MOST of us do some kind of entertaining or cooking during the Yuletide season, since it's the time of year when we want to be with family and friends. But does the thought of giving a party or having the whole family over for Christmas dinner tend to take the joy out of your cooking? What you need is inspiration -- some interesting menus with easy recipes that look and taste great. Here are three special menus perfect for uncomplicated entertaining. An American Christmas This dinner is based on our traditional holiday foods, with some new flourishes. It's designed to serve 10 to 12 guests. The centerpiece is a dramatic but easy-to-prepare Crown Roast of Pork accompanied by a tart Quince Sauce and a succulent Wild Rice and Pecan Dressing. Serve pre-dinner nibbles, then call everyone to the table for hot Tuna Stuffed Mushrooms and cups of consomm'e.
Thyme Glazed Carrots and perfectly cooked, crisp broccoli or green beans contrast nicely with the richness of the crown roast and its stuffing.
Parboil the vegetables the day before, then reheat them in butter just before serving. Likewise, the stuffing can be prepared a day or two in advance and reheated. Round out the meal with hot rolls and a refreshing salad of watercress, radishes, and mushrooms with a tart vinaigrette. Mincemeat pie and whipped cream provides a traditional finale. Tuna Stuffed Mushrooms 3 stalks celery, minced 1 small onion, minced 1 61/2-ounce can tuna, well drained 1/2 cup chopped walnuts 1/4 cup fine dry breadcrumbs 1/3 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup currants 36 mushroom caps, chopped 72 matchstick slices of cheese
Combine all ingredients except mushrooms and cheese. Mix well and press into mushrooms. Top with crisscross of cheese. Bake in 350-degree F. oven for 20 minutes. Crown Roast of Pork With Quince Sauce and Wild Rice and Pecan Stuffing Stuffing: 2 cups wild rice, steamed until soft 3 tablespoons butter 1/4 pound chopped mushrooms 1/2 cup chopped onion 3/4 cup toasted pecan pieces 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg Salt, pepper to taste
Saut'e mushrooms and onions in butter for 5 minutes. Add pecans, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir into rice. For the Crown Roast: 1 12-rib crown roast of pork (7 to 8 pounds) Salt, pepper, garlic 12 crabapples
Rub roast with spices. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Add roast and immediately lower heat to 350 degrees F. Bake 25 to 30 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F. (about 2 hours and 40 minutes). Remove foil for last 30 minutes of roasting. Lightly spoon stuffing into center and cover entire roast loosely in foil. Put any remaining dressing in buttered baking dish and bake. Let roast stand 10 minutes before carving. Garnish ribs with crabapples and bring to table uncarved. Quince Sauce 3 quinces 2 tablespoons butter 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons sugar 1/8 teaspoon pepper 1/2 cup white grape juice 11/2 cups chicken stock 1 tablespoon de-fatted meat juices from pork roast
Wash, pare, quarter, core, and dice quinces. Steam until just soft (about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan. Add garlic and flour and cook slowly for 3 minutes. Stir in salt, sugar, pepper, grape juice, and stock. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, skimming any foam from sides. Add one tablespoon de-fatted meat juices from pork roast, strain, and return sauce to pan. Add quinces and simmer 3 minutes. Thyme-Glazed Carrots 5 cups carrots cut in 11/2-inch strips 1/2 cup butter 2 tablespoons thyme Salt, pepper to taste 1 tablespoon honey 1/4 cup water
Melt butter in large pan. Stir in carrots, thyme, salt, pepper, honey, and 1/4 cup water.
Let steam until carrots are tender and water has evaporated (15 to 20 minutes). Holiday Brunch
When everyone's schedule is hectic and time for holiday entertaining is at a premium, a brunch can be a wonderful way to visit with friends. This brunch is planned for six people, but the recipes can be easily doubled or tripled.
