My Holiday Go-To Favorites

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, and while I have gone from serving 20-30 people for years, we now have a lovely celebration at our niece’s house. I consider myself semi-retired from the holiday cooking.

Having prepared numerous holiday meals on television for the past 24 years, I have gathered more recipes than I can possibly use in the next decade.

Each year I share my favorites, from sweet potatoes to pies and the ultimate simple but flawless turkey pan gravy.

From gingersnaps to simple mason jar festive desserts, (easy to transport), I have blended a festive list of all-time go-to recipes.

In no specific order pending on when you will use one or all recipes, I want you to enjoy. Making a new dish ahead of time allows you the confidence that this is the right recipe for you.

Don’t overthink it. Maybe select three for Thanksgiving and two or three for Hanukah and Christmas.

The most important message for the holidays is to enjoy each other’s company and regathering this year, a much-needed event after the health events of the past year and a half.

So, from our kitchens to your tables, may the tastes of the season be a welcome balance and joy throughout the festive season.

Chef Judi

Apple Pumpkin Cranberry Cake

Apple Cobbler with Cardamom whipped cream

Approx. 12-16 Macintosh apples, peeled and seeded and cut into wedges

2-3 teaspoons cinnamon and sugar

 6 TBSP melted butter

In a separate bowl mix 2 cups sugar and 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt

Add two whole large eggs, one at a time using your hands to feel the texture of the batter. Should be crumbly

Mix topping and pour over apples with cinnamon and sugar

Melt butter and pour on top of 13×9 inch pan of apples

Bake at 350 until you can touch the top and it feels slightly hard but not overbaked.

Add 2 teaspoons ground cardamom with whipping cream and pure vanilla extract. Slowly add about 1 cup powdered sugar. Whip in a chilled bowl. Serve on top of warm cobbler.


Brioche and Sausage Stuffing

Stuffing Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf brioche or challah (about 12 oz.), cut into 1′ cubes
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for dish
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cored and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 2 pounds frozen spinach, thawed, well squeezed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

Recipe Preparation

  • Preheat to 350°. Scatter bread on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast until golden brown, tossing once, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Bread can be toasted 1 day ahead. Store airtight at room temperature
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking up into smaller pieces with the back of a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate; let cool. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in the same skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10–12 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Let cool
  • Bake until stuffing is hot and the top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
  • ; cover and chill.
  •  
  • Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 3-qt. shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs to blend in a large bowel; whisk in broth. Stir in sausage, the onion-fennel mixture, spinach, salt, pepper, and fennel seeds. Add bread; toss until evenly distributed and bread has absorbed the liquid. Transfer to prepared dish; dot with remaining 2 Tbsp butter.

Crème de Menthe mini jars

Perfect for traveling on the holiday or a neighborhood dessert party

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped chocolate wafers
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Creme de Menthe
  • ¼ cup white crème de cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • chocolate shavings
  • mini mason jars

Instructions

  1. using a food processor, coarsely grind the chocolate cookie wafers . In a saucepan, melt the marshmallows with the milk over low heat. Then chill the mixture, stirring it occasionally, until mixture begins to set.
  2. Once the marshmallow mix has cooled and set, stir in the Creme de Menthe. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Then fold the whipped cream into the mint mixture. Set aside.

Now it’s time to put the pies together!

  1. For the crust, evenly spread the cookie mixture into the bottoms of your mason jars, then pack it down.
  2. Add the mint mixture on top of the cookie mixture, evenly spreading it out between the 5 jars.
  3. If you like, top the mini pies with a little dollop of whip cream, and some chocolate shavings. I just grated some semi-sweet chocolate, and sprinkled it on.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Chef Judi Holiday recipes picks

     Now that we have reached November, the recipes are flowing, getting us all ready for Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas. And all the tastes of the season.

There will be no doubt cookie exchanges, turkey talk and open houses along with the big family meals. After 23 years of cooking Thanksgiving dinners on television, this year I have the week off. Just in time for my cooking classes and appearances before I head out for one of two Thanksgiving family events.

 The most asked question is always to brine or not to brine. I prefer brining two days then rinsing and covering with cheesecloth overnight (unstuffed) before letting it rest on the counter and reasoning with Bells poultry seasoning, my favorite. But truly Thanksgiving sides are what I load up on before a plate of warm apple cake or apple pie. 

