ck - Our Best Holiday Menu
"My ultimate starter salad would celebrate the produce of the season and make a knockout-gorgeous addition to the table, so I developed this one using fresh orange juice, multicolored beets, and--for good measure--some creamy, tangy goat cheese." --Timothy Q. Cebula, Associate Food Editor
1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Leave root and 1-inch stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place beets on a foil-lined jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Lightly coat beets with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until tender. Cool beets slightly. Trim off beet roots and stems; rub off skins. Cut beets into 1/2-inch-thick wedges.
3. Bring juice and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan; cook 10 minutes or until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a medium bowl; cool slightly. Add shallots, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk.
4. Combine lettuce, watercress, and radicchio. Sprinkle lettuce mixture with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; toss gently to combine. Arrange about 1 cup lettuce mixture on each of 8 salad plates. Divide beets evenly among salads. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon dressing over each salad; sprinkle each salad with 1 tablespoon cheese.
Wine note: White wine is usually a good bet with salad, but the earthy and robust flavors in Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction Dressing allow this hearty course to handle a lighter red wine, such as Irony Monterey Pinot Noir 2006 ($16). The wine's berry fruit goes well with goat cheese, and its earthy mushroom flavors are enhanced by roasted beets, while tart acidity on the finish matches the citrus. --Jeffery Lindenmuth
"I wanted to create a second course that is indulgent, rich, and pretty, too. Funny: The first time we tried this crab bisque and pureed the soup in a food processor, we almost decided to start over because the texture wasn't smooth enough. But then we put it in the blender, and it came out perfectly creamy." --Mary Drennen Ankar, Test Kitchen Professional
1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots and celery to pan; cook 10 minutes or until softened, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute. Stir in vermouth; cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates. Add salt, peppers, and 8 ounces crabmeat.
2. Combine milk and clam juice in a large bowl. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Whisk flour into milk mixture; add to pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly.
3. Place half of milk mixture in blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining milk mixture. Return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in cream; cook over medium heat 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
4. Combine the remaining 8 ounces crabmeat, chives, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Top soup with the crabmeat mixture.
Wine note: If there's ever a time to pull out a good chardonnay, it's when crab is on the table. The wine's lush apple fruit loves the sweet shellfish, and if you pick a wine with an edge of creamy citrus, it works like a twist of lemon. Napa Valley's 2007 Antica Chardonnay ($35), from Italy's Antinori family, is your bottle for the Crab Bisque, with crisp citrus and bracing herbs balancing its sweet fruit. --Sara Schneider
"Brined pork is about as good as it gets. Throw some bourbon on it, though, and it somehow gets better." --Mike Wilson, former Test Kitchen Professional
1. Combine 1 gallon water and salt in a large stockpot, stirring until salt dissolves. Add pork to brine; refrigerate for 24 hours.
2. Remove pork from brine; discard brine. Pat pork dry with paper towels.
3. Preheat oven to 375°.
4. Combine sugar, vinegar, bourbon, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; cook 9 minutes or until reduced to 2/3 cup. Strain mixture through a sieve over a bowl; discard solids. Set aside.
5. Combine olive oil, ground pepper, and garlic in a small bowl; rub evenly over pork. Top with thyme sprigs. Place pork in a large roasting pan. Bake at 375° for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Brush brown sugar mixture evenly over pork; bake an additional 20 minutes or until thermometer inserted into the thickest portion of pork registers 140° (slightly pink). Place pork on a platter. Cover loosely with foil; let stand 15 minutes before slicing.
Wine note: Brined Pork Loin with Brown Sugar–Bourbon Glaze begs for a wine that's not actually sweet, but seems to be because it's so fruity. Juicy red Zinfandel is that kind of wine. Go for Dutton Goldfield's intense 2007 Zin from the Morelli Lane Vineyard in California's chilly Russian River Valley ($40). Planted by Italian settlers more than 100 years ago, these vines give up bright berry and cherry flavors, plus a spiciness that makes the most of the black peppercorns in the glaze (and, in fact, the rest of this tangy, spicy menu). --Sara Schneider
"The holidays are the only time I feel it's worth it to fool around with these tiny onions. They become really tender and brown, which pairs well with the slight crunch from the apples. And the browned onions and pink fruit look just lovely together and brighten up the table." --Tiffany Vickers Davis, Assistant Test Kitchen Director
1. Melt butter in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add apples to pan; cook 6 minutes or until edges are very brown, stirring frequently. Remove apples from pan; set aside. Reduce heat to medium. Add bacon to pan; cook 3 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings; set bacon aside. Add onions to drippings in pan; cover and cook 8 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken broth, vinegar, and thyme leaves; cook 7 minutes. Uncover; return apples to pan. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Stir in bacon, salt, and pepper. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.
