Bad news first: Unless you’re reading from a better-prepared country, the holidays are going to be different this year. What’s off the table—individually mixed drinks, grabby bread baskets, a lot of people with whom you’d prefer to spend the holidays—is getting as much consideration as what’s on it. As for the table itself, maybe it’s outdoors if you live somewhere where winter doesn’t mean snow, or maybe it’s surrounded by the same five or six people you’ve had every meal with since March. Now the good news: Despite the new normal, a legit holiday feast is not only doable, but improvable. By stripping out the nonsense, leaning into shortcuts instead of fantasy-auditioning for Top Chef, and concentrating on bold, honest flavors that underscore the season, you can host a meal that won’t stress you out or keep you tethered to the kitchen all day. A majestic roast that needs only salt, pepper, and a good butcher. Desserts you whip up in a blender. All we want for Christmas are low-maintenance holiday recipes like these.
So, whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, Christmas Eve or Kwanzaa, Festivus or just the merciful sundown of 2020, let our menu help you get there with as little trouble as possible. Family, friends, and good food and drink can transcend the moment—and damn if we all couldn’t use a little transcendence this holiday season.
Main Course: Pork Royale
Your butcher does the bulk of the work in this old-school, impressive, and unexpected main.
Recipe: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton of Canal House Station in Milford, NJ
All beer pairings: Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery
All wine pairings: Vanessa Price, author of Big Macs & Burgundy
How to Make Crown Roast of Pork With Cornbread-Apple Stuffing
Serves 8-10, with leftovers
For the roast
- 1 crown roast of pork, 10-12 lbs
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- (If he or she is unsure what this roast is, ask for two center-cut rib roasts, bones Frenched, tied together like a crown.)
For the stuffing
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 celery rib including any leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 lb ground pork
- Handful chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 8 sage leaves, chopped
- Leaves from 3 thyme sprigs
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 3 cups fresh cornbread crumbs
- 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
- For the roast, preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the roast into a large roasting pan, generously season the meat all over with salt and pepper and set aside.
- For the stuffing, heat 2 Tbsp of the butter with the oil together in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, and fennel seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the ground pork and cook, breaking the meat up with the back of a spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the herbs and generously season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the cornbread and apples and toss to combine.
- Fill the center of the crown roast with the stuffing and drizzle with the remaining 4 Tbsp melted butter. (Any extra stuffing can be baked separately in an ovenproof pan.) Roast the pork in the oven until the internal temperature reaches 155°F, about 3 hours. Cover the stuffing with a sheet of foil if it begins to get too browned. Remove roast from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before transferring it to a large, warm platter. Pour any of the accumulated juices from the roasting pan over the stuffing to moisten it, if you like, or you can strain the juices into a gravy boat. Carve the roast by slicing between the ribs.
Beer Pairing: Brooklyn Pulp Art Hazy IPA
“We all know that pork is terrific with tropical flavors (pineapple, anyone?), and this hazy-juicy modern IPA delivers all the fruit along with palate-cleansing minerality.”
Wine Pairing: Central Otago Pinot Noir
“The sweet herbaceousness of the pork finds its Precious in this New Zealand red, which has the dirt funk of an Old World wine with the Bing cherry fruit of New World soil.”
Sides: Turkey Without the Whole-Bird Hassle
In this two-in-one side, flavorful, quick-cooking turkey wings satisfy tradition without the time commitment of cooking a whole bird.
Recipe: Kurt Evans of Down North pizzeria in Philadelphia
How to Make Smoked Turkey Wings Over Bacon Brussels Sprouts
For the turkey
- ½ cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ cup black pepper
- ½ cup dark brown sugar
- ⅓ cup smoked paprika
- 2 Tbsp granulated garlic
- 2 Tbsp granulated onion
- 2 Tbsp mustard powder
- 2 Tbsp cayenne pepper
- 4 whole turkey wings (4-6 lbs), brined 12-16 hours and patted dry
For the dressing
- 6 strips thick-cut pork or beef bacon, diced in 1/8-inch cubes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- ¼ cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- Set an electric smoker to 265°F with 1 cup applewood chips. Make the spice rub by whisking together all the turkey ingredients except the wings. Apply the rub to the wings all over, including under the skin. Smoke the wings until internal temperature reaches 165°F, about 2 hours.
