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The Finals Supper

Easy shortcuts make cooking Christmas dinner in a dorm-sized kitchen a breeze.

Easy shortcuts make cooking Christmas dinner in a dorm-sized kitchen a breeze.

ANDREW BEECHER/THE OBSERVER

Easy shortcuts make cooking Christmas dinner in a dorm-sized kitchen a breeze.

ANDREW BEECHER/THE OBSERVER

ANDREW BEECHER/THE OBSERVER

Easy shortcuts make cooking Christmas dinner in a dorm-sized kitchen a breeze.

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Say you want to be festive this year but you’re stuck in McMahon Hall for another two or three weeks. Say you want to make some grand gesture and gather your friends together and cook a meal for everyone to share. Say you aren’t the most adventurous or bravest of cooks. Say your kitchen is a little old, a little broken. No worries. Christmas dinner doesn’t need to be some fantastic feast for four (with two weeks of leftovers). All you need to celebrate Christmas dinner are a few friends and comfort food, which is exceedingly easy to make.

Quintessential to our holiday dining table and many a Christmas movie, roasts have become a staple. Be it ham, rib roast, turkey or chicken, the roast’s only rules are that it be meat, that it is cooked in an oven and that there be a lot of it. But finals make tending to a several hour roast not the most viable way to spend your time. To get around this, go small. Replace that whole chicken for roasted chicken pieces Scale that pork tenderloin down to a sensible ham. Their recipes are very similar:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the pork, 420 degrees Fahrenheit for the chicken.
  2. Season pieces with a healthy amount of kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper, rosemary and crushed garlic rubbed onto the outside of the meat. (For the chicken rub some of the same crushed garlic under the skin of each piece.)
  3. Cook the pork for one hour or until it reaches 145 degrees Fahrenheit in its center, the chicken for about 30 minutes or until each piece registers 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though not necessarily a traditional Christmas dish, the other mainstay for me is pasta. So if you’re looking for something a step up from pasta and red sauce, try ziti. The dish comes down to just a few key ingredients: ziti pasta, tomatoes, meat (ground beef is ideal), and topped with cheese, all baked together until perfectly crisped and a burnt a little on top (the best part).

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water and cook the ziti (or your pasta of choice) according to the directions. In an oven-safe pot, deep baking tray, bread pan or dutch oven, heat some olive oil.
  3. Brown some ground beef (think one-half to two-thirds of a pound of meat per person you’ll be serving) over high heat, and remove it, reduce the heat to medium and saute onions until translucent then add a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds
  4. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with a small amount of beef stock, or a very small splash of red wine (only cook with wine good enough to drink.).
  5. Add the beef back to the pot and separate until it is loose.
  6. Add some crushed tomatoes and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  7. Spread a layer of mozzarella and parmesan cheese.
  8. Add the pasta into the pot.
  9. Add crushed tomato and stir. Add another layer of cheese.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top has melted and started to crisp up.

These recipes are the shorthand versions of two popular dishes. These dishes don’t need to be complex, and even if they seem as such, they can always be simplified. Cooking your own Christmas dinner isn’t a difficult thing to pick up, and it’s easily accomplished in your dorm with a few ingredients you probably already have (or could borrow from your roommate).

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