Chefs Share Six Festive Recipes For A Very Merry Holiday

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Pork with delicata butternut squash
Photo by James Stefiuk

Roasted Berkshire Pork with Delicata and Butternut Squash and Smoked Bacon Jam

“When I think about this dish, I remember vividly my dad’s kitchen in his place in Montgomery Village, Maryland, and that I really wanted it to be great. I wanted validation for my choice to cook over other pursuits.”  Brendan Cox, Oakleaf

2 cups salt
1 gallon water
Bay leaf
1 garlic clove
Cinnamon stick
4 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 four-bone pork rack
Salt and black pepper to taste

4 cups grapeseed oil
1 butternut squash, peeled (Cut top half of the squash into rounds; reserve the “bell” of the squash for puree.)
1 bunch thyme, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
2 delicata squash, cut into rings and deseeded
Salt and pepper to taste

Chopped butternut squash from the bell
1 onion, chopped 
2 cups water or vegetable stock
½ lb. butter

Bacon Jam

1 lb. slab bacon
3 cups red wine vinegar
2 shallots, diced
2 cups sugar

Combine ingredients for brine, bring to a boil and then cool down before adding pork rack. Let rest overnight in the refrigerator, and remove pork from brine 1 hour before roasting, discarding brine.

In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Poach butternut rounds in oil with shallots and thyme. Poach until tender, remove butternut and reserve. Save the fat as you’ll use it again.

To make the puree, combine the chopped butternut squash from the bell, butter, onion and stock in a sauce pot and cook over medium heat until tender. Blend the cooled down mixture with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and blend. Pass through a fine mesh sieve. Reserve.

Toss delicata squash with salt and pepper and some of the poaching oil. Roast at 350 F until tender but not mushy. Reserve.

In a pot, render the bacon and drain the fat into a container for another use. Deglaze pot with vinegar, being careful to avoid your face. Add sugar, shallots and bacon, and cook until glazey.

Roast pork in a 350 F oven until it reads 140 F on a meat thermometer. Remove from oven. Let rest uncovered 10 to 15 minutes and slice.

deviled eggs
Photo by James Stefiuk

Deviled Eggs

“During any holiday with my family, there is always a constant at each meal: a platter of deviled eggs for everyone to start on while we hang out. Each family member puts their own twist on this timeless Southern classic. Make sure they are seasoned well and there is enough acid from the lemon juice to wake the filling up. The smoked paprika adds a nice flavor element, and the fresh chives finish them off.” – Jeremy Blankenship, Crossroads Chapel Hill at The Carolina Inn

Makes 12 

6 fresh eggs
1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
3½ Tbsp. Duke’s mayonnaise
1½ Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Salt to taste
Quick splash of Tabasco
Smoked paprika and finely cut chives to garnish

In a small pot, bring water to a simmer and add your eggs. Simmer for 11 minutes and remove the eggs. While still warm, remove the shells – it becomes a lot harder to take them off if the eggs cool. Cut the eggs in half, and remove the cooked yolks from the whites. Place the yolks in a separate bowl. Use the back of a fork to smash the yolks into tiny pieces. Add the mustard, mayonnaise and lemon juice, and mix until creamy. Season with salt and a splash of tabasco. Place the yolk mixture into a pastry bag with a large star tip. Pipe the mixture back into the egg whites, and refrigerate to chill. When ready to serve, dust with the smoked paprika and sprinkle with chives.  

pancakes from the Root Cellar
Photo by James Stefiuk


“When [my wife] Susan and I first met 12 years ago, both of us had lost our fathers some years earlier, so around the holidays, we knew we wanted to do something special with our moms. That idea turned into hosting our mothers every Christmas morning for a pancake breakfast at our house. We usually all stay in our pajamas and gather in the kitchen for a huge feast that includes scratch-made pancakes, bacon, sausage, plenty of coffee and several different maple syrups. We spend the first hour eating till we’re stuffed and then shuffle over to the living room to open gifts around the tree. It’s a simple tradition but one we always look forward to because there’s just something about having your parents around on Christmas morning to make you feel like a kid again.” – Sera Cuni, The Root Cellar Cafe & Catering

2 cups self-rising flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. baking soda
Dash of cinnamon
1¾ cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
¼ cup salted butter, divided and melted

Heat a griddle or large skillet to medium-low heat. In a bowl, mix together dry ingredients. 

In a separate bowl, add buttermilk and vanilla and then beat eggs into the mixture. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the cooled melted butter. Gently stir this mixture of wet ingredients into dry ingredients, mixing only enough to moisten flour – don’t worry about a few lumps. If the batter seems thick, add a little more buttermilk. 

Place 1 or 2 teaspoons of butter (or oil) on griddle or skillet. When the butter stops foaming, ladle batter onto griddle or skillet, making pancakes of whatever size you like. Adjust heat as necessary. First batch will require higher heat, and the first pancake is always for the dog. Flip pancakes after bubbles rise to the surface of the pancake and bottoms are golden brown. 

