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Easy Holiday Recipes

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Tis the season to be merry and enjoy a home-cooked meal with your family and friends! We pulled together a few of our favorite winter recipes from our sister publications, Real Food and Drinks that will be sure impress everyone. 

Main Dishes

Pot Pie

Turkey Potpie with Sweet-Potato Biscuits 

Makes 8 servings 

Filling

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large leek (about 2 cups), white and pale green parts trimmed, washed, and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 large carrots, cut into ½-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • ¹⁄8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups diced parsnip or celery root
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, halved or quartered
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups cooked turkey meat, chopped or shredded
  • ½ cup cream or half-and-half
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Biscuits

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine-grain salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
  • ½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potato, chilled
  • ½ cup buttermilk, or more as needed

1. For the filling: Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek, celery, carrot, thyme, and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook about 8 minutes, until vegetables are almost tender. Add parsnip and mushrooms, stir, and cook uncovered 2 minutes.

2. Sprinkle in flour, stirring to incorporate evenly. Gradually add 1 cup broth, stirring gently, until thickened. Stir in remaining broth, turkey, and cream. Bring to a gentle simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Remove from heat and stir in peas and parsley. Let cool slightly before proceeding. This recipe can be made ahead until this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated up to 2 days.

4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour turkey and vegetables into dish.

5. For the biscuits: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda, salt, pepper, and paprika in bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Add butter and cheese, and pulse again until mixture looks pebbly with small oat-size lumps. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

6. Whisk sweet potato with ¹⁄³ cup buttermilk until very smooth. Add to biscuit mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula just until roughly combined and dough comes together. Add buttermilk as needed if dough seems dry. Avoid overmixing.

7. Using a large spoon, drop dough onto turkey filling in 8 biscuit-shaped mounds. Use back of a fork to flatten and shape biscuits. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until biscuits are nicely browned and filling is bubbling hot. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe By Molly Stevens
 
Potato Fritata

Potato Frittata with Feta, Mortadella, and Thai Basil   

Makes 4 to 6 servings

A very versatile dish, serve this frittata sliced in wedges or squares as an appetizer.

  • 12 ounces new potatoes, or other waxy type
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 3 ounces Italian mortadella or cooked sausage, cut into small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6 ounces feta, cut into small dice
  • ²⁄³ cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely torn up

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.

2. Parboil potatoes 6 to 8 minutes depending on size. Drain and set aside. When cool enough to handle, cut into a small dice.

3. Heat a heavy frying pan to medium and add 3 tablespoons oil. When hot, add potatoes and brown without stirring to avoid breaking up. Turn with a spatula when cooking side is golden. Turn again and cook until lightly browned.

4. Add mortadella. Sprinkle in garlic.

5. In a large bowl, combine eggs with feta. Add potato mixture.

6. In a baking pan, heat remaining oil in oven.

7. When pan is hot, pour in potato mixture and smooth until flat.

8. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until mixture feels firm and egg is no longer runny.

9. To remove from pan, loosen sides with a knife and bottom with a small spatula and invert onto a plate. Leave to cool slightly until firm. Cut into small canapé-size pieces, sprinkle with basil, and serve.

Recipe By Marlena Spieler; photo by Terry Brennan; food stying by Lara Miklasevics
 
Tuna

Bucatini with Fresh Tuna, Capers, Pistachios, and Spicy Breadcrumbs    

Makes 6 servings

This is a classic Sicilian pasta with fresh tuna, finished not with grated cheese but with the traditional breadcrumb garnish that is considered more appropriate for seafood.

There are many ways to put this kind of pasta together. I’ve punctuated mine with two of Sicily’s most beloved products: capers, the preserved flower buds from a common Mediterranean bush, and pistachios. The capers from the hot, dry islands of Pantelleria and Lipari are considered the best in the world. They’re packed in Sicilian sea salt and, once rinsed, have a gorgeous floral taste that you don’t find in the vinegar-preserved varieties. Pistachios from Bronte, a town near Mount Etna, are famous for their rich, buttery flavor. Both crops were first cultivated during the Arab occupation of the island, which began in the mid 800s.

