Local restaurants and partner chefs offer their tips for making a great holiday meal.
November to December, high season for parties and get-togethers, calls for a lot of cooking. We asked some of our partner chefs and restaurant people, whose profiles appear in the following pages, how they rise to the occasion, whether it’s a quick meal at home or a last-minute fete.
When I cook at home, I make extra caramelized onions to have on hand for the week. It’s perfect for adding to sandwiches, omelets, pasta or pizza. They are an easy way to enhance the flavor of a simple weeknight meal.
It’s always a good idea to think ahead on what sort of pasta shapes to pair with your sauces. For instance, pappardelle or a thin flat pasta is great with ragus and Bolognese so you can have enough pasta for the sauce. Spaghetti is great with carbonara, as it doesn’t overpower the sauce and dry it out.
Get a great chicken at the farmers market from Mark at Devil’s Gulch. Add a bunch of thyme and some garlic, salt and pepper to the chicken’s cavity. Lift the skin from the back of the breast and rub with butter and some minced fresh herbs. Make a bed of roughly chopped turnips, parsnips, carrot and rutabaga. Roast at 375°F for an hour or until the juices run clear. Let the bird rest for a few minutes while you open a bottle of pinot noir. Serve with a salad or mashed potatoes. Then serve cheese!
When making fresh masa for tamales, add a pinch of baking soda to the masa. It makes them fluffy instead of dense.
A quick and easy tip for making a great entree on short notice: get a beautiful piece of fish like a side of salmon or halibut and turn the oven up hot, hot, hot. Roast the fish until it’s almost cooked through. Remove the fish from the oven and coat with a crust of panko breadcrumbs, spices, salt and pepper. Then finish in the oven until golden. Serve with lemon wedges.
Around holiday time when friends visit or we want something easy, I’ll make a family-style chirashi sushi and bring home some store-bought roast chicken to accompany it. Chirashi sushi is mixed vegetable, egg and whatever leftovers you want to add to it.
We rarely throw away produce, as we use the ends and stalks to make our vegetable broth and utilize the stalks of herbs to juice them for our salad dressings and marinades. The easiest and most flavorful way to drop fat content in sautéing is to replace at least 50 percent of typically used oils with vegetable broths and herbal juiced infusions.
In my house I make the pies. I make extra pie dough and make potpies with the leftovers. A turkey dinner has everything you need for potpie: turkey, gravy, veggies and mashed potatoes for the top. Bake at 350°F until the potatoes are light brown. You can even add a touch of cranberries.
White truffles make everything better. With a little butter, it’s the perfect pairing for fresh pasta. Look for a firm white truffle with no blemishes and a strong aroma. With a truffle shaver from Williams Sonoma, shave as thin as possible just before serving.
I often have a batch of cooked apples on hand, as it makes a great topping on a dessert or bowl of oatmeal, or a stand-alone treat that feels like a hug on a cold night. I simply cut up a couple apples and sauté them in butter until they start to soften. You can add sugar, but I opt to let the apples’ natural sweetness shine with a little sprinkle of cinnamon.
A good meal always starts with quality ingredients. Build a relationship with your butcher and fishmonger and they will give you the best cuts and freshest fish. Second, use brines and marinades. They impart flavors and improve the tenderness of the final product.
Trident has provided a recipe for their poultry brine here:
- Water 3 gallons
- Kosher Salt 5 cups
- Honey 1.5 cups
- Bay Leaf 34 ea
- Garlic Cloves (cut in half) 5 ea
- Black Peppercorn 10 tablespoon
- Rosemary Sprigs 15 ea
- Thyme 5 bunches
- Parsley 5 bunches
- Lemon (zest and juice) 10 ea, zested and juiced
Fill a 20 qt Cambro with 16 qts ice, set aside.
Add all the above ingredients into a stock pot and bring to a boil, let simmer for 15 minutes to allow ingredients to marry. When ready pour all contents over the ice and into the cambro. Let cool and pass liquid through china cap and chinois. Label and date and set aside for later use.
To find out more about these great local restaurants, check out our 2019 restaurant profiles.