Cooking for the holidays can seem like a big undertaking. From centerpiece meats to staple side dishes to delicious desserts, it can feel as though you need an industrial-style kitchen to prepare a true holiday meal. I’m here to tell you that that’s simply not the case. With the right recipes and proper timing, you can become a gourmet chef and prepare all of the festive holiday dishes you crave in your traditional one- oven kitchen. I hope my go-to tips and recipes are helpful as you venture into the season of holiday entertaining.
Roast Beef Tenderloin with Easy Creamy Horseradish Sauce
Beef tenderloin is one of the most elegant and celebratory dinners. It’s also one of the easiest. The oven really does most of the work for you, turning the tender meat juicy and brown on the outside and rosy pink on the inside. The spicy horseradish sauce can be made a day in advance and compliments the succulent roast beef to perfection.
It’s that easy: The trick to making a perfect tenderloin roast lies in having a $10 instant read thermometer. Just check after roasting for about 25 minutes to see where the temp is and then check again every few minutes until it gets there. This way I’ve become more in tune with the rate that things cook so I’m actually less reliant on thermometers which is, I think, a better way to operate.
Start to finish: 8 hours
Hands on time: 30 minutes
Serves 6 to 8
- One 3- to 4-pound trimmed beef tenderloin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, strained of liquid, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper
- Thyme and rosemary sprigs for garnish
- On the morning of the day you plan to serve it, sprinkle the entire surface of the beef tenderloin with coarse kosher salt. Place beef on a parchment lined sheet pan and refrigerate uncovered at least 6 hours.
- Remove the roast from the fridge two hours before you plan to serve it. One hour before serving position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Rub beef all over with the oil and sprinkle with pepper.
- Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of meat registers 125°F for medium-rare about 30 minutes, depending on the thickness (see, it’s that easy). Remove the roast from oven and rest at least 15 minutes on a cutting board lightly tented with foil. This allows the temperature to rise slightly and also for the juices to settle evenly throughout the roast.
- While the roast cooks, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a serving bowl and refrigerate.
- Slice the roast into 1-inch-thick slices and arrange on a heated platter. Garnish with the herbs and serve with the horseradish sauce.
In the glass: This is a meal worthy of a splurge on a celebratory bottle of wine, but if you’d like to buy a few bottles and are looking for something less expensive, look for Chateau STE. Michel Cabernet Sauvignon or a red blend of Cabernet, Malbec, Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot from Clos de Las Siete. All are delicious.
Yukon Gold Gratin with Turnip and Parsnip
If you’ve never combined turnip and parsnip with potatoes, you’re in for a treat. The sweet parsnip and sharp turnip elevate this potato dish to a whole new level. While tasty, it also cuts the richness from the cheese and cream in the dish just enough to ease any guilt you may have for eating something so delicious.
It’s that easy: I started adding parsnip and turnip to mashed potatoes about 20 years ago and loved how it made them even more savory, so it made sense to start adding them to potato casseroles as well. Other potato-friendly add-ins are celery root and rutabagas. Just be sure to cut all the vegetables to the same thickness so that everything cooks at the same rate.
Start to finish: 1 hour 10 minutes
Hands on time: 20 minutes
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 cups heavy cream, plus more if necessary
- 1/2 cup milk, plus more if necessary
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2-lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced
- 1/2-lb parsnips, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 4-oz turnip, peeled, halved and very thinly sliced
- 8-oz Gruyére cheese, grated
- Preheat an oven to 400°F
- Butter a 2-quart casserole dish and set it aside.
- In a large saucepan, combine the thyme, mustard, cream, milk, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer.
- Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl and arrange evenly in the casserole dish. Carefully pour the hot cream mixture over the vegetables and top with the cheese. The potatoes should be immersed in the liquid. If they are not, pour in a touch more cream or milk. Cover with non-stick foil and transfer the dish to the center rack in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until the potatoes are super bubbly and almost tender.
- Remove the foil and continue to bake another 20 minutes or until tender (poke it with the tip of a sharp knife to test) and the top is browned. It will look soupy, but the potatoes will absorb the liquid as it sits. Rest at least 15 minutes, covered with the foil before serving.
- The casserole can be held, covered for up to 30 minutes or it can be assembled a day ahead and baked as directed. If baking cold from the refrigerator it will take 10 minutes longer to cook.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon
Not only is this asparagus dish delicious, but beautiful as well. Roasting helps concentrate the flavor of this year-round veggie favorite and the citrusy edge from zest and lemon oil adds brightness. Say good-bye to limp, boiled asparagus and say hello to crisp-tender stalks of green and purple.
It’s that easy: Lemon oil is pretty much what it sounds like. But, because it is lemon flavor trapped in a fat, the lemony zing is much more pronounced than even lemon zest. You can use it on all vegetables, but a 1/2 teaspoon or so is also a nice addition to blueberry muffins or lemon cream pie. Lemon oil is definitely a fun little flavoring to have in your pantry, so buy a little bottle and start experimenting today. You’ll use it more than you think.
Hands on time: 5 minutes
Start to finish: 20 minutes
- 2 bunches asparagus, tough stalks trimmed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Lemon oil for drizzling
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Spread the asparagus on a parchment lined sheet pan and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roll them to coat evenly. Roast the asparagus for 15 minutes or until tender.
- Transfer the asparagus to a platter, sprinkle with zest and drizzle with the lemon oil
Make-ahead: This dish really shines when cooked just before serving so don’t plan to cook it ahead.
Apple Jalousie with Marsala Mascarpone Cream
You will be amazed at the simplicity and taste of this fresh fruit tart. Baking the apples concentrates their flavor and the easy as pie filling comes straight from a jar of apricot preserves. No worries about making pastry as frozen puff pastry comes to the rescue and forms the base for this impressive, yet oh, so easy dessert. Don’t resist the urge to cut and serve this magnificent tart at the table. It’s just so pretty when dolloped with the sinful mascarpone cream.
It’s that easy: I really cannot bake without parchment paper. Not only does it keep the clean up to a minimum, but it keeps food from sticking to the pan, keeping it intact for serving.
Hands on time: 35 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour
- 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar plus 2 tablespoons
- 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed but well chilled
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons marsala wine
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- Confectioner’s sugar for garnish
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the apple slices on parchment lined sheet pans in one layer. Sprinkle the 1/4 cup sugar over them along with a few sprinkles of salt. Bake the apples in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or until tender and slightly dried out. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Transfer one of the pastries to a parchment lined sheet pan, you can use the same one as the apples. Spread the preserves over the pastry leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Arrange the baked apples on top of the preserves. Refrigerate while rolling out the top.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the other pastry slightly to make it about 1-inch larger on all sides. Fold one long side over in half and with a sharp knife make 2-inch cuts on the folded side about 1-inch apart. Open the pastry and transfer to the top of the tart. Fold the top edges under the bottom edges and press with the tines of a fork to seal.
- Brush the top of the pastry with the milk and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over the top. Bake in the lower third of the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the tart is browned on the top and the bottom is crispy. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- While the tart bakes, or earlier in the day, combine the mascarpone, brown sugar, marsala and vanilla. Keep refrigerated.
- Serve the warm tart with a dollop of the mascarpone cream. Add a few tablespoons of confectioner’s sugar to a small sieve and sprinkle the sugar over the tart as garnish if desired.
Make-ahead: The tart can be assembled and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours. It can be baked and kept at room temperature for up to 8 hours. The mascarpone cream can be made up to 1 day ahead, kept covered and refrigerated.