I have always dreamed of having one of those big New England homes you see in movies, surrounded in snow and festooned in classy holiday decorations. I long for one of those dining room tables that seats an absurd number of people, so I can cook an elaborate meal for extended family. Alas, I have neither, and even if I did, my dream still would never happen. My own family is spread far and wide. My husband is the youngest of three, and his siblings have oodles of children, but they are a lost cause. Everyone lives in Indiana, so we do still sometimes get together for the holidays. We are, in fact, gathering for Thanksgiving tomorrow, if you can call 20+ people eating pizza in four different rooms gathering for Thanksgiving.
No one on my husband’s side can cook particularly well, so I guess I am thankful I won’t have to swallow dry turkey and bland mashed potatoes. On Thanksgiving Day, my RN husband has to work, so my daughter and I will be hanging out with a friend, and our menu isn’t set yet. So, this blog post is an ode to some of my favorite classic, holiday-worthy recipes. My husband hates turkey, so if I were cooking, it would probably be a ham, or maybe a standing rib roast, but I will save those for another blog. (You may quickly notice I once had a love affair with Epicurious).
Marinated Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc
Credit: Mark Thomas
My notes: This is just a good excuse to buy champagne. It’s relatively easy, but guests find it impressive.
- 2 cups Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
- 1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
- 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or other white wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 1 cup Champagne or other dry sparkling wine
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons minced shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 24 extra-large uncooked shrimp (about 2 pounds), peeled with tail left intact, deveined
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
For sauce base:
- Combine Champagne, shallots, vinegar, and peppercorns in heavy medium saucepan. Boil until reduced to 1/4 cup liquid, about 20 minutes. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)
- Combine Champagne, olive oil, shallots, and ground pepper in resealable plastic bag. Add shrimp to bag and seal; shake bag to coat shrimp evenly. Marinate shrimp at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, turning bag occasionally. Mix chives, tarragon, and parsley in small bowl.
- Preheat broiler. Spray broiler pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray. Drain shrimp; discard plastic bag with marinade. Arrange shrimp on prepared pan in single layer. Broil shrimp until just opaque in center, about 2 minutes per side. Stand 3 shrimp, tails upright, in center of each plate.
- Rewarm sauce base over medium-low heat. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time, just allowing each to melt before adding next (do not boil or sauce will separate). Season beurre blanc to taste with salt and pepper.
- Spoon warm sauce around shrimp. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and serve.
Macaroni and Cheese with Garlic Breadcrumbs
Credit: Quentin Bacon
My notes: I make this all the time. Cavatappi pasta is an absolute must for this recipe, as is a really good cheddar cheese. Occasionally I feel like I have too much sauce so sometimes I use slightly more than one pound of pasta. I also double the breadcrumbs if I can. This is an easy recipe to cut in half if you aren’t serving a huge crowd.
For bread crumbs:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped chipotle chiles in adobo
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon dry mustard
- 1 pound macaroni
- 2 pounds extra-sharp Cheddar (preferably white), grated
Make bread crumbs:
- Heat butter and oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook garlic and bread crumbs, stirring, until crumbs are golden. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Chop chipotles.
- Melt butter in a 3- to 4-quart saucepan over moderate heat, then add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk, cream, and mustard and simmer, whisking occasionally, 3 minutes.
- Cook macaroni in a 6- to 7-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender. Drain in a colander and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in white sauce, cheese, and salt to taste.
- Fill a 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole with half of macaroni mixture. Stir chipotles into remaining macaroni. Spoon into another 1 1/2-quart shallow casserole and sprinkle both with bread crumbs. Bake casseroles in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until bubbly.
• Macaroni and cheese may be made 2 days ahead, put into casseroles, cooled completely, and chilled, covered. Do not add bread crumbs until ready to bake. (Baking may take longer than 30 minutes.)