May your table be filled with all the friends and family and may you have all the flavors, aromas and tastes of all things holiday.

Roasted Red and Yellow Grape tomatoes with ricotta and mint crostini’s.

2 pints vine ripe grape tomatoes

1-pint yellow tomatoes

3 TBSP fennel seeds

1 loaf baguette or favorite ciabatta prepared in oven same as above only brush bread with olive oil instead of butter. toast on both sides using olive oil and garlic salt to season toasts.

Place tomatoes on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil, fennel; seeds, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper and 3 cloves minced garlic.

Roast 5-7 minutes until slightly blistered but not shrunk.

Remove from tray and cool

Spread slightly whipped ricotta cheese over a crostini. Top with broken mint leaves

Top with blistered tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic glaze and pink salt.

Cream of Asparagus and potato leek Soup

1 bunch asparagus, peeled and snapped where naturally bends

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or truffle butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup peeled and diced chef potatoes (thin skin)

8 ounces shitake mushrooms

1 cup chopped leek, whites only (wash well)

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

4 cups chicken stock or mushroom stock

¼ cup white wine

1 cup heavy cream

Garnish:

Sour cream or crème fraiche

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Fresh snipped chives

Snap asparagus where it naturally bends. Peel stems and rinse and pat dry.

Steam or microwave for 2 minutes until tips are slightly tender.

Drop into ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Dice asparagus and set aside. (reserve a few pieces for garnish

In a large soup pan, melt butter. Add shallot and leeks, saute abut 3 minutes. Add shitake mushrooms and continue to saute.  Deglaze pot with white wine. Add mushroom or chicken stock, peeled and diced potatoes and asparagus.

Simmer for about 20 minutes.

Season with Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

When potatoes are cooked, remove pot from heat. Cool slightly and either pour into a blender with dish towel on top to avoid splattering. You may also use an emersion blender. (My preference for soups)

Return soup to stove. Slowly add cream and simmer until heated.

Mix mustard with sour cream. Top soup with dollop and garnish with reserved chopped asparagus spears.

Mushroom, leek and fennel stuffing with boursin cheese

Boursin bread pudding stuffing

Brioche is having a moment. Probably the number one bread selling this year. Last year was the year of the pretzel roll. This year most burgers are being graced with this buttery bread and so is your holiday stuffing. This can easily be vegetarian by switching mushroom broth for the chicken broth. Either way it is a buttery mix of sautéed vegetables and creamy French herb cheese

Thanksgiving Stuffing

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 10-ounce loaf brioche (preferably day-old), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for greasing dish
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 leeks (white and light-green parts only) split lengthwise and sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 8-ounce container boursin cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Special equipment:
  • 3-quart baking dish
Boursin cheese stuffing

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Place cubed bread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until slightly dry, 10 to 15 minutes.
    1. Raise oven temperature to 350°F. In a large sauté pan over high heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until mushrooms have released their liquid and start to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Scrape into a medium bowl and set aside, reserving pan.
    1. Return pan to medium heat and melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Add fennel and rosemary, and cook until fennel softens and starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add leeks and cook until all the vegetables are very soft, about 5 minutes more. Return mushrooms to pan, add broth, and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl and let cool slightly. Add cubed bread and eggs and toss until mixture is combined.
    1. Transfer bread mixture to baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven until golden brown and slightly puffed, 35 to 40 minutes (add 10 minutes if the dish has been refrigerated). Top with parsley and serve immediately.

Turkey Pan gravy

My mission was always to learn how to make perfect sauces. Shimmering and smooth and a gravy for Thanksgiving that was not too greasy, (sorry Mom)

The key is making a roux. Melted butter and Wondra flour of equal part. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour until a thick paste. Low heat cook, using whisk for ten minutes.

Remove all but ½ cup pan drippings. Add 1 ½ containers of Turkey stock and fresh thyme and heat in roasting pan. When the stock is a low boil slowly begin to whisk in the roux, whisking heavily to avoid lumps.

Add 1 teaspoon gravy master and keep whisking until thickness is desired.

Lower heat and slowly whisk in a cup of ½ and ½

Tips- if the gravy gets too thick add more hot stock.

Season with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper as needed.

Gingersnap cookies
Chef Judi

Ginger Snaps

From Recipes & Reflections of Chef Judi Cookbook with a new twist

A family favorite and a New England traditional cookie recipe. Save the broken ones and freeze for garnishes and cheesecake crusts.