Offer this pasta as a first course with a Carricante wine, a white from Mount Etna. Planeta is a good producer.

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup homemade breadcrumbs, dry and not too finely ground
  • 1 teaspoon dried pepperoncino, ground, or another medium-hot dried chili
  • 1 big pinch sugar
  • 2 small, tender inner celery stalks, cut into small dice, plus a palmful celery leaves, lightly chopped
  • 1 small onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 palmful fennel seeds
  • 4 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1  28-ounce can plus 1 15-ounce can plum tomatoes, well chopped and with the juice
  • ¹⁄³ cup salt-packed Sicilian capers, soaked 10 minutes, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 handful unsalted pistachios, shelled (Sicilian if available)
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 1 ½ pounds tuna steak, cut into small cubes (yellowfin or albacore are the most sustainable choices)
  • 1 splash dry Marsala
  • 12 basil leaves, lightly chopped

1. In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs, chili, sugar, and a little salt. Stir then sauté 1 minute, until breadcrumbs are lightly golden. Transfer to a small serving bowl.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add celery and leaves, onion, fennel seeds, and anchovies, and sauté until soft and fragrant. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute without browning. Add tomatoes, season with salt and black pepper, and cook uncovered at a lively bubble 10 minutes. Add capers and pistachios, and turn off heat.

3. While sauce is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt. Drop bucatini into water, giving it a stir to prevent sticking.

4. In another large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over high heat until hot. Dry tuna and add to skillet, spreading out to cook evenly. Season with salt and black pepper, and cook
2 minutes, just until tender. Deglaze skillet with Marsala, letting it bubble a few seconds. Add tuna, with skillet juices, to sauce.

5. When bucatini is al dente, drain and transfer to a large serving bowl. Drizzle with oil and scatter on basil. Toss. Add sauce, toss again, and taste for seasoning. Serve hot, giving each bowl a generous sprinkling of breadcrumbs.

Recipe by Erica De Mane; photography by Terry Brennan; food stying by Lara Miklasevics
 

Side Dishes

Blood Orange Salad

Blood Orange Salad with Mint and Black Olives   

Makes 5 servings

I love the way Sicilians treat oranges as a savory food, preparing them with sea salt, black pepper, onion, and herbs. That’s one of the many culinary legacies of Sicily’s long Arab rule.

Sicily grows many varieties of oranges, but it's proudest of its blood oranges. Moro, Tarocco, and Sanguinello are three great varieties. They differ in sweetness and in color, some with deep burgundy flesh throughout and others mostly orange with streaks of deep red. A version of this salad is often presented at the end of the Christmas Eve meal as a palate cleanser before the desserts are brought out.

Blood oranges weren’t easy to find when I was a kid, so I never tasted this salad until my first trip to Palermo, in the 1980s. Now I find imported Sicilian blood oranges (and Californian ones, too) in the winter.

  • 8 to 10 blood oranges or a mix of blood and regular oranges, peeled, all the white removed, and sliced into thin rounds
  • A few very thin slices red onion
  • 1 handful black olives, unpitted
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably a Sicilian brand)
  • 1 handful fresh mint leaves

Arrange oranges in a circle on a large, festive serving platter. Scatter on onion and olives. Season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a generous drizzle of your best olive oil. Garnish with mint. (The oranges can be arranged on the platter ahead and refrigerated for a few hours, but all the other ingredients should be added at the last minute.)

Recipe by Erica De Mane; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
Potatos with toppings

Boiled New Potatoes with Toppings    

Makes 4 servings

Tiny young potatoes are at their best simply boiled in salt water and shaken to dry. Boiling is also the best way to showcase the whole gamut of different potato types. They are luscious as is, though I adore them with butter and chopped, fresh dill, or with yogurt and chopped green onion.

  • 1½ pounds small new potatoes
  • Large pinch salt

1. Wash potatoes, place in a saucepan, and fill pan with cold water. Add a large pinch salt.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook over a low boil or bubble until just tender. Depending on their size, potatoes will be ready in about 10 minutes. Test every so often with a skewer or tip of a small knife to avoid cooking until mush.

