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Holiday dinner for 20: Prime rib alternative

Turns out we're having quite a crowd for our pre-Christmas family get together. I wanted the meal to be holiday-ish and built the menu around my husband's desire to cook prime rib. Well, that is out of our price range now. We don't want to cook a turkey or ham. I'm also trying to make ahead as much as possible so that is the reason for my other choices. Any suggestions for an entree to go with what I have so far that won't break the bank? Either a less expensive cut of beef or...?

Greens/citrus/avocado salad
Squash soup
Some time of potato dish-- probably a gratin of some kind
Chocolate mousse and pumpkin cheesecake

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  1. How about pot roast or a brisket or slow cooked pork butt in a crock pot and make pulled pork sandwiches. Or totally change it up and do lasagne or a pasta buffet w/ different sauces and pastas w/salad, garlic bread etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sherriberry

      Hi Sherri, thanks for your ideas. Pulled pork sandwiches are more casual than I had planned. I would never have thought of a brisket this time of year-- interesting idea!

    2. Large end rib roast and small end rib roast should be on sale the week before Christmas; they were last year. Or is the party before December 15?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cathy

        Hi Cathy,

        The party is the 17th, so I will be on the lookout for sales. I'm liking the idea of a roast partly because it is low maintenance. I hate it when I end up spending the whole night in the kitchen.

      2. How about a crown roast of pork? Has that special occasion vibe and certainly better priced than the prime rib....and to me honest I'd prefer it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: escondido123


          I have never had crown roast of pork before but have come across recipes twice in the last couple of weeks. I just googled and saw some beautiful photos and found some posts that indicate very reasonable cost. Don't know that I want to make stuffing, but could always put something else decorative in the middle.

          1. re: mountuhngirl

            You can roast it plain and then fill it with something after the fact--roasted vegetables, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts with bacon--it becomes a serving vessel too.

        2. I am a huge lover of prime rib but a rib roast for 20 would be out of my price range as well.

          I would suggest a whole eye roast using Cooks Country Roast Beef dinner recipe. Have made it plenty of times with excellent results.

          Here is a link for the recipe. Not a fan of the gravy recipe but LOVE the roast beef recipe:


          2 Replies
          1. re: Sydneyeats

            Sydney, Thanks for that recipe. Looks like your roast turned out great. To me that kind of roast looks special-- holiday worthy and also very easy. Definitely a possibility.

            1. re: mountuhngirl

              mountuhngirl: One recipe note.....rinse the salt off and pat dry prior to searing the meat.

              Have you thought about making twice baked potatoes for your potato dish? Easy to make and can be made ahead of time.

              And the blog for the recipe isn't mine :( Cooks Country won't let you link their recipes so I found this on a blog.

          2. The rest of your menu looks to me like it would go with just about any meat, so don't be afraid to do something other than beef. If you have a Sam's or Costco membership, they often have whole beef tenderloins on sale for $8-9 a pound, sometimes even less. If you can find one of those sales, you could do one of those for probably quite a bit less money than prime rib. There's no waste on a tenderloin, and if you slice it thinly it can go a long way. Alternately, a whole roasted pork loin (usually no more than $3 per pound) can be delicious and impressive - or you could make porchetta. Leg of lamb would be nice too, although I rarely see it on sale around Xmas (usually the lamb sales are around Easter). Individual Cornish game hens are festive and fun, but for 20 they might be expensive.

            7 Replies
              1. re: biondanonima

                I do have Costco, but even the tenderloin is a bit steep for us. I love making cornish game hens but not sure I want to try doing so many in the oven-- a bit daunting. The pork loin sounds like a good option. I have never heard of porchetta so thanks for introducing me to a new food!

                1. re: mountuhngirl

                  I've been toying with the idea of a porchetta from Costco but it appears to be a mail order item and I could hardly take it back if we didn't like it at Christmas. We have had good luck with the crown roast of pork- you can have as many ribs as needed to feed your crowd, it doesn't break the bank and isn't easily ruined if you over cook it a tad. We got one last year from a small chain of meat stores called The Meat House.

                  1. re: Berheenia

                    You can return any costco.com item to any Costco store (it does not have to be mailed back).

                    I got a porchetta just after Easter 2010 and it was wonderful. If for some reason it was inedible, then you could return it; I seriously doubt that would happen.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      Costco has a very liberal return policy. It's just another reason to love the place!

