Of the thousand-plus meals we eat each year, there’s nothing quite as special as a holiday feast, whether you make family dishes handed down through generations or crib online recipes. Unlike the Thanksgiving meal anchored by turkey and classic sides, the holiday meal leaves much room for creativity and improvisation. We asked some top local chefs to share their favorites—maybe one of them will make it to your menu this year.
“My favorite thing about the holidays is the way people feel joy and hope during this time of year,” Brier says. “I love what I do, because cheese is a universal love language, as is wine, and facilitating special moments for people during the holidays is my favorite part of being a retail business owner during this time of year.”
Cheese and Charcuterie from Diana Brier, Valley Cheese & Wine
Brier suggests using the following for a showstopping charcuterie and cheese board …
• Rogue River Blue. “The reigning world champion of cheese, this is a raw cow’s milk blue wrapped in Syrah leaves that were soaked in a pear liqueur.”
• Harbison Mini. “A soft, ripened cheese in the style of Mont d’Or … [and] very expressive of its Vermont terroir.”
• Le Delice Cranberry. “An unripened triple crème Brie from France that has been coated in cranberries.”
• Beemster XO. “Beemster is a heavy-hitting Dutch Gouda producer, and the XO is what happens when a Gouda is aged for 26 months.”
• Moliterno al Tartufo: “A raw sheep’s milk cheese made in a Pecorino style. After six months of aging, the cheesemaker will determine whether the batch is good enough to be sent up to truffe country to have fresh black truffles drilled into the paste. The result is a visually stunning and perfectly balanced truffle cheese.”
Brier adds, “Prosciutto di Parma and Genoa salami complement these cheeses well. For accompaniments, use Ritual Chocolate’s Ecuador blend, Bee Seasonal Angico Honey and the seasonal cranberry and hazelnut Raincoast Crisps.”
Sweet Shrimp Cocktail with Citrus Gremolata From Marc Marrone, Graffiti Bao & SkinnyFats
“Holidays were split between my parents since I was young,” Marrone says, “so it was always Christmas Eve at my Italian grandmother’s house and Christmas Day with my mom’s family. One Italian tradition is to have a seafood feast on Christmas Eve. Before my dad passed away, I remembered always seeing this giant glass plate of shrimp cocktail. I never really liked it, but my dad loved it. It was also only served on Christmas Eve, so I came up with this version for the holidays now, and no matter what, shrimp cocktail will always remind me of Christmas Eve celebrating with my family.”
(for poached prawns)
• 4 sprigs thyme
• 1 cup white wine
• 2 tbsp. kosher salt
• 5 black peppercorns
• 4 sprigs parsley
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 shallots, chopped
• 1 head garlic, cut horizontally
• Peel from 1 orange
• 6-8 prawns (head on or off)
• 1 lemon
• 1 orange
• 1 lime
• 6 tbsp. good olive oil
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
• 1/4 cup mint leaves, chopped
• 4 shallots, minced
• 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
• 1/2 tbsp. salt
• 3 cracks of black pepper
Prepare a bowl with ice water large enough to fit the shrimp. Bring three quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add white wine, peppercorns, salt, thyme, parsley, garlic bay leaf and shallots. Bring back to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add prawns and cook for 2-3 minutes. They should be opaque, pink and slightly firm to the touch. Remove from liquid and shock in ice bath.
For gremolata: Using a vegetable peeler or zester, remove peels from lemon, lime and orange, then mince and add to bowl. Add garlic, shallots, parsley, mint and red wine vinegar. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and 1 tsp. juice from each citrus fruit.
Arrange prawns on your favorite holiday plate, and spoon gremolata over the shrimp.
Three-Bone Rib Roast From Matt King, Smith & Wollensky
“These are the exact Prime cuts we hand-butcher into steaks every day on the menu at Smith & Wollensky,” King says. “Our classic cuts are fantastic any day of the week, but a full whole rib roast elevates the meal to a celebration, a memorable family gathering. The intense aroma from the kitchen will build pure anticipation and excitement.”
• Rib roast
Remove rib roast from refrigerator and let come to room temperature for up to two hours before cooking. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Generously season roast with salt and pepper. Place beef, rib sides down, in a roasting pan, and sear in high-temp oven for 15 minutes, then drop temperature down to 325 degrees.
Roast for approximately 12 minutes per pound—about two hours for a three-bone rib roast—or until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees. Check internal tempera-ture by using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the roast, avoiding bones.
Remove from oven, tent with foil and allow roast to rest for 15-20 minutes.
Mole de Pollo Maria From Carlos Cruz-Santos, China Poblano
“The dish that I like to make the most around the holidays comes from a recipe that my mother makes: chicken mole,” Cruz-Santos says. “Unlike most traditional moles that use chocolate to sweeten the dish, this one is a bright red mole that’s both full of flavor and extra spicy because of the variety of chiles and spices added to the dish.”