- Make the dressing. Place the bacon in a medium saucepan over low heat and stir until some of the fat begins to render from the bacon. Raise the heat to medium and cook the bacon, stirring frequently, until crispy. Transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, keeping all fat drippings in the pan. Return the pan to the burner. Add the garlic, swirl, and immediately add the remaining dressing ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook for 1 minute, or until the dressing coats the back of a spoon. Stir in the bacon and reserve.
- Make the Brussels sprouts. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts cut-side down. Cook undisturbed 5 to 7 minutes, until cut sides are caramelized. Stir and continue to cook until sprouts have taken on color all over and become tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the apples, season with salt, pepper, and lemon. Stir and cook 3 minutes longer. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the dressing through. Transfer the Brussels to a platter, arrange the turkey wings over top, and serve.
Beer Pairing: Fox Farm Brewery “The Cabin” Smoked Helles Lager
“Smoked beers are an ancient tradition across Europe, and here Fox Farm brings a light whiff of smoked malt to a beautiful lager that will work with everything on the winter table.”
Wine Pairing: Beaujolais Rosé
“Beaujolais and Thanksgiving turkey is a tale as old as time, but few have tried the
pink version, which is made from the same Gamay grape. The nutty, savory sprouts receive all the benefits of wine’s fruit-pot profile, with less of the stringent tannins that characterize the red.”
Sides: Not That Kind of Pumpkin
No peeling, no mashing, no chopping—the orange starch of 2020 is roasted butternut with a big hit of ginger.
How to Make Roasted Butternuts With Tomato-Ginger Gravy
- 4 small butternut squash
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
- 4 Tbsp honey
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp peeled and finely grated ginger
- 6 fresh plum tomatoes, pureed
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a sheet pan sheet pan with parchment paper. Cut the butternut squash in half, lengthwise from the stem down, and scoop out the seeds. Using a paring knife, score the flesh side of the butternut squash horizontally and then vertically.
- Place the butternut squash on the sheet pan, cut-side up. Rub each half of the butternut squash with 1½ tsp of the butter. Drizzle the honey evenly all over and season them with the pepper and 1 tsp of salt. Roast 20 to 25 minutes or until fork-tender. In the meantime, make the tomato gravy. Place a small pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and ginger. Cook the ginger for 2 to 3 minutes until golden-brown. Add the fresh tomato puree, brown sugar, and the remaining salt. Cook until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Serve the tomato gravy alongside the roasted butternut squash. Garnish with fresh oregano.
Beer Pairing: Hill Farmstead “George” American Brown Ale
“While they are justly famous for their IPAs and sour beers, Hill Farmstead brings a strong hand to this robust brown ale, just the thing to match those nutty, caramelized squash flavors.”
Wine Pairing: Cortese di Gavi
“Generally considered the best white coming out of the revered Piedmont region, this wine’s got white flowers, honeydew, and almond that play both with and against the roasted squash, and its threads of green apple and lemon-sharp citrus echo the tomato-to-ginger tang.”
Sides: Yes, You Need a Salad
Sweet-tart citrus, peppery arugula, and sharp shallot vinaigrette form a strategic island of brightness in the midst of a rich meal.
Recipe: Edgar Rico of Nixta in Austin, TX
How to Make Winter Citrus and Arugula Salad with Avocado, Pistachios, and Shallot Vinaigrette
For the salad
- 2 blood oranges
- 2 navel oranges
- 2 tangerines
- 2 grapefruits
- 1 avocado, pitted, and cut into ½ inch-thick wedges
- 2 cups baby arugula
- ¼ cup roasted shelled pistachios
- 1 tsp Maldon salt
- 1 tsp Espelette pepper
For the vinaigrette
- Juice of 1 navel orange
- Juice of 1 blood orange
- Juice of 1 grapefruit
- ½ cup Champagne vinegar
- ½ shallot, minced
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- Slice off peel and pith of citrus, then cut fruit into 1 ⁄4-inch-thick wheels. Arrange slices on a large flat plate, making sure not to stack on top of each other, and scatter avocado on top. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and generously spoon over citrus and avocado.
- Top salad with pistachios, sea salt, and Espelette. Scatter arugula, making sure not to cover up citrus completely.
Beer Pairing: Industrial Arts “State of the Art” Series Citrus Wit
“Light, bright, and zingy, this wheat beer has exactly what you want with a citrus salad—just a touch of bitterness, the slightest wheat-y acidity, and a dry finish that lets the salad shine through.
