Impress Your Guests With These Five Holiday Dishes

Hosting a holiday get-together this season? Finalize your menu with these recipes’ festive flavors.

Photos by Terry Brennan || Prop Styling by Tim Creagan

Food Styling by Lara Miklasevics || Recipes by Robin Asbell

Creamy Sweet Potato and Orange Soup with Pistachio Garnish

Makes 6 Servings

Sweet potatoes make a gorgeous, harvest-orange soup to give your holiday table a stroke of color. Sweet-tart orange juice and zest accent the smooth creamy texture, and a crunchy topping of pistachios and sage adds a textural contrast.

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (to make 3 cups puree)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cream
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Garnish

  • 1/2 cup raw pistachios, coarsely chopped      
  • 3 tablespoons fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the whole sweet potatoes on an oiled sheet pan and pierce each one a couple of times with a fork for steam to escape. Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack.

2. When cool enough to handle, scoop the sweet potato flesh and place in a food processor bowl. Puree until smooth, then measure 3 cups for this recipe. If there is a little extra, save for another use.

3. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat, then add the onion and sage. Stir until the onion starts to sizzle, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture, stir to mix well, and cook the flour, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pot from heat and whisk in the cream, and when it is incorporated, whisk in the stock, then the orange juice. Return to medium heat and whisk occasionally until the mixture thickens slightly and starts to bubble around the edges. Whisk in the sweet potato puree, chipotle, orange zest and salt and stir until heated through. Serve with pistachio garnish.

4. For the garnish, place a small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Let it heat for a few seconds, then drizzle in the olive oil and let it heat for 30 seconds. Add the chopped pistachios and stir until the oil sizzles, then add the sage and stir until the pistachios are toasted and the sage is dark green. Stir in the salt and scrape into a cup, making sure to include the oil. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of the garnish on each bowl of soup and drizzle a few drops of the flavorful olive oil on each serving.

Pomegranate Glazed Spatchcocked Turkey

Makes 8 to 10 Servings

Spatchcocking is a technique that cuts down on cooking time by flattening the bird, allowing you to cook a whole turkey in under an hour and a half. The key here is to have a small bird, no larger than 11 pounds, and a pan that it will fit in, so it will not hang over the edge. Cutting out the spine of the bird requires a sharp knife and kitchen shears, but it’s a great technique to master for roasting whole turkeys and chickens much more quickly.

  • 1 (11-pound) turkey, skin on
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

1. You’ll need a 12×16-inch roasting pan, a cooling rack that fits in it and a cutting board at least that big to carve the bird. Thaw the bird in the refrigerator for at least 4 days. It should be completely thawed before cooking.

2. First, make the glaze. In a 1-quart pot, combine the orange juice, pomegranate juice, maple syrup and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium to keep the mixture boiling but not boiling over. Reduce to 1 cup. (After about 15 minutes, check the volume by pouring the liquid into a heat safe measuring cup, then pour back into the pan and continue boiling as needed.) This can be made up to 4 days ahead of time and refrigerated, tightly covered. Whether you use it immediately after making or later on, when you do use it, let the mixture sit until it reaches room temperature and then whisk in the melted butter.

3. Prepare the roasting pan by placing the cooling rack in it and having it by your cutting board.

4. Preheat the oven to 450°F.

5. To spatchcock the turkey: In a clean sink, unwrap the turkey and drain the juices. Remove the giblets and neck, reserving them for another use. Place two layers of paper towels on a large cutting board. Drain the turkey and transfer to the paper towels, and use another towel to pat dry. Discard the wet towels.

6. Turn the turkey breast side down and use kitchen shears to cut out the spine of the bird. Start at the tail and cut along each side, as far as you can go. You may want to switch to a chef’s knife once you get it started. It also may be easier to place the bird on its head and cut straight down with the knife to get some leverage. Once you have removed the spine, place the bird breast side up and press down with the heel of your hand in the center of the breast to flatten the ribcage on the board. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breast, starting at the neck hole, being careful not to tear the skin. Do the same with the thighs and legs, starting at the cut side where the spine was.

7. Lift the bird onto the rack in the prepared roasting pan and tuck the wings behind the bird. Arrange so that the legs and sides are all inside the pan. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the pomegranate mixture and hold the skin away from the breast so you can pour it under the skin. Smear it around with your hand. Do the same with the thighs and legs.

8. Tear a piece of foil about 1 foot across. Place the bird in the preheated oven and roast for about 30 minutes. Baste with the remaining pomegranate mixture, then cover loosely with the foil to prevent premature browning. Baste the bird every 10 minutes and roast for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer to check the temperature in the thickest part of the thigh. When it reaches 160°F, remove the bird from the oven. Let cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before transferring to a large cutting board and carving.

Spinach and Ricotta Shepherd’s Pie

Makes 8 to 12 Servings

This dish combines the flavors of your favorite veggie lasagna with the classic Shepherd’s Pie. Not only does it cover the obligatory veggie side and the mashed potato craving, but it can also serve as the main course for any vegetarians at the table.

  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 20 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and wrung out
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Prepare a 9×13-inch rectangular baking dish by lightly oiling it, and reserve.