3. When potatoes are cooked through, drain (a small amount of water will remain in pan). Return to stove to help them dry. Over medium low heat, shake pan occasionally until any cooking liquid has evaporated. (The bottom of the pan in between the potatoes should appear dry.) Remove from heat, then cover to keep potatoes moist and warm until ready to use.

Eat simply, in their skins, with any of the following toppings:

  • Butter, chopped, fresh dill, and chives
  • Yogurt, Greek yogurt, or sour cream and thinly sliced green onions
  • Sour cream, caviar or shredded, smoked salmon, and chopped chives
  • Raita (Indian yogurt mixed with a little mint or cumin) with a few dabs spicy pickle on the side
  • Pesto
  • Extra virgin olive oil, chopped parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper
  • With melted cheese, raclette-style: Bake cheese until melty then serve on a plate that keeps it hot along with a plate of cornichons and thinly sliced onions.
  • Baked Camembert: Open a package of Camembert, cut a tiny bit out of the top, pour a little white wine in it, and replace lid. Bake in a hot oven, in its box resting on a baking sheet, about 10 minutes, until cheese is melty and ready to ooze.
  • Fromage blanc, or cottage cheese puréed and mixed with a little crème fraîche or sour cream, then mixed with a bit of soft butter, dry white wine, chopped onion, chopped garlic, parsley, tarragon, dill, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. This is delicious when the cheese mixture is cold, the potatoes hot.
Recipe by Marlena Spieler; photography by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 
Apple Pine Nut Bread

Apple, Pine Nut, and Cardamom Quick Bread    

Makes 10 slices per 11-inch loaf

This is a wonderful bread that freezes very well and can be kept wrapped in the fridge for at least 10 days. It is quick to make and has a haunting flavor that comes from the apples resting in the lemon juice for a few minutes. I have made this with and without the cardamom; either way it is fantastic and seems to get even better a day or two later.

  • 4 Golden Delicious apples
  • 1 zested lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups flour, Heckers or King Arthur
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¹⁄³ cup pine nuts

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F. Grease and flour an 11x4-inch loaf pan.

2. Peel apples, cut into thin ½-inch pieces, and place in bowl. Add zest, juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Mix together and set aside.

3. In a standing electric mixer, beat eggs and remaining sugar 2 minutes.

4. Gently stir in butter and vanilla. Slowly stir in flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.

5. Remove bowl from mixer, pour batter over apples, and fold in.

6. Pour mixture into pan and sprinkle pine nuts on top.

7. Bake 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Will keep for a week wrapped well in the refrigerator. Will not freeze well as the apples become wet and mushy.

Recipe by Serena Bass; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 

Desserts

Spicy Pfeffernusse

Spicy Pfeffernüsse Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

These classic German holiday cookies, hard and crunchy with a spicy kick, are made ahead of the festivities to allow the flavors to ripen and the cookies to harden. They are ideal dippers for coffee, tea, mulled wine, or cider. This recipe requires fresh and fully flavored spices.

The cookies are quick and easy to make and can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container up to 6 weeks.   

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fleshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seed
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground allspice
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon stick
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground anise (fennel) seed
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, pepper, cardamom, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, anise, and baking powder. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together butter, sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs until well-blended.

4. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in three batches, beating well after each.

5. Flour your hands and gather enough dough to make a 1½-inch-diameter ball. Roll between the palms of your hands to make a smooth, firm ball. Place on a baking sheet, spacing balls 2 inches apart.

6. Dampen your hands with water, rub each ball between palms to smooth surface, and replace on baking sheet.

7. Bake 12 to 14 minutes, until tops are just firm to the touch and lightly golden and bottoms are just beginning to brown. They may begin to crack a bit. Do not overbake. Transfer sheets to racks and let cool slightly.

8. Place powdered sugar in a paper bag and add still-warm cookies a few at a time, shaking gently to coat. Place cookies on a wire rack and let cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Alternatively, uncoated cookies can be cooled completely and frozen in airtight containers up to 2 months. To serve, thaw and coat with powdered sugar.