Wine Pairing: Loire Valley Chenin Blanc
The Loire Valley in France makes remarkable Chenin Blanc under several different appellations, but you’ll want to look for Vouvray, Saumur, or Savennières, all of which have the electric acidity, bright citrusy bouquet, and lean body you need for a palate-cleansing salad.”
Dessert: A Better Use for Your Blender
The name sounds fancy, but clafouti (kla-FOO-tee) is a baked fruit-and-custard dessert whose batter comes together right in the blender.
Recipe: Andrae Bopp of Andrae’s Kitchen in Walla Walla, WA
How to Make Plum Clafouti
- 6 ripe plums, halved and pitted
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing dish
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for dusting dish
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 Tbsp grated orange zest
- ½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- Pinch kosher salt
- ¼ cup plus 2 Tbsp whole milk
- Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie dish and lightly sprinkle with sugar. Cut each half of plum into 4 slices and reserve. Combine the remaining ingredients (except the confectioner’s sugar) to the pitcher of a blender and pulse to combine until completely smooth.
- Add the batter to the prepared dish. Add the plums and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden-brown and the middle is set but still slightly jiggly. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve.
Beer Pairing: Weathered Souls “Black is Beautiful” Imperial Stout
“The pride of Austin, TX, Weathered Souls has made a big splash with this ‘crowd-brewed’ imperial stout. Here, their own version will act like a great bold cup of coffee to play along with the dessert.”
Wine Pairing: Auslese Riesling
“Topped with powdered sugar and entombed in a flan-like batter, these baked French plums scream for a wine just as sweet. Auslese (OUSE-lay-seh) is a German ripeness designation that means the wine will have all the sugary- goodness you need with enough acidity to keep the whole thing from tasting like pancake syrup.”
Dessert: Cake From Cans
Forget peeling slippery mangoes; this easy and impressive cake uses quality canned fruit.
Recipe: Asha Gomez
How to Make Cardamom Mango Cake
For the cake
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
- 3 cups sifted cake flour, plus more for flouring the pan
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1 Tbsp green cardamom powder
- ½ tsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 6 large eggs
- 2½ cups granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup canned Alphonso or Kesar mango puree
For the simple syrup
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp green cardamom powder
For the glaze and garnish
- 3 cups canned Alphonso or Kesar mango puree
- 1 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- A few pinches of cardamom powder
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Liberally butter and flour 10-inch Bundt pan.
- Sift flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt into a large bowl. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or a handheld electric mixer, cream butter and sugar at medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until well combined. Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture and puree. Beat at medium speed for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until cake is deep golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, make simple syrup: In a small pot, boil sugar, water, and cardamom until the mixture is reduced to a thick syrup, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool completely in the pan. Invert the cake onto the wire rack, then transfer to a cake plate or platter. Poke a bunch of holes in the surface of the cake with a skewer and drizzle cake with syrup. Glaze and garnish the cake by evenly pouring the puree over top, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and cardamom powder.
Nothing slows down a host like mixing drinks to order. Our advice: Pick two equal-parts cocktails, one to serve before the meal and another to accompany dessert, and batch them up a day in advance. Prepare them in a pitcher or act like an enterprising bar doing pandemic takeout and bottle them individually. Guests can take extras home—or you’ll have plenty left in your fridge.
Makes 10 cocktails
- 1¼ cup bourbon
- 1¼ cup sweet vermouth
- 1¼ cup Campari
- Garnish: clove-studded orange twist
Post-Dinner: Brandy Alejandro
- 1¼ cup Spanish brandy
- 1¼ cup crème de cacao
- 1¼ cup half-and-half
- Garnish: toasted cinnamon stick
- Combine the ingredients in a pitcher or bottle and mix well. Chill for at least one hour and up to a day in advance.
- For the Boulevardier: Set up 10 rocks glasses each with a large ice cube or ice sphere. Stir or shake the cocktail and divide between the glasses, 3 ounces each. Garnish each with a clove-studded orange twist.
- For the Brandy Alejandro: Pack 10 small snifters with ice. Stir or shake the cocktail and divide between the glasses, 3 ounces each. Garnish each with a toasted cinnamon stick.
Beer Pairing: Brooklyn Brewery Special Effects IPA
“Sure, you could do an imperial stout here and it would work great, but how about something doubly unexpected? An IPA that clocks in at only 0.5%, but still bursts through the cardamom and mango flavors with a wave of floral citrusy hop goodness.”
