Holiday feast: Delicious Christmas recipes for your festivities

Delicious recipes to make your Christmas festivities merry

This photo shows holiday pot roast with spiced root vegetables in Concord, N.H. This recipe is easy and designed to give maximum flavor with minimum labor. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Photo by Matthew Mead

This photo shows holiday pot roast with spiced root vegetables in Concord, N.H. This recipe is easy and designed to give maximum flavor with minimum labor. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

This photo shows French toast hash crumb casserole in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Photo by Matthew Mead

This photo shows French toast hash crumb casserole in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

This photo shows spinach stuffed chicken thighs in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Photo by Matthew Mead

This photo shows spinach stuffed chicken thighs in Concord, N.H. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

This photo shows red currant and chocolate cheesecake in Concord, N.H. In this recipe, chopped chocolate is a distinct, toothsome confetti strewn throughout the cake. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

Photo by Matthew Mead

This photo shows red currant and chocolate cheesecake in Concord, N.H. In this recipe, chopped chocolate is a distinct, toothsome confetti strewn throughout the cake. Matthew Mead/ Associated Press

A holiday roast to love on its merits, not looks

Admittedly, pot roast is not a particularly beautiful dish. But when done well, it is a delicious dish — flavorful, succulent, rich and comforting. In short, it’s everything you want for a holiday feast.

Another perk of pot roast — especially if you’re feeding a crowd — is that it is economical. You’re going to want to select a well-marbled, tougher cut of meat, both of which translate into cheap. And that means you’re going to get a lot of roast for your dollar.

This recipe is easy and designed to give maximum flavor with minimum labor. You brown some vegetables, add you meat and liquid, then walk away for a few hours. Toward the end of roasting, you chop some vegetables and toss those in the oven, too. The resulting roast is spectacular with the gravy made from the drippings and liquid in the pan.

___

HOLIDAY POT ROAST WITH SPICED ROOT VEGETABLES

Start to finish: 4 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 12

For the roast:

2 medium red onions, quartered

2 medium carrots, cut into pieces

3 stalks celery, cut into pieces

2 leeks, trimmed and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

6- to 7-pound chuck roast

Salt and ground black pepper

3 cups red wine

2 cups unsalted beef stock

1/4 cup tomato paste

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

3 bay leaves

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

For the root vegetables:

6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

4 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 medium red onions, cut into wedges

2 small celeriac roots, peeled and diced

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

Heat the oven to 350 F.

In a food processor, combine the red onions, carrots, celery and leeks. Pulse until finely chopped, but not so finely that a paste is formed.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed large pot over medium, heat the olive oil. Add the onion-carrot mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Spoon the mixture out into a bowl.

Trim the chuck roast of any very large pieces of fat. Season the meat liberally with salt and black pepper. Increase the heat under the Dutch oven to high and add the meat. Sear on all sides until well browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the roast to a plate.

Add a bit of the red wine to the pot and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom. Return the browned vegetable mixture to the pot along with the rest of the red wine, beef stock, tomato paste, mustard, bay leaves, and rosemary. Stir well. Carefully return the roast to the pot, cover and place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours, or until very tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the roasted vegetables. In a large bowl, toss together the carrots, parsnips, onions, sunchokes and sweet potatoes. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat.

In a small bowl, mix together the salt, black pepper, cumin, coriander and fennel seed. Sprinkle over the vegetables and toss again. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet. After the chuck has been roasting for 2 1/2 hours, add the vegetables to the oven. Roast, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until browned and tender.

When the chuck is finished cooking, remove the pot from the oven and transfer the roast to a plate. Cover with foil. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the pot and discard. Transfer the remaining contents to a blender and blend until smooth, making sure to use caution when blending the hot liquid. Return to the pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced to about 5 cups, or gravy thickness. Serve with the roast and root vegetables.