9. Store at least 2 weeks (and up to 6 weeks) before serving. The longer cookies are stored, the harder they get—up to rock hard, perfect for dipping into hot drinks.

Recipe by Georgeanne Brennan; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 
Brownies

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Brownies     

Makes 30 brownies

These intensely chocolate, not-too-sweet bites are perfect for a dessert buffet. With a creamy, dark, dark chocolate frosting scattered with just a few grains of sea salt, these brownie bites are a tasty marriage of chocolate and a hint of savory.

There are many artisanal, domestic, and imported chocolates to choose from; just be sure to use an unsweetened one.    

Frosting

  • ½ cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Brownies

  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • ½ teaspoon medium coarse sea salt

1. For the frosting: Blend milk and sugar in a blender at high speed 30 seconds to mix well.

2. Over medium heat, bring water in a double boiler to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and put chocolate in upper pan. The simmering water should not touch the bottom of the pan. Melt chocolate 3 minutes, stirring. Remove pan from heat and set aside to cool 3 minutes (not too long or it will firm up again).

3. Add chocolate to blender and blend 1 minute to mix. Scrape down sides of blender. Blend on medium to high speed 4 minutes, until mixture has thickened. It will be very creamy. Refrigerate 1 hour, lightly covered, or up to 1 day.

4. For the brownies: Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350°F.

5. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and fine salt.

6. Melt the chocolate. (See step 2 above for instructions.)

7. In a large bowl, using an electric beater, beat butter 2 minutes, until creamy. Gradually add sugar and when well-blended, add eggs and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add vanilla then chocolate. Blend well. Add flour mixture in 2 to 3 batches, beating well after each.

8. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with butter. Pour batter into dish and smooth with a spatula. Bake 20 minutes, until center is firm to the touch, edges have pulled away slightly from pan, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

9. Remove to a wire rack to cool. When cooled, cut into 1½-inch squares. Frost immediately or within a day.

10. To frost, place 1 teaspoon frosting in center of each brownie and swirl. Just before serving, sprinkle each brownie with 3 to 4 grains sea salt. If sea salt seems too coarse, crush a bit using a mortar and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon.

11. Unfrosted brownies will keep up to 4 days; frosted, unsalted brownies, 2 days. Store in a single layer, lightly covered with aluminum foil (do not let foil touch frosting).

Recipe by Georgeanne Brennan; photo by Terry Brennan; food styling by Lara Miklasevics
 

Drinks

Candelabro

Candelabro

Serves 1

Pisco is a grape brandy, generally unaged, that is claimed by both Chile and Peru as their national spirit. Although best known as the base ingredient for the Pisco Sour cocktail, pisco is a versatile spirit that can be used in all manner of drinks. The name for this cocktail was not inspired by the flamboyant pianist Liberace, who was rarely without his candelabra; rather, by El Candelabro, an ancient petroglyph in the Peruvian Andes. You may need to adjust the amount of syrup depending on how sweet your cantaloupe is.

  • 1 1/2 ounces pisco
  • 1 1/2 ounces fresh pressed cantaloupe juice (or muddle 1/2 cup diced fresh cantaloupe in the glass before shaking)
  • 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Scant 1/2 ounce simple syrup
  • 1/2 ounce Cointreau or Paula’s Texas Orange
  • Absinthe, for rinsing the glass
  • Cucumber wheel, for garnish

Combine the pisco, cantaloupe juice, lime juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau in a mixing glass with ice and shake vigorously to chill. Rinse a chilled cocktail glass with absinthe; strain the cocktail into the seasoned glass, and garnish with the cucumber wheel.