Holiday baking can be daunting. That’s why I love cookie exchanges. Last year someone used my recipe and crumbled broken pecan toffee on the gingersnaps before baking and thus the new tradition begins.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, at room temperature
granulated sugar, for rolling

1 package butter toffee pretzels or similar

 Broken into pieces

Instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, allspice, pepper, and cinnamon.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in molasses and the egg. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture until just combined. Cover and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

Remove the dough from refrigerator. Using a small ice cream scoop, shape the dough into 1-inch balls. Place the sanding sugar in a medium bowl and roll the cookie balls in the sugar a few at a time to completely and thoroughly coat.

Place half of the dough balls 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Using the bottom of a drinking glass, flatten the cookies until they measure about 1/4 inch thick. Top with broken butter toffee pretzels. Bake until browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


Rustic Pear Cranberry Tart

I was not born with the pie-making gene. While I love homemade fruit pies, no matter how many times I practice, my dough is tough. Rustic gives you the excuse if there are tears in the crust and using Pillsbury Pie crust makes it so easy. I have tried other brands but this is my preferred choice.

Cranberry Tart

6-7 semi-ripe pears, peeled

¾ cup fresh cranberries

Zest of two oranges

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 TBSP. melted butter

Homemade whipped cream

(Garnish) Apple caramel butter or similar sauce

Remove roll out pie crust from wrapper and let sit room temp for 15-20 minutes. Flour you board or counter and gently press with hands or rolling pin to expand slightly. Spray baking sheet with food release spray. Place parchment paper on sheet and spray top of parchment.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss pears and cranberries with cinnamon, sugar and orange zest.

Using a slotted spoon to avoid too much juice, place mixture towards the center of the crust and gently spread fruit mixture not to the edge.

Using your floured hands, pinch and fold the crust leaving the center uncovered.

Brush edges with melted butter. Place in preheated oven and turn temperature down to 350 degrees. Bake until edges are lightly browned.

Cool slightly and serve with homemade whipped cream and apple butter.

Root Vegetable Tartar Tartin

I loved finding my niece Joan standing over the tart eating away as if it were dessert! This now graces our table every fall and winter celebration.

Adapted from Fine Cooking

4-6 servings depending on other sides.

If you are making a turkey or goose or Prime Rib, this beautiful dish is perfect as a side. All you need is a salad and a beautiful trifle for dessert.

Do NOT stress if for whatever reason it does not invert properly- simply pop back in the pan and use the crust as a topping like a vegetarian root vegetable pie. Either way it is delicious.

1 Medium Yukon Gold Potato, peeled and sliced in ½ inch rounds

1 medium sweet potato peeled and sliced into ½ rounds

2 medium carrots peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds’1/4 cup olive oil plus as needed

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

4 ounces goat cheese

1rpie crust disc

All-purpose flour for rolling

Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning.

Roast in oven approx. 30 minutes until golden around the edges and tender,

Let cool

In a saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally cook sugar with2 TBSP water until amber color, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add vinegar and a pinch of salt swirl to combine.

 Quickly pour amber caramel into 9-inch cake pan, tilt and rotate bottom to evenly coast bottom

Scatter rosemary and sage over the top

Arrange vegetables tight together in single layers Use smaller PIECES TO FILL IN HOLES. SCATTER ONIONS AND GOAT CHEESE OVER THE VEGGIES.

ROLL OUT 1 pie crust disc on floured table

Drape over veggies tucking crust into pan. Prick dough all over to release steam with a fork. Bake for about 20 minutes. reduce temp to 350 and bake until brown about 2o minutes.

Let rest 5 minutes before inverting onto a large pan.

