A lot of us face the prospect of Christmas menu planning in dire need of some new inspiration.
With the holiday countdown on, we peeked into the kitchens of four local chefs to find some favorite dishes they prepare at home when their own families and friends gather during the festive season.
Varied and undoubtedly tasty, some originate from longstanding traditions, while others are favored for sheer convenience. They range from a lamb Wellington sure to dress up any formal dinner table to gluten-free scones for Christmas morning.
Andrew HuszarExecutive chef and owner, Tastefully Yours Catering
Andrew Huszar admits “holiday bread pudding” has many meanings in his household as his variations range from banana and whiskey sauce to savory renditions like artichoke spinach.
“They’re all great flavors for the holidays,” he says, but his kids seem to prefer the traditional vanilla bean version he shares here. “My wife’s Jewish, so we do the challah bread,” he says, adding that dried cranberries add a welcome tart taste and candied pecans add crunch to the fluffy, buttery custard.
Peter WeikelExecutive chef, Central Market Southlake
Central Market chef Peter Weikel, who recently transitioned to Southlake from the Fort Worth store, left for the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts when he was just 17 and says the Wellington dish featured here was one of the first “fancy” recipes he learned.
“Since it is all wrapped up in pastry, I made it for my mom for Christmas dinner. It stuck as a tradition,” he says. “Whenever I come home for Christmas, it’s a must-have. Last year I taught my 16-year-old niece how to make it. She wants to be a chef when she grows up. Maybe she will continue the tradition.”
Melody FitzgeraldOwner, Sugar & Frosting
Bakery owner Melody Fitzgerald says the chaos that comes with Christmas morning is best balanced by an easy, crowd-pleasing breakfast, and she relies on her lemon-glazed cherry scones to do the trick. The sweet and tangy treats are popular with the pastry chef’s two young sons, ages 8 and 12, yet won’t ruin their appetite for the day’s feasts, she says.
Plus the recipe is gluten-free — which is important to members of her family who have gluten intolerance.
“But they don’t taste like anything gluten-free,” Fitzgerald says. “They’re crispy, soft and gooey all at the same time. The kids and adults all love it.”
Terry ChandlerOwner and chef, Fred’s Texas Cafe
“When it comes to Christmastime, I’m done with turkey,” says “Outlaw Chef” Terry Chandler, known for his chuck-wagon cooking and fire-roasted specialties. “I buy the turkey at Thanksgiving, and I’m done for a year.”
Having built a reputation not only for the famed Fredburger but also for incorporating rustic Southwestern and Mexican influences into his more elaborate dishes, Chandler says tenderloin better suits his culinary style, especially during the holidays. He receives many phone orders from friends for his whole-roasted, pepper, garlic and salt-encrusted version.
“Because it is the holidays, I add that puree of butternut squash,” Chandler says. “And I like to throw those fried nopales on the top to give some crispy tartness.”
Whole-roasted beef tenderloin with chiltepín red wine reduction, chorizo lentils and puree of butternut squash with crispy nopales
▪ 4 pounds whole beef tenderloin
▪ Coarse ground black pepper, as needed
▪ Granulated garlic, as needed
▪ Kosher salt, as needed
▪ Fresh thyme, for garnish
▪ 1/8 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
1. Encrust the tenderloin with the pepper, then garlic, then salt. Char over a hot flame until 125 degrees in the center.
2. Slice tenderloin and serve with chiltepín red wine reduction, chorizo lentils and puree of butternut squash with crispy nopales (recipes follow). Garnish with fresh thyme and toasted pumpkin seeds.
Chiltepín red wine reduction
▪ 1/4 cup chopped onion
▪ 4 garlic cloves, minced
▪ Leaves from 1 sprig fresh thyme
▪ 1/2 stick butter
▪ 1 cup hearty red table wine
▪ 6 chiltepíns (pequín chiles) or chiles de arbol
▪ 1 bay leaf
▪ 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
▪ 1 tablespoon raw sugar
Saute onion, garlic and thyme in the butter. Add remaining ingredients and reduce by half.