Photo and recipe from Tipsy Texan by David Alan; photo by Aimee Wenske
 
Fig Daiquiri

Fig Daiquiri

Serves 1

There is a sexiness to figs that borders on the obscene; no wonder their leaves were used by censors of ancient art to cover, ahem, objectionable parts. Figs grow especially well in central Texas, if you can keep them away from the squirrels and other critters long enough to let them ripen for picking. The taste of fresh figs when you eat them raw is not just fruity, but also earthy, vegetal, and primordial. When used in cocktails, their sweetness comes forward—any number of classic cocktails can benefit from the addition of a few ripe figs.
4 small or 2 large ripe figs, stems removed, cut in half, plus 1 whole fig for garnish

  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces white rum
  • 1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

In the bottom of a mixing glass, muddle the halved figs and simple syrup. Add the rum and lime juice and shake vigorously with ice to chill. Adjust the amount of syrup to taste. Fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the whole fig.

Photo and recipe from Tipsy Texan by David Alan; photo by Aimee Wenske
 
Maple Syrup Toddy

Maple Syrup Toddy

Serves 1

Perhaps the earliest form of a cocktail, toddies were created as a way to chase away the chill and offer relief from colds and flu. A couple hundred years later, we’re still drinking them for the same reasons, though bartenders like John Ginnetti are upping the ante with premium spirits and creative combinations, making drinks you definitely want to sip while you’re hale and hearty. For this New England–inspired version, the owner of 116 Crown in Connecticut reaches for Laird’s applejack, which has been made in nearby New Jersey since the 1700s. Then he sweetens the mix with pure maple syrup, one of the state’s biggest crops. Instead of adding traditional spices, he uses sweet vermouth and Averna, an Italian amaro, to give the drink aromatic complexity.

  • 2 ounces applejack
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Averna
  • 1 teaspoon grade B maple syrup
  • 3 ounces hot water

Combine the applejack, vermouth, Averna, and maple syrup in a mug and stir until blended.
Add the hot water and stir again. Garnish with the lemon peel, twisting it over the drink to release the oils.

Tip: Maple syrup produced in the United States is usually labeled as grade A or grade B. Grade A syrup comes from maple trees tapped in early spring and is lighter in color and milder in flavor. This drink is best when made with darker more robustly flavored grade B syrup, which comes from trees tapped later in the season.

Recipe from The American Cocktail by the editors of Imbibe Magazine; photo by Sheri Giblin
 
Bitter Branch

Bitter Branch

Serves 1

Minnesotans, who have an abundance of walnut trees in their state, know that green walnuts are best used for making nocino, an Italian bittersweet walnut liqueur that is versatile and decadent in cocktails. Created by Pip Hanson of Café Maude in Minneapolis, this simple yet flavorful cocktail makes a great digestif to cap off a heavy dinner on a cold Midwestern night. The spicy rye whiskey is a perfect counterpart to the nuttiness of the nocino, and the chocolaty character of the Cynar blends beautifully with the final surprising addition of sea salt water.

  • 3 to 4 drops of sea salt water
  • 3 ounces rye whiskey
  • 1 ounce Cynar
  • 1/2 ounce nocino or nocello
  • Ice cubes

Combine the sea salt water, whiskey, Cynar, and nocino in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir until chilled. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass and garnish with the orange twist and candied walnut. Garnish with an orange zest and serve.

Note: To make the sea salt water, in a mug, stir 2 tablespoons of sea salt into 1/2 cup of boiling water, stirring until dissolved. Chill well before use.

Recipe from The American Cocktail by the editors of Imbibe Magazine; photo by Sheri Giblin
 
Sazerac

Sazerac

Serves 1

One of the earliest recorded cocktails, the Sazerac came into this world some time in the 1850s. It was originally made with brandy, but (as I’m sure you’ll agree) there’s nothing quite like a good rye whiskey.

  • 2 ounces rye whiskey
  • 2 barspoons sugar syrup*
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 2 barspoons absinthe, to rinse the glass
  • A thin lemon zest, to garnish

Stir all the ingredients, except the absinthe, in a mixing glass filled with ice. Rinse a chilled rocks glass with the absinthe. Strain the contents of the mixing glass into the rocks glass and garnish with a thin zest of lemon.

*1 barspoon is about 1 teaspoon
 

Recipe and photo From Gatsby Cocktails: Classic Cocktails from the Jazz Age by Ben Reed; photo by William Lingwood