"I wanted to contribute some big flavors to the menu. Horseradish is such a pungent ingredient that a little goes a long way, and the bay leaf infuses the potatoes with no added sodium." --Kellie Gerber Kelley, Senior Food Stylist
1. To prepare horseradish butter, heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots to pan; cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; cool.
2. Combine shallots, butter, parsley, and horseradish in a small bowl; blend well. Transfer butter mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape butter mixture into a 3-inch-long log, using plastic wrap to help mold. Wrap log tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm.
3. To prepare potatoes, place potatoes and bay leaf in a large saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender; drain. Discard bay leaf. Press potatoes through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl. Combine milk and broth in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until warm. Add milk mixture, sour cream, salt, and pepper to potatoes, stirring until well blended. Serve with horseradish butter.
"Everybody expects to see green beans at the holiday table, but I wanted to add some unexpected flourishes." –Julianna Grimes, Associate Food Editor
1. Steam haricots verts 5 minutes or until crisp-tender; remove from heat.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots to pan; sauté 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms; sauté 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Stir in sherry; bring to a boil. Cook until liquid almost evaporates (about 2 minutes). Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter and haricots verts; cook 30 seconds or until thoroughly heated, tossing to coat. Remove from heat. Add parsley, thyme, salt, and pepper; toss to combine.
"Since most people make an effort to save room for dessert, I came up with something special. This tart combines elements of every good dessert--flaky crust, crunchy caramelized sugar, creamy custard, and soft roasted fruit. You can make all the components ahead of time, but brûlée the pears just before serving." --SaBrina Bone, Test Kitchen Professional
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. To prepare pastry, place first 3 ingredients in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add butter; pulse 10 times or until mixture resembles coarse meal. With processor on, slowly add 2 tablespoons ice water through food chute, processing just until dough starts to come together. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap; press into a disk. Cover and chill 10 minutes in the freezer. Place dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap; roll dough into a 10-inch circle. Fit dough into a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray; pierce dough with a fork. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack.
3. To prepare pastry cream, combine brown sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a medium, heavy saucepan. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds and bean to milk mixture. Cook over medium-high heat until thick and bubbly (about 5 minutes), stirring constantly. Place egg in a large bowl. Gradually stir hot milk mixture into egg. Return milk mixture to pan; cook 2 minutes or until mixture reaches 185° and coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly. Discard vanilla bean. Spread pastry cream onto a baking sheet; cover entire surface with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 20 minutes or until chilled. Spread pastry cream evenly into tart shell; cover and chill at least 2 hours or until set.
4. To prepare topping, combine juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pears; toss well to coat. Place pears, cut side down, in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 45 minutes or until tender. Cool completely; thinly slice. Place on paper towels; pat dry with additional paper towels. Arrange the pear slices spoke-like over pastry cream. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes.
5. Sprinkle 1/3 cup granulated sugar evenly over pears, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Holding a kitchen blowtorch about 2 inches from the top of custard, heat the sugar, moving the torch back and forth, until the sugar is melted and caramelized (about 3 minutes). Serve immediately.
"I felt compelled to make a chocolate dessert option, too. It's a twist on a family favorite, like having German chocolate cake, but in a more decadent, satisfying, and rich form. Reserve some whole pecan halves for a pretty garnish." –SaBrina Bone, Test Kitchen Professional
1. Combine first 3 ingredients in a heavy saucepan; let stand 2 minutes. Cook over medium-high heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil). Remove from heat, and add chocolate; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir until chocolate melts.
2. Pour chocolate mixture into a medium bowl; cover and chill 30 minutes or until set. Gently fold in whipped topping. Spoon about 2/3 cup mousse into each of 8 dessert bowls. Cover at least 2 hours or until set. Top each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut and 1 1/2 teaspoons pecans.
Winter Salad with Roasted Beets and Citrus Reduction Dressing
Brined Pork Loin with Brown Sugar-Bourbon Glaze
Cipollini and Apples with Bacon
Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Horseradish Butter
Sherried Green Beans and Mushrooms
Roasted Pear Crème Brûlée Tart
German Chocolate Mousse
The holidays are a time for luxury and elegance, both in the design of the menu and the ingredients that comprise it. This is the food you lavish on your guests that you gladly go all out to prepare. Serve with crusty baker bread. (Serves 8)
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