Three Hands-Off Centerpieces to Simplify Holiday Hosting

Thoughtful guests often offer to lend a hand in the kitchen, but they don’t have to be sous-chefs if you put your oven to work instead.

When you let ingredients luxuriate in the oven, you end up with less prep work and no nerve-racking, last-minute sautéing in front of an audience. A low-and-slow roast or braise even frees you up to clean the house, set the table, stir together drinks and mingle with company.

Logistical perks aside, these three dishes also taste incredibly rich given their minimal effort. A tough cut of meat surrenders to a wobble. Chicken skin crisps to a brittle chip, and whole winter squash willingly yield to being pried open. The oven’s dry heat reduces liquid and browns surfaces without toughening meat and vegetables, extracting deeper flavor fromingredients so you can use fewer for grand results.

And, because the food is slow to cook, it’s also slow to overcook — if you’re distracted and leave something in the oven for a few more minutes, it’s no big deal. Then, when someone asks if there’s anything they can do to help, you can respond with glee: “Everything is done. Let’s eat.”

Recipe: Whole-Roasted Squash
With Tomato-Ginger Chickpeas

Squash roasted whole become so tender, they can be torn open easily.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

With a base of squash, creamy after a long cook, this vegetarian main dish is topped with plump, soft chickpeas and a yogurt sauce. The squash end up tender enough to pull apart into wedges, while canned tomatoes, baked with chickpeas and warming cinnamon, ginger and marjoram, turn jammy. All you need to complete the meal are good bread and baby greens dressed with lemon or lime juice and olive oil.

Recipe: Paprika-Roasted Chickens and Potatoes

Potatoes soak up the juices from the chickens as they roast.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

This recipe pushes the potential of a sheet pan to great effect: You roast not one, but two, chickens over a heap of potatoes to serve a small crowd. The meat emerges so succulent that carving is a cinch, and the potatoes are so soft they’re buttery. Pour the devilishly spiced, tangy pan juices over everything, and pair with a Caesar salad.

Recipe: Cola-Braised Beef With Chile-Lime Onions

This tender beef is as delicious stuffed into buns as it is wrapped in tortillas or served over rice.Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Braising tough cuts in cola tenderizes the meat, and perhaps better yet, makes for a caramelly, citrusy sauce as the soda thickens in the pot. Because this dish’s flavors are reminiscent of BBQ pulled pork, cochinita pibil and cola chicken, it’s equally fitting over rice as it is stuffed into burger buns or tortillas. However you enjoy the meat, generously garnish it with spicy onions, cilantro and lime for pops of freshness.

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