2. Cut the potatoes in large chunks and place in a large pot. Cover with water by 1 inch and place on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a vigorous simmer and cook until the potatoes are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then slip the skins off as you put them back in the pot to mash with a masher or a ricer. When mashed, add the half-and-half, butter, 3/4 cup Parmesan and half of the salt and mix. When smooth, cover the pot and let stand.

3. For the filling, wrap the wrung-out spinach in a kitchen towel and squeeze tightly to dry completely.

4. In a large sauté pan, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the onion. Stir until they start to crackle, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes to soften. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute, then remove from heat and scrape into a large bowl. Let sit until cool enough to handle.

5. Add the spinach, ricotta, eggs, thyme, and the remaining salt and pepper to the pan with the onions. Reserve 1/4 cup of the remaining Parmesan for topping, and add the rest to the spinach mixture. Mix well.

6. Spread the spinach mixture in the prepared pan and smooth the top. Dollop the potato mixture over the spinach and use a fork to spread it evenly and make an appealing crosshatched pattern.

7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, then sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bake for 15 minutes longer. It should be lightly browned and bubbling in spots.

Cheddar Garlic Monkey Bread

Makes 8 Servings

Break away from the usual rolls and make this impressive pull-apart loaf, gilded with sharp cheddar cheese and garlic butter. By using frozen dinner roll dough, you cut the prep time and make it easy to put this golden bread on the table.

  • 2 pounds frozen whole-wheat rolls or bread dough
  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded extra sharp
       cheddar cheese

1. Have a non-stick Bundt pan ready to go. If using roll dough, remove 16 balls of frozen dough from the bag and place them on a baking sheet, cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let thaw for 2 hours. After thawing, uncover the rolls, place each one on a cutting board and cut in quarters.

2. In a medium pot, melt the butter and add the garlic and thyme, cook over medium heat for 1 minute, then remove from heat. Let cool.

3. Brush a little of the butter on the bottom and sides of the Bundt pan. Toss four pieces of dough in the butter at a time, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and drop in the pan. Sprinkle each layer with cheddar cheese. When all the dough and cheese have gone into the pan, tap the pan on the counter a few times to settle the dough into the bottom. Drizzle any leftover butter over the top. Cover the pan with foil and let rise at room temperature on the counter for 1 hour.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake, covered, for 45 to 50 minutes. Use an instant read thermometer to check whether it is done: The center of the loaf should reach 190°F. Let the loaf cool for about 5 minutes on a rack, then place a plate over the pan and invert to drop the loaf on the plate. Serve warm with plenty of napkins.

Cook’s Note: To use frozen bread dough rather than rolls, cover two 1-pound loaves with a damp towel or plastic wrap and thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Cut the loaves into strips and cut those into 2-inch pieces. Proceed with recipe step 2.

Pumpkin Sheet Cake with Broiled Pecan Topping

Makes 12 Servings

This moist, easy-to-make cake will please your guests, especially if you broil the topping at the last minute. By spreading a buttery brown sugar and pecan topping on the cake and running it under the broiler, you create a warm, crunchy sauce that is easier and more special than the usual frosting.

For the Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup avocado or canola oil
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

For the Topping

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9×13-inch baking pan and reserve.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, oil and pumpkin until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture, just until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with no wet batter clinging to it.

4. While the cake bakes, prepare the topping. Mix the melted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, salt and pecans.    

5. When the cake is done, remove from oven. Turn the oven to broil and put a rack 4 to 5 inches from the heat. Drop spoonfuls of the brown sugar topping over the cake, spreading it gently and leaving 1/2 inch around the edges bare. Broil it with the door open, watching closely, for less than 1 minute. When the topping is bubbling and melted, take it out to cool. If the topping is melting down the sides, you can use a small spoon to move it back to the top and arrange the pecans while it’s hot. Serve warm after the topping has set.

Cook’s Note: You can make and bake the cake up to 2 days ahead of serving, then cool and wrap tightly and refrigerate. On the day of serving, let the cake come to room temperature for a couple of hours. Just before serving, make and broil the topping, and serve warm. For a slightly sweeter cake, whisk 1/2 to 1 cup granulated sugar into the cake’s dry ingredients.

Spinach, Cranberry and Walnut Salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing

Makes 4 to 6 Servings

Dress up a spinach salad with sparkling red cranberries, crunchy walnuts and a creamy dressing that elevates it to special meal status. This is easy to assemble at the last minute, and the dressing can be made up to 4 days ahead so your big night will go smoothly.

For the Dressing

  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

For the Salad

  • 5 ounces spinach, washed and dried
  • 2 medium scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. For the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the yogurt and mayonnaise and stir until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper, then stir in the blue cheese, mashing it with the spoon but leaving plenty of chunks. Transfer to a cruet or jar. Makes 1 cup.

2. To serve, spread the spinach over a platter and sprinkle the scallions, walnuts and cranberries over the spinach. Drizzle with the blue cheese dressing and serve.

For even more recipes and inspiration, check out the Lunds & Byerlys’ Real Food magazine.

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