There’s a lot to love about this time of year — lights everywhere, kids in cute sweaters, never-ending cookies. But one of the best parts of the season is how any dinner, not just the ones falling on the calendar holidays, can feel so festive, joyful and generous. Invite friends over on a whim and make Ali Slagle’s new whole roasted squash with tomato-ginger chickpeas, which is both incredibly picturesque and very easy: Robust kabocha squash is roasted whole and then split into greedy chunks, which then hammock the jammy tomatoes and chickpeas that have roasted alongside the squash. Ask one friend to bring beverages, another to pick up a pint of ice cream to go with the aforementioned cookies, and poof — a sweet, cozy holiday party.
Whole Roasted Squash With Tomato-Ginger Chickpeas
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But maybe cozy is for January, and you want to flex those feast muscles a bit. Naz Deravian’s lechon kawali is a showstopper, a Filipino dish of crispy, deep-fried pork belly that has first been simmered in a savory broth of onion, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns. Served with a garlicky vinegar sauce to balance out the fantastically fatty pork, it’s the sort of meal your friends and family will talk about well after (and ask you to make again next year).
If you want something more fall-apart than fried, this recipe for garlic braised short ribs with red wine from Alison Roman takes bone-in beef short ribs and simmers them in a tomatoey broth until they’re no-knife-required tender. And while Kay Chun’s green chile chicken tacos are weeknight-friendly — they’re on the table in about half an hour — they would make an ideal assemble-it-yourself group dinner option. Nobody has ever said no to taco night, we’re pretty sure.
But back to cozy: Kay’s classic risotto combines butter, rice, Parmesan and chicken (or vegetable) broth, four of the coziest ingredients out there. Alexa Weibel’s vegan roasted white bean and tomato pasta is also comforting, and not just for the way the beans nestle into their little orecchiette caddies. Her recipe is soothingly efficient: While the pasta cooks, the beans and cherry tomatoes roast in the oven, and a bit of pasta water is used to deglaze the roasting pan so that all of those tasty brown bits make it into the sauce.
And if you’re out of cookies — unthinkable, but OK — here’s a beautiful rosemary-honey almond tart from Yewande Komolafe. Rosemary is steeped in honey to flavor the custard, but as Yewande notes, you can swap in other fresh herbs like marjoram, tarragon or thyme to add savory, herbal notes to the syrup. And the tart’s components can be made ahead: Make the crust one day and the easy custard filling the next, and then on the day of your gathering, you can assemble and bake and devour.