The zesty casserole can be assembled a day ahead. A tart salad of sliced oranges, creamy avocado, and crisp red onion complements the casserole. And the scones can be mixed and ready to slip in the oven several hours before you want to bake them. Liquid Sunshine 2 six-ounce cans tangerine juice concentrate 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger 1 liter club soda 1/4 cup lime juice Sliced strawberries (optional)
Combine and stir all ingredients until blended. Serve very cold. Spicy Breakfast Casserole 1 pound bulk breakfast sausage 10-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts 8 eggs, beaten 1/2 cup milk Salt and pepper to taste 1/2 cup chopped ripe olives 1/2 cup chopped onion 1 cup mild green chilies 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
Cook, crumble, and drain sausage. Place in 2-quart casserole. Steam artichokes until tender and place atop sausage. Combine eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Pour over sausage and artichokes. Sprinkle with olives, onion, chilies, and cheese on top. Bake uncovered in 325-degree F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Currant Scones 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons sugar 3 teaspoons double-acting baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 6 tablespoons cold butter, diced 3/4 cup dried currants 1 egg 1 to 11/2 cups heavy cream
Sift dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in currants. Beat egg with 1 cup cream. Blend cream into flour mixture with fork, adding more cream if necessary to form a soft, slightly sticky, but manageable dough.
Form dough into a ball, pat into rectangle 3/4-inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut into rounds or squares and arrange on baking sheet. Brush the tops of the scones with cream. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12 minutes or until golden. Makes about 20 2-inch scones. Southern Buffet
You don't have to be Southern to serve this third menu. Your guests will feel superbly well fed with this buffet of hearty flavors. Brunson's Black Bean Stew is a dark and robust one-dish meal served over rice with sour cream, chopped red onion, diced oranges, and hot salsa. Creole Shrimp P^at'e 11/2 cups clam broth 1/4 cup white grape juice 2 tablespoons butter 8 ounces halibut 1 pound shrimp, steamed and peeled 11/4 pounds softened cream cheese, cut in bits 1/4 cup lime juice 2 tablespoons ketchup 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1 tablespoon scraped onion 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce Salt to taste
In small saucepan, combine broth, juice, and butter. Bring to boil and add halibut. Reduce heat to low, cover pan, simmer 10 minutes. Drain halibut and reserve stock. Cool halibut and debone.
Reserve 6 whole shrimp for garnish. Place remaining shrimp and halibut in bowl of food processor. Process using on/off button. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Add a tablespoon or two of broth if p^at'e is too thick. Pack into bowls or crocks, garnish with reserved shrimp and parsley. Serve with French bread or crackers. Hot Brie 1 pound phyllo pastry 1 pound butter, melted 2 small wheels Brie, plain or peppered (21/2 pounds)
For each wheel of Brie: Butter a sheet of foil large enough to wrap around Brie. Layer six sheets phyllo on foil, brush each with melted butter. Place cheese on phyllo and fold pastry around cheese. Cover Brie with six sheets of phyllo, brushing each sheet with butter. Tuck pastry under cheese. Brush top and sides with more butter. Brie may be frozen at this point for up to a month. Do not thaw before baking.
To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Unwrap cheese and place on baking sheet. Bake 35 to 45 minutes. Let stand 20 minutes before serving. A small wheel serves 12 to 15 with other hors d'oeuvres. Brunson's Black Bean Stew 4 pounds black beans 5 cups chopped onion 20 garlic cloves, chopped 4 smoked ham hocks 10 quarts water 1 tablespoon oregano 1 tablespoon cumin seed 1 tablespoon cayenne 1 cup diced red pepper 1 cup diced green pepper 1 cup minced parsley 2 pounds smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch lengths 1/2 cup white grape juice 2 tablespoons lime juice 3 tablespoons salt
This recipe serves 24 people. You may need to cook it in two large Dutch ovens. Place beans, onion, garlic, hocks, and water in soup pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 3 hours. Add remaining ingredients and let simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours. Stir occasionally.
Remove hocks and pull off any bits of meat. Return meat to stew. Continue to cook until thick. Stir often to prevent sticking or burning.