Holiday meals can be as simple or as complex as we want to make them.
A roasted turkey and mashed potatoes with a store-bought pecan pie can bring as much merriment as a standing rib roast with gougères and a pull-apart bread that looks like a wreath.
Even a simple meal of tamales with rice and beans, when shared with the holiday spirit of generosity and kindness in mind, can offer what so many of us are looking for this time of year: warmth, comfort and belonging.
No matter whom you are sharing meals with over the next week or which holidays you celebrate or when dinner finally hits the table, take a few moments to do what Fred Rogers would do: Think about the people who encouraged you, who listened to you, who showed you the way or who made you feel special.
The holidays are a cultural affair, but they are intensely personal, too. In this week’s food section, we are sharing recipe ideas for your holiday feast, and in next week’s section, we’ll share some of the holiday traditions and rituals that help give meaning to your own celebrations.8 cookie recipes to fill your oven with holiday cheer
Potato and Herb Bread Wreath
It’s important the ramekin is at least 3 inches tall, as the dough will continue to rise as it bakes. A sprig or two of fresh bay leaves or rosemary, pushed into the baked bread, makes a lovely addition to the wreath. Place it in the center of the table for easy sharing and it will double as a festive centerpiece.
— Donna Hay
3 1/2 pounds russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
1 1/2 cup milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons dry yeast
5 1/2 cups (1 1/2 pounds) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons rosemary leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons thyme leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place the potatoes on a rimmed baking sheet. Prick the potatoes all over with a metal skewer and roast for 1 hour or until soft. Allow to cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the flesh into a medium bowl, discarding the skins, and set aside.
While the potatoes are cooling, place half the milk in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to just below a boil. Remove from the heat, add the butter and sugar and stir until the butter is melted. Add the yeast and the remaining milk and stir to combine. Set aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until the surface is foamy.
Place the flour, sea salt, eggs and the yeast mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and beat for 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
Sprinkle the dough with the potato and gently knead to combine. Divide the dough into about 34 1-tablespoon portions and roll into balls. (If you use a pastry cutter to divide the ball in half, and then keep dividing the dough in half, the pieces will all be roughly the same size.)
Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, allowing about an inch of the paper to sit above the edge. Lightly grease a 3-inch ovenproof ramekin and position it in the center of the tin.
Place the parsley, rosemary, thyme and oil in a small bowl and mix to combine. Roll the dough balls in the herb mixture and place in the tin around the ramekin, forming a wreath shape. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes or until risen.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the bread for 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. While still warm, remove the ramekin and allow the bread to cool in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out and serving. Serves 8 to 10.
— From “Christmas Feasts and Treats” by Donna Hay (Fourth Estate, $29.99)
Root Vegetable Tart With Candied Nuts
This beautiful root vegetable tart is the perfect combination of sweet and savory and a showstopper for your Christmas brunch or dinner! I love the colors and variety of textures: flaky puff pastry, melted cashew mozzarella, chunky root vegetables and crunchy candied nuts.
— Kirsten Kaminski
For the thyme cashew mozzarella:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more as needed
For the glaze:
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
For the candied nuts:
1 tablespoon vegan butter
1 tablespoon coconut sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
For the root vegetable tart:
1 small sweet potato, peeled
1 medium carrot, peeled
1 medium parsnip, peeled
2 small beets, peeled
1 sheet frozen vegan puff pastry
To begin preparing the thyme cashew mozzarella, place the cashews in a small bowl and cover them with water. Soak the cashews for 6 to 8 hours (or overnight), then drain them and place them in a high-speed blender.
To make the root vegetable tart, bring 2 medium pots of water to a boil over high heat. Place the sweet potato, carrot and parsnip in one pot and the beets in the other. (If you don’t mind the veggies becoming pink from the beet juice, you can cook all the vegetables together.) Reduce the heat under both pots to medium. Cook the sweet potato, carrot and parsnip for 4 to 5 minutes, then drain them and rinse them with cold water immediately to prevent them from cooking further. Cook the beets for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are tender. Rinse the beets separately from the other vegetables to prevent them from turning pink.