▪ 1/4 cup chopped onion
▪ 2 cloves minced garlic
▪ 1/4 cup chopped tomato
▪ 1/4 pound pork chorizo
▪ 1 pound brown lentils
▪ 1/4 teaspoon cumin
▪ 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano
▪ Queso requesón (may substitute ricotta) for garnish
1. Saute onion, garlic, tomato and chorizo over medium heat until onion is translucent.
2. Add lentils, cumin and oregano, and simmer over low heat until lentils are tender, about 45 minutes, being careful not to tear them. Crumble queso requesón over lentils after plating.
Puree of butternut squash with crispy nopales
▪ 2 butternut squash
▪ 1 pint heavy cream, reduced by half over low heat
▪ 1/2 stick butter, melted
▪ 2 tablespoons honey
▪ Sea salt, to taste
▪ 3 tender, young nopales, with spines singed off
▪ 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
▪ Vegetable oil for frying
1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and deseed with a spoon. Leaving the skins on, place in a casserole dish, flat side down, with about 1/4 cup water and bake in a 350-degree oven until soft. Remove the skins and mash squash with reduced cream, butter and honey. Salt to taste and keep warm.
2. Cut the nopales into strips, then skive off their skins with a potato peeler and julienne. Place in a mixing bowl and lightly coat with salt. Allow to sit for approximately 10 minutes to pull out the juices.
3. Dust nopales strips with corn meal and fry in about 1 inch of hot oil until golden. Set aside on a towel to drain, then use as a garnish for butternut squash puree.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 2,559 calories, 170 grams fat, 127 grams carbohydrates, 100 grams protein, 533 milligrams cholesterol, 853 milligrams sodium, 18 grams dietary fiber, 63 percent of calories from fat.
— Fred’s Texas Cafe, 915 Currie Street, Fort Worth, 817-332-0083; 2730 Western Center Blvd., Fort Worth, 817-232-0111; and 3509 Blue Bonnet Circle, Fort Worth, 817-916-4650; http://fredstexascafe.com/.
Holiday bread pudding
▪ 10 slices challah or hearty bread, cut into cubes
▪ 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
▪ 9 egg yolks
▪ 1 cup sugar
▪ 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
▪ 2 cups heavy cream
▪ 1 cup whole milk
▪ 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
▪ 1/2 cup dried cranberries or Craisins
▪ 1/2 cup candied or toasted pecans
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan with cooking spray. (May also use individual baking vessels.)
2. Toss cubed bread with melted butter on a separate baking sheet and bake until golden brown. Allow to cool.
3. In a bowl, whisk egg yolks, sugar, cinnamon, heavy cream, milk and vanilla bean paste. Reserve.
4. Place toasted bread cubes in prepared pan or divide across individual vessels and top with dried cranberries and pecans. Pour half of egg mixture slowly and evenly over bread cubes and let sit for five minutes. Add remaining egg mixture and bake (using a water bath method) 50-55 minutes (25-35 minutes if using individual vessels) until pudding is set. To avoid browning, cover with foil. Serve with caramel sauce or ice cream, if desired.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 629 calories, 46 grams fat, 47 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams protein, 356 milligrams cholesterol, 238 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 65 percent of calories from fat.
— Tastefully Yours Catering, 1959 W. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-488-0896, www.tastefullyours.com.
Wellington of lamb, shitake duxelle, arugula and Cambozola cheese with minted lamb demi-glace
▪ 2 tablespoons minced shallot, divided
▪ 1 tablespoon minced garlic, divided
▪ 2 tablespoons butter, divided
▪ 1 cup crimini mushrooms, sliced
▪ 1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed
▪ Splash white wine for deglazing
▪ 1 pound baby arugula
▪ 1 8-bone trimmed rack of lamb (bones removed and reserved for stock)
▪ Salt and cracked black pepper
▪ Grape-seed oil for coating lamb
▪ 4 ounces Cambozola cheese (available at Central Market), room temperature
▪ 1 sheet puff pastry
▪ 2 whole eggs, beaten
▪ 2 tablespoons ground crystallized ginger
1. Sweat 1 tablespoon minced shallot and 1/2 tablespoon minced garlic with 1 tablespoon butter in a saute pan. Add mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat. Deglaze pan with white wine, cover and cook slowly for 15 minutes.