Honey Whole Wheat Rolls
My notes: I use this recipe all the time for hamburger buns, but if you divide the dough into 12 or more pieces, they make great dinner-sized rolls. You can bake them as instructed, or in an 8X8 greased glass dish, for 10-12 minutes. Brush the tops with butter before baking. I find this recipe makes the fluffiest rolls if I use a mixed flour like the Ultragrain flour from Costco, but all whole wheat tastes great, too. They are like heaven when fresh out of the oven!
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup butter or coconut oil (If using coconut oil, select the refined kind that doesn’t taste like coconuts)
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ teaspoons yeast (or one packet)
- 2 to 3.5 cups of whole wheat flour (see note below) (like this one)
- Sesame seeds or rolled oats (optional–for garnish–only really necessary if you are trying to take pretty pictures for a blog…)
- In a small saucepan, gently heat the honey, butter, and milk over low heat until the butter is just slightly melted. Don’t boil or simmer this mixture– you want it just barely warm.
- Place the yeast in a mixing bowl. Check the temperature of the honey/milk mixture. It should be warm, but not the slightest bit hot. If you put your finger in the mixture and it’s even the tiniest bit uncomfortable, allow it to cool down to around 100 degrees before adding it to the yeast. Otherwise, you’ll end up with dead yeast and flat buns.
- Mix the lukewarm honey/milk mixture into the yeast and stir well. Add the egg and salt. Gradually add in the flour, mixing and kneading as you go.
- I add flour very cautiously, as it is easy to add too much. Too much flour results in dry, crumbly buns.
- Once the dough gets to the point where it is forming a ball, but is still pretty sticky, I let it rest for 2-3 minutes. The whole wheat flour tends to soak up more liquid as it sits, so giving it a few minutes allows the flour to soak up liquid and prevents you from adding too much. After this resting period is complete, I go back in and add more flour if needed.
- I like my whole wheat dough to be slightly stickier than my white flour doughs–not so much that it is goopy and sticking to my fingers, but just slightly “tacky.” I’ve found that if I keep adding flour until it’s perfectly smooth (like white flour dough), the end product is often too dry.
- Knead 6-7 minutes, adding flour as needed. Cover the dough ball and allow it to rise in a warm place for one hour.
- Punch down the risen dough and divide it into 8 portions (12 if you like smaller buns). Roll each portion into a ball, then flatten it. (I flatten mine right on my baking stone, which is what I will bake the buns on.) You could also use a baking mat or a piece of parchment paper.
- Cover the dough circles and allow them to rise 30 minutes in a warm place.
- Bake at 375 degrees in a preheated oven for 12-18 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure you aren’t overcooking them–golden brown is good, hockey pucks are not.
- A minute or two before they come out of the oven, you can brush them with melted butter and sprinkle on some sesame seeds or rolled oats. This isn’t necessary, but definitely makes for a pretty end product.
- NOTE: I usually use organic hard white wheat flour for this recipe–it’s a bit more mild than hard red wheat. However, feel free to play around with a variety of flours–you could even use white flour or a mixture of whole wheat and white.
- NOTE: You can use water in place of the milk, but usually use milk since it creates a softer bun.
Molasses-and-Spice Pumpkin Pie
My notes: This is so easy to make and delicious. I have made it several times with ¾ cup of sugar and it is still sweet enough. For the pie crust, I always use America’s Test Kitchen’s vodka pie crust. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12852-foolproof-pie-dough. And, please, please make your own whipped cream. Put a cup of heavy whipping cream, a dash of vanilla, and two tablespoons of sugar (powdered works best) in a stand mixer for a few minutes and it’s as easy as pie.
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses
- 1 9-inch unbaked homemade or purchased pie crust
- Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add pumpkin, eggs, cream, milk, and molasses; whisk filling to blend.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour filling into crust. Bake pie until set in center and slightly puffed around edges, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Cool pie on rack.
Joli Heavin is a professional fundraiser and grant writer who works for Children's Bureau. In her spare time, Joli enjoys running, reading, and cooking. She is a lover of all things art and was once a classically trained singer and actress, but now primarily enjoys her roles as Clare's mom and Matt's wife.