• Whole chicken cut into 8 pieces, seasoned withsalt and pepper
• 2 large Spanish onions, diced
• 10 cloves of garlic, diced
• 1.5 lbs. guajillo chile
• 4 oz. sesame seeds
• 6 oz. pumpkin seeds
• 1/4 oz. whole cumin
• 1/2 oz. whole black peppercorns
• 3 whole cloves
• 2 cups chicken stock kosher salt and pepper to taste
• 6 oz. blended oil
• 2 cups water
Heat oil on medium in large stock pot. Place seasoned chicken in pan, skin side down. Sear both sides until golden brown. Set aside. In the same pot, slowly caramelize onions and garlic on low heat. While vegetables are caramelizing, de-seed guajillo chiles and toast on a griddle or comal. Chiles should be blistered with a light char. Set aside. Toast sesame seeds, cumin and pumpkin seeds until golden brown. Set aside.
Once onions and garlic are caramelized, add toasted chiles, seeds and cumin, cloves and peppercorns to pot. Cover with water until chiles are fully submerged. Bring to a boil, then take it down to a simmer. Chiles should be tender and ready to fall apart when done.
Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Place chiles, seeds, spices and vegetables in blender, and purée until smooth, adding liquid from the pot to help with pureeing process. Carefully push purée through a fine mesh strainer. Set aside smooth mole and discard anything left in strainer.
Place chicken back into stock pot, and add chicken stock and mole. Simmer and reduce for about 45-60 minutes. When finished, mole should be a bright reddish-orange color with a smooth consistency. Chicken should be fork-tender and cooked through. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, and serve over rice with side of warm tortillas.
Hoppin’ Jose Rice From Lorena Garcia, Chica
“Hoppin’ John is a traditional dish eaten for New Year’s in the American South, representing luck and prosperity,” Garcia says. “I’ve given it my own Latin spin and created Hoppin’ Jose, which has become a fan-favorite side dish in my restaurants as well as in my own home during the holiday season.”
• 2 cups cooked white rice
• 1 cup fresh guacamole
• Fresh cilantro for garnish
• 1 small onion
• 1/2 red bell pepper
• 1 jalapeño
• 1 carrot, peeled
• 3 cloves garlic
• 3 slices of bacon, diced small
• 1 can black beans
• 1 can pinto beans
• cilantro, chopped
• 3 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 tsp. cumin
• 1/2 tsp. paprika
• 1 tsp. coriander
• 1 tsp. ginger
• 1 tsp. thyme
• Salt and pepper
Small-dice all vegetables. In a pan, add olive oil and vegetables, and sauté until translucent. Add spices, and stir for 30 seconds. Add bacon and beans, stir for one minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.
In a sauté pan at medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and rice. Sauté for three minutes. Add bean sofrito, stir and let cook for five minutes to develop a crust. Final stir until all flavors are combined, then set aside.
Place Hoppin’ Jose Rice on a plate and top with 1 tbsp. of freshly made guacamole and cilantro sprig.
Peanut Butter Brookies From Elizabeth Blau, Honey Salt
“With all the turmoil of 2020, celebrating the holidays, cherishing our families and cooking up delicious meals is more important than ever,” Blau says. “For me, the most important part of any meal is dessert, which is why I love sharing all of my favorite holiday recipes.”
• 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
• 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
• 3/4 tsp. baking powder
• 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 1/2 lb. butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar, granulated
• 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
• 2 eggs
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 cups creamy peanut butter
• 2 cups sugar
• 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 cup cocoa powder
• 3/4 tsp. salt
• 4 eggs
• 3/4 cup oil
• 1/4 cup corn syrup
In a mixer, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla for 30 seconds. Mix in peanut butter until combined. Add dry ingredients until flour mixture is incorporated (do not overmix).
Using a medium cookie scoop (1.75 oz.), place cookie dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover. Transfer to freezer until it’s time to bake the brookie.
Whisk eggs, oil and corn syrup together in large mixing bowl. Whisk sugar, cocoa and flour separately. Add dry ingredients to wet ones and combine well. Scoop 2 dough balls (1 oz. for small; 1.75 oz for big) into mold.
Bake at 325 degrees for 12 minutes for small dough ball, 20 minutes for large dough ball. Remove from oven, put peanut butter cookie in center and bake an additional eight minutes for small, 12 minutes for large.
White Elephant Nog From Amanda Bowerman, Carson Kitchen
“This recipe hearkens back to classic nog or milk punch,” Harwell says. “I recommend serving in a punch bowl with glasses to get the full effect of this layered frothy, creamy beverage. Here is your chance to purge the liquor you’ve been ‘winning’ at those holiday parties. Experiment with flavor combinations and have fun.”
• 12 egg whites
• 12 egg yolks
• 12 oz. granulated sugar
• 16 oz. brandy
• 16 oz rum
• 16 oz. liquor of choice
• 16 oz. liquor of choice
• 32 oz. whole milk
• 32 oz. heavy cream, lightly whipped
• Pinch of salt
• Nutmeg for garnish, grated
Beat egg whites until stiff and set aside. Beat yolks until light. Gradually add sugar and beat mixture until it’s thick and pale, then chill for an hour. Slowly beat in liquors. Add in milk and cream, beating constantly with a wire whisk. Fold in egg whites, and sprinkle surface of punch with nutmeg. Allow to rest for at least five days prior to serving so flavors can meld. It can also be bottled and aged for next year.
Rum, brandy and bourbon are best for nog. For flavored versions, Schnapps, fruit or nut liquors and 8% ABV or higher dark beer also works well.