Salted Matzah “Crack”

Servings: 35 2-inch squares

Total Time: 1 Hour

Ingredients

  • 4-5 lightly salted matzos (preferably the Streit’s brand – see note below)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1 heaping cup chopped pecans (toasted if desired, for maximum flavor – see note below)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt flakes or kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges, and top with sheet of parchment paper.
  2. Cover baking sheet with matzos, cutting and piecing together as necessary to fill the entire pan.
  1. Make toffee: Combine butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture comes to a boil. (If it looks like it’s separating, just keep stirring; it will come together.) Once mixture comes to a boil, continue cooking and stirring for another 3 minutes until foamy and thickened. (Be extra careful — toffee will be very hot!) Immediately pour toffee over matzos and, using a spatula, spread into an even layer.
  2. Put the pan into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the toffee topping is crackled and bubbling all over. Remove pan and place on wire cooling rack on the counter. Immediately scatter chocolate chips evenly over top. Wait 3-5 minutes for the chips to soften, then use a thin spatula to spread chocolate into an even layer. Sprinkle with pecans and sea salt. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm, about 45 minutes. Don’t leave it in the fridge too much longer, otherwise it will be hard to cut.
  3. Lift foil overhang to transfer matzo crack onto a large cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, cut into 2-inch squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and serve cold.
  4. Note: I love Streit’s lightly salted matzos for this recipe (and for breakfast slathered with butter and jam) but any brand will work. If you can only find regular salted matzos, cut back or omit the sea salt at the end. If you can’t find matzos, substitute Saltine crackers and omit the salt. You’ll need enough to cover the entire sheet pan

Holiday Sides and Desserts

Chef Judi Gallagher

Apple, Cranberry and pecan sheet cake

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 TABLESPOONS unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground allspice

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

 1 teaspoon salt

2 pounds Honeycrisp or Golden delicious or honeycrisp apples shredded

1 cup pecan toasted and chopped

Drizzle caramel sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth

Add flour, cinnamon, allspice baking powder and salt in batches into the butter mixture

Stir in shredded apples and bake in prepared pan (butter and  flour a sheet pan or 13 x 9 pan low edges.

Bake approx. 55 minutes, cool cake in pan.

Frost with cream cheese frosting and top cake with toasted pecans and caramel sauce drizzle

Sweet Potato and Eggnog streusel

Sweet potato casserole

8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups mashed sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 cup eggnog
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions

  • 1. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, eggnog, raisins, sugar and salt. Transfer to a greased 2-qt. baking dish. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over top.
  • 2. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

Crème de Menthe mini jars

Perfect for traveling on the holiday or a neighborhood dessert party

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped chocolate wafers
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup Creme de Menthe
  • ¼ cup white crème de cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups whipping cream
  • chocolate shavings
  • mini mason jars

Instructions

  1. Using a food processor, coarsely grind the chocolate cookie wafers . In a saucepan, melt the marshmallows with the milk over low heat. Then chill the mixture, stirring it occasionally, until mixture begins to set.
  2. Once the marshmallow mix has cooled and set, stir in the Creme de Menthe. Set aside.
  3. Using a mixer, whip the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Then fold the whipped cream into the mint mixture. Set aside.

Now it’s time to put the pies together!

  1. For the crust, evenly spread the cookie mixture into the bottoms of your mason jars, then pack it down.
  2. Add the mint mixture on top of the cookie mixture, evenly spreading it out between the 5 jars.
  3. If you like, top the mini pies with a little dollop of whip cream, and some chocolate shavings. I just grated some semi-sweet chocolate, and sprinkled it on.
  4. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Turkey Pan Gravy

My mission was always to learn how to make perfect sauces. Shimmering and smooth and a gravy for Thanksgiving

Season with poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper as needed.

that was not too greasy, (sorry Mom)

The key is making a roux. Melted butter and Wondra flour of equal part. Melt the butter and whisk in the flour until a thick paste. Low heat cook, using whisk for ten minutes.

Remove all but ½ cup pan drippings. Add 1 ½ containers of Turkey stock and fresh thyme and heat in roasting pan. When the stock is a low boil slowly begin to whisk in the roux, whisking heavily to avoid lumps.

Add 1 teaspoon gravy master and keep whisking until thickness is desired.

Lower heat and slowly whisk in a cup of ½ and ½

Tips- if the gravy gets too thick add more hot stock.

A graduate of Johnson & Wales, Judi has managed restaurants and owned restaurants in the northeast and was the founder of a successful dessert company. Today, she is a sought-after restaurant consultant, TV cook on the ABC affiliate in her hometown, and culinary editor of a city magazine. Her personal passions are culinary travel to exotic places and holiday cooking in her home for huge gatherings of friends and relatives. Her guilty pleasure? Bruce Springsteen concerts. “I follow him around the country and have for years,” she admits. “But, in every city where Bruce sings, I do check out new restaurants and talk to up and coming chefs. I want all the food news I can get.”

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