When I was a kid, Christmas dinner was never a big deal. Not that Mama Leite did make one hell of a meal–her Portuguese chuck roast is legendary–it just wasn’t that important to me. (I know, right? Food not important to me?)

Christmas morning with all its presents was all I could think about from the minute I cleaned my Thanksgiving plate. And the excitement only built with each day.

I remember one Christmas morning when I finally got the Bell & Howell 35mm camera I had been begging my parents for for almost a year. I was so giddy, I jumped up and ran around the house and right into a door jamb almost knocking myself out.

How could food compete with that?

Fast forward to 1993. From the moment The One and I met, shopping and giving gifts have never been a big part of our holiday tradition. That’s always left more time to plan and cook our meals. (And between us, it probably saved the lives of a few particularly ill-mannered shoppers worthy of TikTok Hall of Shame).

Over the years, our favorite menus have included beef Wellington, a real Christmas Carol roast goose, and prime rib roast.

A ceramic bowl filled with oyster stew with several oysters in the center and a spoon resting beside the bowl.
: Leigh Beisch

One dish we’ve had every Christmas for the past 30 years–big bowls of oyster stew for lunch. (Ask him…it’s a Baltimore thing.)

Whatever you serve this year, here’s wishing you and yours a joyous, merry, and injury-free Christmas day!

The word "David" written in script.
A glazed spiral cut ham on a white platter with a carving knife and fork nearby.
Keller + Keller
1 of 8

Dr Pepper Glazed Ham

This Dr Pepper glazed ham calls for a spiraled ham to be brushed with Dr Pepper, brown sugar, orange juice, and Dijon mustard. The ham absorbs the spice characteristics of the soda to become absolutely delicious. Don’t knock it till you try it.

My family, including my in-laws, love when I make this ham. My mother in law specifically asked me to make this for today, Thanksgiving, which is a “high honor” coming from her.

It’s not sticky sweet but there’s just enough sweetness. People are suprised when I tell them the ingredients, which are minimal. Love this ham!

amy s.
A whole grilled beef tenderloin, partially sliced on a wooden cutting board with a knife, meat fork, and twine beside it.
Christopher Hirsheimer
2 of 8

Grilled Beef Tenderloin

You'll want to double the compound butter recipe for this grilled beef tenderloin because of its fresh and savory notes.
An oval baking dish filled with a slow roasted lamb shoulder, surrounded by orange wedges and cinnamon sticks.
Tara Fisher
3 of 8

Slow Roasted Lamb

This slow roasted lamb shoulder coaxes the meat to fall-apart tenderness in the oven while infusing it with the pervasive aroma and flavor of chile, orange, and honey.
Four individual mushroom wellingtons with spinach and walnuts on a squares of parchment paper.
Nassima Rothacker
4 of 8

Mushroom Wellingtons with Spinach

This mushroom wellington with spinach is essentially a meaty portobello mushroom and spinach-walnut filling in flaky puff pastry. A spectacular vegan and vegetarian option, whether for Thanksgiving or any time of year. And you can easily assemble it ahead of time and bake it at the last moment.
A roasted fresh ham on a platter with roasted carrots and a bottle of red wine in the background.
David Leite
5 of 8

Roasted Fresh Ham with Maple-Spice Glaze

This roasted fresh ham with maple-spice glaze is slowly cooked and infused with flavors of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, and maple syrup. It’s a centerpiece-worthy entree, perfect for any holiday gathering.

This roasted fresh ham is great! A real winner!

rita f.
A smoked prime rib sliced in half on a wooden board with a green-handled knife beside it.
Ed Anderson
6 of 8

Smoked Prime Rib

This smoked prime rib, coated with a sugar spice rub and smothered with a horseradish mustard mixture, becomes slowly infused with smoky flavor and is simply the best prime rib we’ve ever tried.
A garlic-herb pork crown roast on a square serving pedestal.
EJ Armstrong
7 of 8

Garlic and Herb-Rubbed Pork Crown Roast

Garlic and herb-rubbed pork crown roast is an old-school dinner made with brined pork that gets flavored with garlic, juniper berries, thyme, sage, bay, and loads of other classic herbs. The brine makes it so juicy and richly flavored, you'll never cook pork without it again.
Three slice of medium rare standing rib roast au jus on a cutting board.
Kate Sears
8 of 8

Standing Rib Roast with Jus

A standing rib roast with jus is an absolute show-stopping dinner. And not to mention the parsley and dill-infused herbaceous jus that’ll make you the toast of your social circle. Seriously, get ready to be a hero.


How much meat should I cook per person?

The general rule of thumb is to plan for about 8 ounces of meat per adult and about 4 ounces per child. Keep in mind that if the meat you are cooking contains bones, the weight of the bones should be excluded.

How can I make a holiday meal on a budget?

A Frenched rib roast is a sight to behold (and devour), but it will also cost you a hefty sum, and not everyone can or wants to splurge on a costly piece of meat. Fear not. You can still turn out a spectacular holiday meal at a fraction of the cost.

A simple glazed ham, served with easy scalloped potatoes, pan-fried green beans, and candied carrots will earn you ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ without breaking the bank. Or make a big batch of pork tamales, served alongside your favorite Mexican sides. If you’ve got your heart set on beef, a pot roast with potatoes and vegetables is an easy, hands-off meal that will cost you far less than a piece of prime beef.

How many side dishes do I need to serve?

For a big holiday meal, plan for 3 to 4 side dishes. A starchy side, like mashed potatoes, along with bread or dinner rolls, and one to two vegetable sides works well.

Now that you’ve settled on a stunner of a holiday main course, don’t forget to include a few swanky holiday sides and a couple of Christmas desserts that everyone will be requesting again next year.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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