While the vegetables are cooking, take the puff pastry out of the freezer and let it thaw. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
To continue preparing the thyme cashew mozzarella, add the water, nutritional yeast, tapioca flour, garlic, salt and black pepper to the blender and blend for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture is smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the thyme. Stir continuously for 4 to 5 minutes to avoid clumping, until the mozzarella reaches a thick and stretchy consistency. Take the saucepan off the heat and set it aside.
To make the glaze, combine the syrup, sugar, butter and vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat and boil the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar has melted.
Place the puff pastry in the prepared tart pan, trimming the edges and pressing down on the bottom and sides. Spoon the mozzarella into the pastry and spread it out evenly. Cut the root vegetables into thin slices and layer them on top of the mozzarella. Carefully brush the top of the veggies with the glaze and place the tart in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
In the meantime, prepare the candied nuts. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sugar together. Add the walnuts and stir until they are evenly coated. Set the nuts aside and let them cool. Sprinkle the nuts on top of the baked tart and add extra thyme leaves before serving. Serves 8.
— From “Vegan Holiday Cooking: 60 Meatless, Dairy-Free Recipes Full of Festive Flavors” by Kirsten Kaminski (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)Getting an air fryer for Christmas? Here's what to make first
Gougères are little cheese puffs made from choux paste. They are usually served as pre-dinner snacks with wine or drinks. But their crispy exteriors and tender cheesy centers are so delicious, I would eat them any time of the day. Aged cheeses such as comté also work well in this recipe. Baked gougères can be frozen in an airtight container for up to a week and reheated in a 300-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes prior to serving.
— Betty Hung
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, well whisked
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Egg wash (1 egg yolk whisked with 1 tablespoon of water and a pinch salt )
Smoked paprika (optional)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium pot, bring the water, milk, sugar, salt and butter to a simmer over medium heat, about 3 minutes. Pour in the flour all at once, and vigorously stir with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
Keep it on medium heat and mix it to dry out the dough, about 4 minutes. The texture should look like dry mashed potatoes.
Take the pot off the heat and cool it for 5 minutes. This step is important because you are adding eggs next, and you don’t want them to scramble. Add the eggs in three additions, stirring thoroughly after each addition. The choux paste should be shiny after incorporating the eggs. Stir in the cheese and black pepper.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip with the paste. Pipe 1-inch rounds on the parchment paper, and use the back of a spoon to gently smooth out the top of the mound, which will help the gougères take one more of a circle shape once baked. Gently brush the tops with the egg wash and sprinkle with more cheese and the smoked paprika, if using.
Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 20 to 22 more minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until they are golden brown. Gougères are best served warm and on the day they are baked.
— From “French Pastry 101: Learn the Art of Classic Baking With 60 Beginner-Friendly Recipes” by Betty Hung (Page Street Publishing, $21.99)
Roast Rib-Eye With Yorkshire Pudding
Leftover roast beef can be thinly sliced and used in sandwiches. Alternatively, use it in a salad: try tossing the meat with leftover roast vegetables, baby spinach and a red wine vinaigrette, or opt for Asian flavors and toss with rice noodles, large handfuls of aromatic herbs such as Thai basil, mint and coriander (cilantro) leaves, along with halved cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts and a lime-chile-fish sauce dressing.
— Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers
1 three-rib beef rib-eye rack, about (3 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon English mustard
1 teaspoon each of chopped rosemary and thyme
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large brown onion, thickly sliced
1 (3 1/2-pound) acorn squash, skin on, seeds discarded, cut into 1 1/2 inch thick wedges
For the Yorkshire puddings:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 thyme sprig, leaves picked
2 teaspoons salt
Stir the mustard, rosemary, thyme, garlic and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a bowl to combine, season with salt and pepper and rub all over the beef. Set aside at room temperature for 2 hours. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate to marinate overnight, bringing it to room temperature before cooking.