Nutrition information per serving: 540 calories; 120 calories from fat (22 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (4 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 95 mg cholesterol; 43 g carbohydrate; 8 g fiber; 13 g sugar; 51 g protein; 580 mg sodium.

~~~~~~~~

A fancy holiday meal that requires no fancy skills

Looking to dazzle your guests during the holidays? I’ve got the perfect “fancy” dish for you. And I promise it requires no advanced culinary skills.

I’ve adapted this from a recipe that first appeared in Gourmet magazine. It boasts a secret ingredient, what the French call a “farce,” but we call it forcemeat. It’s what makes this chicken ridiculously moist and flavorful.

A forcemeat is a mixture of well-seasoned meat, poultry, fish or vegetables, that is finely chopped or ground, then cooked and served alone or used as a stuffing. Some fat usually is added to ensure the forcemeat has a smooth texture. Forcemeat is the base of many charcuterie products, including pates, terrines and sausages.

But in this recipe, it doesn’t just add delicious flavor. It also insulates the chicken from the intensity of the heat in the oven, making it almost impossible for the meat to dry out.

For my forcemeat, I’ve used a mixture of chicken, spinach, low-fat sour cream (in place of the original recipe’s heavy cream), and Mediterranean flavorings, including lemon zest, nutmeg (often paired with spinach) and fennel seed. I’d advise those of you who think you hate fennel (which tastes vaguely of licorice) to give this combo a chance. It’s a delicious blend of flavors and you won’t even notice the fennel.

But before you get going, a few kitchen notes.

We’ll start with the tools. Your best bet for grinding the fennel seeds is a spice or coffee grinder, but you also can crush them with the bottom of a heavy saucepan. As for grating the lemon zest and nutmeg, get yourself a wand-style grater, which makes quick work of both.

If you’re using dry pre-washed spinach, throw a little water into the skillet with it to help it wilt, then stir it often. Don’t be surprised when it cooks down to almost nothing. You’ll notice then that the spinach has generated water of its own in excess. The best way to lose the water is to wrap batches of the spinach in a dish towel and squeeze hard.

You may wonder whether all the stuffing will fit under the chicken’s skin, or whether the excess will ooze out when you saute the meat. Don’t worry. Chicken skin is remarkably elastic. And the forcemeat firms right up during cooking and won’t slide out.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t that skin contain a lot of fat? It does. But I figure that the holidays are one time of the year you can splurge a little.

And by the way, there’s no reason to confine the enjoyment of this dish to the holidays. You can customize the seasonings or flavorings as you like as long as you keep the amounts of the core ingredients — chicken, sour cream and ice — untouched. That said, this is indeed a perfect dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead and keep it in the refrigerator until about 40 minutes before you want to serve it.

___

SPINACH-STUFFED CHICKEN THIGHS

Start to finish: 1 hour 55 minutes (30 minutes active)

Servings: 6

5 ounces baby spinach

2 pounds skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs (8 thighs)

2 tablespoons crushed ice

1/3 cup low-fat sour cream

Kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil.

In a large skillet over medium heat, wilt the spinach until completely reduced. Let cool until easily handled, then squeeze any moisture from the spinach. Finely chop the spinach. You should have about 1/3 cup. Set aside.

Using a paring knife, remove the skin and bone from 2 of the chicken thighs. Place the thigh meat in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the ice and process until absorbed. Add the sour cream and pulse again until well mixed. Add the spinach, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, fennel seeds, lemon zest, nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper. Pulse, scraping down the sides, until well mixed. Set aside.

Arrange the remaining thighs on a cutting board, skin side up. Carefully pull back the skin, leaving it attached on one end. Divide the ground chicken and spinach mixture evenly between the 6 thighs, spreading it evenly over the meat. Stretch the skin back over the filling on each thigh. Arrange the stuffed thighs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the oven to 400f.

In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Season the chicken skin lightly with salt and pepper, then add the chicken to the skillet, skin side down. Cook until the skin is golden brown, then use tongs to turn the thighs skin side up. Place the skillet in the oven and roast for 25 minutes, or until the thighs reach 160 F.

Remove the skillet from the oven and cover with foil. Let rest for 5 minutes before transferring each thigh to a serving plate. Spoon any juices from the skillet over the thighs just before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories; 200 calories from fat (65 percent of total calories); 23 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 110 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 22 g protein; 370 mg sodium.

~~~~~~

Make an indulgent cake even more so for Christmas

Cheesecake by definition is rich and decadent. So we knew that if we were going to make a special cheesecake just for Christmas, it would need to be even richer and even more decadent.

So we started with an amazingly indulgent cheesecake base — a mere 32 ounces of cream cheese blended with a cup of sugar and six eggs — then spiked it not only with vanilla bean, but also chopped bittersweet chocolate. But this is not standard chocolate cheesecake. In our recipe, the chocolate remains a distinct, deliciously toothsome confetti strewn throughout the cheesecake.

