon aioli

Baby yellowtail is pan-roasted in olive oil and served over parsleyed potatoes with a garlicky tarragon aioli.
Time40 minutes
YieldsServes 4

Steamed Asparagus with Tangerine Ponzu, Daikon and Nori

Ponzu-soaked grated daikon radish tops the asparagus as a condiment, as does a flurry of togarashi spice and chopped nori.
Time15 minutes
YieldsServes 4 to 6.

Roasted Branzino With Tomatoes and Olives

Tomatoes, olives and capers bathe two whole branzinos in this Roman dish.
Time50 minutes
YieldsServes 2 to 4

'Oven-Fried' Artichokes

These quick and easy oven-fried artichokes are a simple version of the Italian classic, perfect to serve as an appetizer or with cocktails.
Time35 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Easy Thanksgiving turkey

Get a fresh turkey. Thanksgiving morning, put it in a roasting pan. Heat the oven to 450 degrees and put the bird inside. When the turkey reaches 165 degrees, about two hours later, it's done.
Time2 hours
YieldsServes 8 to 10

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

These classic mashed potatoes are silky, smooth and wonderfully rich. You can only get this combination with baking potatoes and copious amounts of butter and cream.
Time30 minutes
YieldsServes 4

New potatoes with mixed herbs

Small new potatoes are accessorized with butter and fresh herbs -- chervil, dill and chives -- and finished with a sprinkle of fleur de sel.
Time40 minutes
YieldsServes 6

King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms with Cilantro Persillade

King oyster and wood ear mushrooms are sauteed or grilled and served with cilantro and garlic, adding freshness to this earthy, vegan side dish.
Time15 minutes
YieldsServes 2 to 4

Dry-Fried Green Beans and Mushrooms With Sizzled Onions

The Sichuan technique of dry-frying adds life to Thanksgiving vegetables, like these green beans and mushrooms, often weighted in a rich casserole.
Time35 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8

Gooey Butter Cake Squares

These rich cream cheese squares are brightened by a generous amount of orange zest.
Time1 hour 10 minutes
YieldsMakes 2 dozen

Jeremiah Tower's Pumpkin gingerbread with rum cream

Jeremiah Tower's recipe for gingerbread made with canned pumpkin and topped with a rum-spiked whipped cream has the intense flavor and moistness of pumpkin pie.
Time50 minutes
YieldsServes 6 to 8