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spread the onion in the center of a small roasting tin to form a trivet and stand the beef on top. Roast on the middle rack of the oven for 20 minutes to brown the beef well.
Reduce the oven to 315 degrees and leave the door ajar slightly to allow the oven to cool. Continue to roast the beef for 40 to 45 minutes until cooked to medium-rare; internal temperature will read 116 degrees and the beef will continue to cook as it rests. Remove the beef from the oven, cover it loosely with foil and set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the squash wedges in a large roasting tin, drizzle with the remaining olive oil, season with salt and pepper and cook in the bottom rack of the oven.
While the beef is roasting, make the Yorkshire pudding batter. Whisk all of the ingredients with 1/2 cup of cold water in a bowl until smooth, then set aside to rest for 30 minutes.
While the beef is resting, increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees.
Tip 2 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting pan and divide it among eight 1/2 cup-capacity holes in a muffin tin; alternatively, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or lard to each muffin hole. Put the tin in the oven to heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the fat is hot. Carefully remove from the oven and quickly divide the batter between holes, filling to half-full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until puffed and golden. At the same time, keep an eye on the squash wedges, removing them from the oven if necessary to prevent burning.
To serve, slice the beef from the bone, then slice across the grain. Serve with the roasted squash wedges and the Yorkshire puddings, drizzled with the pan and resting juices from the beef. Serves 8 with leftovers.
— From “The Ultimate Companion to Meat: On the Farm, At the Butcher, In the Kitchen” (Countryman Press, $45) by Anthony Puharich and Libby TraversWhere did the Christmas pickle ornament tradition come from?
Winter Miso Gratin With Cauliflower, Mushrooms and Tofu
This vegetarian miso gratin uses a selection of winter vegetables and tofu, creating a wholesome, nutritious winter dish that will warm your body and recharge you. It’s a simple, tasty way to look after your health. If you are looking for a gluten-free recipe, you can cook this gratin without the breadcrumbs. Just sprinkle cheese and parsley on top and bake! It’s also nice with English spinach if you want to add an extra dose of greens.
— Meg and Zenta Tanaka
Butter, for greasing
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 king oyster mushroom, thinly sliced
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (omit for gluten-free)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
5 1/2 ounces (about 1/2 block) firm tofu, cubed
3/4 cup whipping cream
To make the sweet miso sauce:
1/3 cup white miso
1/3 cup mirin
1/4 cup sugar
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the surface of a casserole dish or cast-iron pan.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the cauliflower and boil for a few minutes, until lightly cooked.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat and sauté the mushroom for 2 to 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, cheese and parsley. Arrange the cauliflower, mushroom and tofu in the casserole dish. Drizzle over the cream.
In a small bowl, combine the miso sauce ingredients and mix well. (You’ll need 3 tablespoons for this recipe, but save the rest for another use.)
Drizzle 3 tablespoons sweet miso sauce over the cauliflower mixture. Spread the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the vegetables and bake the gratin for 20 minutes, until nice and brown. Serves 4 to 6.
— From “Cibi: Simple Japanese-Inspired Meals to Share With Family and Friends” by Meg and Zenta Tanaka (Hardie Grant Books, $35)
This simple casserole can be an easy way to sneak some vegetables into your holiday dinner. Use coconut oil and dairy-free cheese if you’d like to make it vegan.
— Josh Axe
1 pound broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
4 tablespoons grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the broccoli, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Drain the broccoli and put it in a greased medium casserole dish. Add the butter and mix it together well. Top with the salt and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown.