For that seasonal red and green we have come to expect from our Christmas treats, we top the finished cake with warm red currant jam and chopped pistachios. The result is as delicious as it is beautiful.

___

RED CURRANT AND CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE

Start to finish: 7 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Servings: 16

6 ounces chocolate wafer cookies (2/3 of a 9-ounce package)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

6 eggs

1 vanilla bean or 2 tablespoons vanilla extract

6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup red currant jelly

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Heat the oven to 375 F. Coat a deep 10-inch cake pan with baking spray, then line the bottom with kitchen parchment.

In a food processor, combine the chocolate wafer cookies and brown sugar. Pulse until finely ground. Drizzle in the butter and pulse to combine. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pare and press evenly over the bottom. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside. Lower the oven temperature to 300 F.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl use an electric mixer on medium-low to beat the cream cheese until smooth. Take care to not beat in any extra air, but to scrape down the bowl thoroughly to avoid any lumps. Add the granulated sugar and beat again, scraping the bowl thoroughly. Add the eggs one at a time, again incorporating gently, but thoroughly scraping the bowl.

Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean or add the vanilla extract. Stir in the bittersweet chocolate. Pour the batter into the prepared pan over the crust. Tap the pan gently on the counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Place the pan into a larger roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan, taking care not to get any into the cheesecake, to come halfway up the sides of the cake.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until just barely jiggly at the center. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a spoon. Allow to cool for 2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 4 hours.

When ready to unmold the cheesecake, run a paring knife around the edge. Dip just the bottom of the pan in hot water for 1 minute to loosen the crust. Place a large plate over the top of the pan, then flip the pan over so that the cheesecake is upside down. The cake should release onto the plate. Remove the parchment from the crust and place a serving platter over it. Flip the cake a second time to end with the cheesecake right side up.

Microwave the red currant jelly for 1 minute and stir until smooth. Spread evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Garnish the edges with chopped pistachios.

Nutrition information per serving: 420 calories; 280 calories from fat (67 percent of total calories); 31 g fat (18 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 140 mg cholesterol; 33 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 25 g sugar; 9 g protein; 270 mg sodium.

~~~~~~~~

A Christmas breakfast casserole that has it all

What you want on Christmas morning — a house that effortlessly fills itself with joyous sounds and delicious aromas. What you usually get on Christmas morning — towers of wrapping paper, hermetically sealed toys that can be opened by no human, and a kitchen that demands way too much of your attention.

I can’t help you with the wrapping paper or packaging, but I can make your holiday breakfast a little easier. I’m a big believer that Christmas morning is meant to be spent under the tree, not at the stove. And yet I still want the house to fill itself with delicious aromas.

My solution? A do-ahead breakfast casserole that I can prep the night before, then just pop into the oven to bake unattended while gift insanity commences. So this year I created an indulgent dish that is equal parts casserole, hash browns, fruit crumble and French toast. Because.... why not? It’s Christmas.

This recipe makes plenty so it’s easy to feed a crowd, particularly if you have guests joining the fun closer to brunch. The leftovers are easily reheated. I like it served with a drizzle of maple syrup. But if you’d rather take this in a savory direction, add chopped ham when combining the potatoes and cheese.

___

FRENCH TOAST HASH CRUMBLE CASSEROLE

Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 12

9 eggs

2/3 cup half-and-half

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 slices sandwich bread

4 cups (about 1 pound) frozen shredded potatoes

3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced

8 ounces (2 cups) shredded cheese

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half, thyme, salt and pepper. Set aside.

Coat a deep 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange 4 slices of the bread in an even layer over the bottom of the pan.

In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, apples and cheese. Spread the mixture evenly over the bread. Pour half of the egg mixture evenly over the potatoes and apples, pressing it with a fork to help it absorb evenly. Top the potato mixture with the remaining 4 slices of bread. Pour the remaining egg mixture over the bread and press gently with a fork to help it absorb.

In the same bowl used to mix the potatoes and apples, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the ingredients together until evenly blended. Spread the crumble topping evenly over the bread. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until morning.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 F. Uncover the baking dish and bake for 1 hour, or until lightly browned and crisp.

Nutrition information per serving: 530 calories; 250 calories from fat (47 percent of total calories); 28 g fat (15 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 200 mg cholesterol; 57 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 26 g sugar; 15 g protein; 350 mg sodium.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features