2. Transfer mushroom mixture to a food processor and chop finely but do not turn into a paste. Return mushroom mixture to stove and cook over low heat to dry out mixture. Reserve at room temperature.
3. Sweat remaining shallot and garlic with remaining butter in a separate pan. Add baby arugula and saute quickly. Remove mixture immediately after arugula is wilted. Reserve at room temperature.
4. Trim and remove all silver skin from the lamb. Season with salt and cracked black pepper and rub with grape-seed oil. Sear all sides of lamb loin over high heat, creating a thick crust. Remove from heat and reserve at room temperature. (Reserve pan for minted lamb demi-glace.)
5. Spread the Cambozola evenly on top of the lamb loin. Add a layer of mushroom duxelle and add a layer of wilted arugula. Wrap finished lamb loin with puff pastry. Brush with egg wash and dust with crystallized ginger. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown and internal temperature reads 118 degrees. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve immediately with minted lamb demi-glace (recipe follows).
Minted lamb demi-glace
▪ 1 pound beef oxtail
▪ 8 lamb rib bones
▪ 1/2 cup roughly chopped carrots
▪ 1/2 cup roughly chopped onions
▪ 1/4 cup roughly chopped celery
▪ 1 cup red wine ( preferably a selection with earthy, tobacco and licorice nuances)
▪ 1 small bouquet garni (bundle of herbs, usually parsley, thyme and a bay leaf, tied with string or wrapped in cheesecloth)
▪ 1 knob cold butter (about 1 tablespoon)
▪ 1 tablespoon fresh mint chiffonade
1. Sear oxtail and lamb bones in the same pan used for the lamb loin. Remove bones and oxtail and add carrots, onions and celery to pan and saute for 5 minutes.
2. Add oxtail and lamb bones back to pan and deglaze with red wine. Add bouquet garni and enough water to cover bones and simmer for 1 hour.
3. Strain stock and reduce to one-third. Pass through fine strainer. Right before serving with Wellington, heat to a simmer and swirl in the knob of cold butter and mint.
Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 1,095 calories, 59 grams fat, 107 grams carbohydrates, 39 grams protein, 209 milligrams cholesterol, 682 milligrams sodium, 13 grams dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
— Central Market, 1425 E. Southlake Blvd., Southlake, 817-310-5600, www.centralmarket.com.
Lemon glazed cherry scones
Makes 6 scones
▪ 1/4 cup butter, softened
▪ 1/4 cup sugar
▪ 1 egg
▪ 1 1/2 cups almond flour
▪ 2 tablespoons cornstarch
▪ Zest of 1 lemon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
▪ 1 teaspoon baking powder
▪ 1/2 can sour cherry pie filling, washed and drained well (reserve the remaining half for another use)
▪ 3 tablespoons raw sugar
▪ 2 tablespoons cold butter, sliced into small cubes
▪ 1/2 cup powdered sugar
▪ 1 to 2 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Cover a sheet pan with raised edges with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
2. In the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment, mix softened butter, sugar and egg until smooth. Add the almond flour, cornstarch, zest, lemon juice and baking powder until blended. Gently fold in drained cherries until just incorporated. Place mixture on prepared pan in a disc shape approximately 9 inches round and refrigerate 20 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a pizza cutter, cut scone dough into 6 equal triangles. Separate scones on the pan to make room for spreading during baking. Sprinkle scones with raw sugar.
4. Bake 15 minutes, then remove from oven and place cold butter pieces around scones. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until scones are set and lightly golden brown. Remove and cool 15-20 minutes or until slightly warm.
5. Place powdered sugar in small bowl and add lemon juice while stirring slowly with a spoon until a drizzling consistency is achieved. Drizzle over cooled scones and serve.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 394 calories, 19 grams fat, 46 grams carbohydrates, 15 grams protein, 66 milligrams cholesterol, 134 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 41 percent of calories from fat.
— Sugar & Frosting, 126 Taylor St., Keller, 817-562-2500, www.sugarandfrosting.com.