— From “Keto Diet: Your 30-Day Plan to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, Boost Brain Health, and Reverse Disease” by Josh Axe (Little, Brown Spark, $28)
Mascarpone Gingerbread Bars
A memory from when my son was an infant: I sat outside his bedroom, clutching a plastic kitchen timer, staring at the seconds ticking away. Every wail made me wince. The timer was the only thing keeping my anxiety in check. Three minutes felt like 45. I had always planned to sleep-train my baby. I just didn’t know how much it would hurt my heart. I looked to the fridge for a way to keep my mind busy. I found mascarpone cheese — sweet and sultry, delightfully dense like cream cheese, with the fresh dairy shock of real cream. I imagined a sticky ginger cake to go with it, something soft and comforting, fragrant but not too sharp. I wanted the mascarpone to settle into its cake bedding, relaxed and happy, the two becoming one. And, of course, I needed something that could be made by hand. A mixer would only startle my little dreamer. While the cake baked, he slept, and the ginger in the air soothed my frayed nerves.
— Samantha Seneviratne
For the gingerbread batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup molasses
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the mascarpone batter:
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Prepare the gingerbread batter: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan and line it with parchment, with a 2-inch overhang on 2 opposite sides.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and cloves. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and molasses, then whisk in the eggs. Add the flour mixture and fold to combine.
Prepare the mascarpone batter: In a small bowl, whisk the egg lightly. Add the mascarpone, granulated sugar and vanilla.
Add the gingerbread batter and the mascarpone batter in alternating scoops to the prepared pan, then use a butter knife to swirl the two mixtures together. Bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
Using the parchment overhang as handles, transfer the cake to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares. Makes 16 bars.
— From “The Joys of Baking: Recipes and Stories for a Sweet Life” by Samantha Seneviratne (Running Press, $30)
Pineapple Tarte Tatin
“Pineapple, most elegant of fruits,’” sighed Sir Matthew Decker toward the end of the 17th century. His lead gardener was one of the first people in Britain to consistently cultivate the fruit. And by the mid-18th century, no member of the Georgian upper classes could do without their own pinery. The pineapples were more status symbol than tropical delight, and their gift was as showy as it was generous. Purists may balk, but the pineapple is an admirable replacement for the more traditional apple. It has a chewy, just-tart sweetness that balances the rich, caramel-soaked puff pastry, all scented with a sigh of vanilla and the exotic charms of star anise.
— Tom Parker Bowles
1 large ripe pineapple
1 sheet of store-bought puff pastry, thawed
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 cup caster sugar
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod, slit in half lengthwise
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup dark rum
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
Ice cream or crème fraîche, for serving
Carve the pineapple, slicing off the skin, and then and cutting it lengthwise into four wedges. Slice off the core and discard. Cut the pineapple into slices about 1-inch thick, taking care to keep them all the same size and thickness.
Roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured work surface until it’s wide enough to cut a 10-inch circle out of the pastry (use a plate or a cake pan as a guide) and transfer it to a baking sheet. Prick it lightly all over with a fork and chill in the fridge while you make the caramel.
Spread the sugar in a large, heavy-based frying pan and leave over a fairly low heat until dissolved; don’t stir, but do tilt the pan occasionally so it heats evenly. When it has dissolved, raise the heat slightly and cook for a few minutes longer until it forms a deep brown caramel; watch it constantly, and don’t leave it unattended, as it can blacken within seconds. Once it reaches the correct color, turn off the heat immediately and add the pineapple pieces, the spices and the rum. Take care not to let the caramel splash, as it can cause serious burns. Simmer gently for 30 seconds, then add the cubed butter. Continue to simmer on a low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, until the pineapple pieces are lightly colored.
Cut out two circles of baking parchment and use them to line the bottom of an 8-inch tarte tatin pan, with sloped edges, or round ovenproof dish. Arrange the pineapple in a single layer in the dish, spooning over about half the caramel and reserving the rest for serving.
Cover the pineapple with the pastry, tucking it down around the edge of the dish. Place in an oven heated to 400 degrees and bake for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked through. Leave to stand for 10 minutes or so, then run a knife around the edge of the dish. Place a plate with a deep rim over the top and invert both plate and tin together. Carefully lift off the tin and serve the tarte tatin immediately, with the reserved caramel and some ice cream or sweetened crème fraîche. Serves 6.
— From “Fortnum & Mason: Christmas and Other Winter Feasts” by Tom Parker Bowles (Fourth Estate, $35)