                2. re: biondanonima

                  In keeping with the Costco idea....you could do salmon. Their prices are great; quality is quite good.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    Right now at Costco, Whole Boneless Rib Eyes in the cryo are less than $8 a pound. Tenderloins are about $12 per pound. Both Choice. You could buy the Rib Eye now, age it in your fridge for a week or so, carve off a few steaks and still have enough left for a nice Rib Roast (Prime Rib). They average about 18 pounds. I have two aging in my fridge right now.

                    This time of year they have the bone-in Rib Roasts as well, usually, and that would be even less. When I saw them last week they were about $6.50/lb.

                    Actual "Prime" grade boneless Rib Eyes are running about $15/lb at Costco this week. But if you have a Costco Business Center near you (west coast) and you are willing to step down to Select instead of Choice, they're only about $4.50/lb.

                    So maybe it isn't so expensive after all.

                  2. Have you ever cooked a whole fresh ham? You'd probably have to order it, but it will certainly be less expensive than prime rib. It's an impressive presentation and a delicious cut of pork that most of us don't see very often. You could do it in the Cuban Christmas tradition with a orange, lime and garlic marinade, or braise in orange juice and Madeira. You'll need a big roasting pan to hold a 20 lb. leg, but it will be easy to cook.

                    1. How about a whole strip loin roast? Where I live the italian butcher offers sales on large primal cuts like this and offer to cut it free into steaks as well or leave whole. On sale it's about $4/lb, which is very reasonable for a totally bonless piece of loin. It runs about 14=16 lb whole, which would be perfect for you. I wouldn't expect to see this in a grocery store, if interested I would call around to local butchers.

                      Another terrific thing about the strip loin is that since it is a boneless long, narrow cut of meat, it roasts to med rare in about 45-60 min. I like to leave the fat cap on to lubricate the meat. You can high heat or slow heat roast this, depending on your preference. You can give it a dry rub a day in advance and use some kosher salt, pepper, lots of garlic, optional spices could be cayenne pepper, rosemary, parsley, whatever spice rub you like.

                      A "dry" roast like prime rib or tenderloin seems more like a holiday to me than a pot roast, which seems kind of Sunday night supper. Just IMHO. If you don't like strip loin, you should also be able to find a whole top sirloin, about a 10=12 lb. primal cut, which you can also roast whole, takes some more time.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                        I know you didn't want turkey but Ina has a recipe for a stuffed turkey roulade that woul make a beautiful presentation and different from a regular whole turkey.

                        My other suggestion would also have been the crown roast. Beef burgundy is another one that would be a less expensive cut.

                      2. One other suggestion-pistachio crusted pork tenderloin. The tenderloins are quite reasonable at Costco. Just salt and pepper them, sear in a hot pan, remove and rub w/ mixture of 1/2 mayo and 1/2 brown mustard. Bake at 350 about 20-30 min. for medium. This will add flavor and help the nuts adhere later. Remove from oven, let rest 10 min. and then roll in finely crushed pistachios(if you bake w/ the nuts on, they may burn). This looks very festive, and most importantly, is delicious. It tastes great either hot or room temp. For a buffet, slice diagonally and place on platter alone or fanned out over mashed potatoes. If desired, drizzle w/ a bit of aged balsamic vinegar for color.

                        1. Pork shoulder adobo.....

                          1. You could grill several whole tri tips and serve sliced with horseradish sauce. Costco has a good price. Just as an fyi..whole rib roasts are about $120 at Costco.

                            If you plate the food in the kitchen for large dinners as I do, sliced tri tip is fine. You eat with your eyes first. I would think about how to make each plate look festive. I buy those glass votive candle holders from Ikea for about 20 cents each and use them over and over again. I will put beets, a special corn pudding, or something else that its colorful and beautifully garnished in the votive holder on the plate. It adds interest and height to the food on the plate and keeps things from running together.

                            I made paella for one dinner party. It looked very impressive plated and is a special dish that is economical because it is rice based.

                            1. How about beef stroganoff? It uses a great cut of beef (loin or fillet), is tender and very savory, rich and I think casual and elegant and very festive and special. Would be good to make ahead and add the sour cream at the end. Serve over spaetzle or egg noodles.

                                1. I don't know where you reside, but here in my area of NJ, the supermarket I frequent has Australian Beef available everyday and it often goes on sale for $3.99 per pound. The cattle are smaller than the Northern American counterpart, thus the same cuts of beef are smaller as well. You could purchase two whole boneless ribeyes for 70-80 dollars and fore go the idea of using cheaper cuts of meat.