If you’re making a large number of pancakes, heat the oven to 200 F and pop the pancakes on a sheet pan; cover with a moist towel to keep them warm. Pancakes can also be frozen and reheated in the toaster for a midweek breakfast.

Enjoy with your favorite maple syrup, jam and/or butter.

Hanukkah Brisket and Latkes
Photo by James Stefiuk

Hanukkah Brisket and Latkes

“When my mother, Pearl, made her brisket, everyone was happy. Her latkes were second to none, and like a good Jewish mother, she would stand at the stove and make sure that the family always had fresh, hot latkes. We would light the Hanukkah candles and have this great meal together every year.” – Richard Barrows, Kitchen

One 3 to 4 lb. piece of brisket
2 medium onions, diced 
4 carrots, peeled and diced 
6 ribs of celery, diced 
2 garlic cloves, finely minced 
2 lb. medium mushrooms, quartered  
1 32 oz. jar crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley and thyme to garnish

Preheat oven to 325 F. In a Dutch oven, brown the brisket on all sides. Remove the brisket from the pot. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and mushrooms, and saute in the rendered fat. Add the crushed tomatoes, put the brisket back in the pot and season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and put in preheated oven for 2 to 3 hours until tender. Once tender, remove the brisket and skim any excess fat from the braising liquid. Slice the brisket, cutting across the grain of the meat, and place it back in the braising liquid. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to your liking. Garnish with chopped parsley and thyme.

5 Idaho potatoes, peeled 
1 whole large onion, peeled
2 whole eggs
½ tsp. baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour
Rendered chicken fat or vegetable oil to fry the latkes

Grate the potatoes on a box grater with large holes, then grate the onion and combine in a mixing bowl. Crack the eggs and mix with potatoes and onion. Add the baking powder, salt and pepper to taste, and enough flour to absorb excess liquid.

In a pan (preferably a cast-iron pan), add the fat and bring to medium-high heat. Spoon the latke mixture into the oil, being careful, as it will splatter a bit, and fry until dark golden brown on both sides. Drain excess fat on paper towels. 

pumpkin pie
Photo by James Stefiuk

John Russial’s Pumpkin Pie 

“Holidays just aren’t complete without a slice of my dad’s pumpkin pie. It’s not your usual heavy and dense pie; [it] features a lighter custard with just enough spice to warm you up in those cooler fall and winter months. Paired with some lightly sweetened whipped cream, it is, hands down, my favorite dessert. He would always make it for my birthday and, although he lives on the other side of the country, I often make it for myself when I need a little slice of home.”  – Martina Russial, Glasshalfull

1½ cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. salt
⅔ cup cold vegetable shortening 
4-6 Tbsp. ice water 

Whisk flour and salt together. Cut shortening into flour mixture with pastry blender until shortening and flour make crumbly chunks no bigger than peas. Add in ice water by the tablespoon until dough just holds together when pressed into a ball. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out with a little flour and place in a glass pie dish. 

1 cup pumpkin puree*
1 cup light brown sugar 
4 large eggs 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 tsp. salt 
2 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
Pinch of cloves, allspice and nutmeg 
1 cup milk, scalded

In a medium bowl, whisk the pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and spices together. Slowly whisk in scalded milk. Strain mixture into your prepared pie crust and bake at 350 F for 45 minutes, or until jiggly but set in the center. Keep an eye on the pie, and if your crust starts to darken, cover with aluminum foil to prevent burning. 

Remove from the oven and let cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve. Top with some homemade whipped cream, if desired. 

*You can also use butternut squash, cooked down and pureed.

Mascarpone Thumbprint Cookies
Photo by James Stefiuk

Mascarpone Thumbprint Cookies

“I have always loved baking with friends and family during the holiday season. I have fond memories as a child of having cookie exchanges with neighbors and friends and trying new cookie recipes to test and taste with my family. This cookie is a crowd-pleaser, and it is a typical holiday cookie that you will find in Italy, at Coronato, and at my house alike. It is a traditional sugar cookie dough that substitutes much of the butter for mascarpone cheese, which provides a soft and chewy texture to the sugar cookie. After the cookie is baked but still warm, we press a dimple in the middle of the round cookie and fill it with fruit preserves.” – Teddy Diggs, Coronato Pizza

Yields 30 small cookies 

2¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup softened mascarpone cheese
1½ cups sugar
1 large egg
1¼ tsp. vanilla 
About 1 cup of your favorite jam

Mix together the first three ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Using the paddle attachment on a standing mixer, cream together the butter, mascarpone cheese and sugar together for about 4 minutes, or until soft and smooth. On low speed, add the egg and mix until it is completely incorporated. Stir in the vanilla.

Slowly add your dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Let the dough rest 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 

Pinch the cold dough and roll into balls. Place onto a lined baking sheet. Use your thumb to press firmly in the center of the dough ball. Bake at 325 F for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add your preferred jam and bring to a boil over low heat. Turn off the heat and allow it to sit warm until ready to use.

While the cookies cool, press once more in the center of the cookie with your thumb. Spoon in the jam mixture and allow to cool completely.

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Chapel Hill Magazine

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