Wine Pairing: California Viognier
“Cali Viognier has big body, soft acid, and a gentle creaminess that helps paint fluffy mango cake-like clouds in a Raphael masterpiece. The perfume-y smells of white flowers, stone fruits, and sweet baking spices help tame the mango’s sharp edges.”
Our Hosts: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
Inside the decommissioned Milford, NJ, train depot on the defunct
Bel-Del line, Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton run Canal House, a café and publishing boutique that’s been producing cookbooks for more than a decade. Hamilton cooked and styled and Hirsheimer photographed our holiday feast in the station’s cozy, old, wainscoting-wrapped waiting rooms, taking advantage of the light that made this stretch of the Delaware River famous with American Impressionist painters in the early 1900s. The industry legends know a thing
or two about catering memorable holiday meals. Their classic recipe for crown roast of pork comes from 2011’s Canal House Cooking, Volume No. 2: Fall & Holiday.
Garrett Oliver on Staying Warm
“I have been living and socializing distantly out in my large roof garden all spring and summer, but obviously that came to an end. I’m the family host for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I bought two large propane patio-heaters of the sort that are so popular in Europe and I plan to keep things going outside with a BYOB—bring your own blanket—policy.”
Vanessa Price on Gift Giving
“I’m a big fan of gifting unique bottles that people wouldn’t typically buy for themselves. One of the coolest gifts is a wine from someone’s vintage; it’s a piece of history from the year they were born. If you get away from the really famous regions like Barolo, Bordeaux, and Napa, you can usually find something that’s not as expensive as you think, and it definitely makes an impact.”
Kurt Evans on the Adult table
“Before she passed, holiday meetups were always at Grandma’s. After everyone was finished eating—smoked turkey, cabbage, and collards—she’d open up her china cabinet lined with sweet potato pies, and a deck of cards would magically appear. My grandma ran a gambling house back in the day, and everyone in the family learns to play cards from a young age. At home, the adults played pinochle and poker, and spades games would pop off for the younger generation since we didn’t play for money. By the time I was in ninth or 10th grade, I graduated to the adult poker table. I was good enough, but for the older people who’ve been playing forever, it’s more about the trash talk than how good your hand is. This year we’re going to convert the family gathering to a Zoom hangout.”
Edgar Rico on Remaining “Together” When Apart
“As a Mexican family, we have large Christmas Eve and Christmas gatherings where everyone is put to work. I make the big meal at night—prime rib or lechon or a holiday ham—then we go to church at midnight and open presents right after; we’re impatient. In the morning, Grandma is the commander leading the charge with three kinds of tamales: pork with green chiles, chicken with guajillo and cheese, and a sweet tamale with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins that the older people love to dunk in their coffee. There won’t be a large gathering this year, so I’m keeping the family connected by mailing everyone vacuum-sealed packages of the masa we grind at Nixta. That way we can all make tamales and continue the family tradition.”
Andrae Bopp on Getting Away
“My wife and I, our birthdays are a few days apart in November and one of them occasionally falls on Thanksgiving. To celebrate, we pack up our dogs—three Newfoundlands and my new river dog, a half-German shorthaired pointer, halfČeský Fousek—along with a smoked turkey and head to a cabin at Iron Springs Resort on the Washington coast. It’s pretty rugged, with a dense, lush rainforest that goes all the way down to the ocean. The beaches are wide, flat, and ideal for social distancing. Because there’s no easy way to get there, we can walk the dogs for miles and rarely see any people. With the turkey we have the standard sides, but also seafood. Pop open some oysters, steam some crab legs. It’s pretty low-key, but it’s one of my favorite times of year.”
Asha Gomez on Gift Giving
“Growing up in Kerala, in Southern India, we were the only Christian family in our apartment building, and all our Hindu and Muslim neighbors celebrated Christmas with us. Every year, my mom would start making Christmas cookies and snacks a month in advance, and everyone in the building would get cookie tins and fruitcakes made with fruit soaked in rum from the previous year. So that tradition of giving homemade gifts really brings home the holidays for me. With travel restricted this year, we’re not having a large gathering, so my family and friends will receive my homemade sauces, jams, and chutneys—including the tomato-ginger gravy served with my butternut squash—via the mail to have at their tables no matter how far away they are.”
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