Five of the Capital Region’s top chefs dream up the ultimate,
intimate holiday meal—and show you how to make it!
Photography by Francesco D’Amico
Chances are, your festive, holiday traditions have been affected by the pandemic. Maybe you’re staying in the Capital Region instead of jogging through Albany Airport on the way to your gate—and eventually, home for the holidays. Or maybe your gift exchanges will be spent here as usual, but in the company of a smaller-than-usual group of masked, socially distanced friends and family. Whatever the case is, it’s possible that, for the first year ever in your life, the responsibility of doing the holiday cooking has fallen onto your shoulders.
This year has been hard enough: The last thing you want to do is spend the final days of 2020 stressing out about what to serve for your holiday dinner. So CAPITAL REGION LIVING called in the experts to take all that planning off your plate and help fill it with straight-up delicious food. Chefs Jaime Ortiz (677 Prime, TORO, Prime Burger and Shake House), Krista Espinal (Yono’s, dp An American Brasserie), Rachel Bartlett (Plumb Oyster Bar), Jeff Strom (Next Door Kitchen & Bar) and Michele Hunter (Hamlet & Ghost) have graciously shared their favorite holiday recipes to ensure that your holiday meal is a fitting sendoff to this whirlwind of a year. Oh, and Kim Klopstock from Lily and the Rose catering helped bring it all together with her table-setting genius.
A holiday meal is a holiday meal, whether you’re cooking for 20 or two. So pull out your fancy plates, tie on your apron and get cooking! You have five world-class coaches on your side.
2 1 1/4 lb pork shanks
1/2 tbsp pink Himalayan sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp Ras El Hanout seasoning
6 petite onions, peeled and left whole
(or substitute 10 pearl onions)
2 cups chicken bone broth
1 sprig rosemary
2 sage leaves
For the Glaze:
1/2 cup cherry jam
6 pineapple rings, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1/4 cup dried cherries
1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
3 tbsp orange juice
pinch Himalayan sea salt
Season shanks with sea salt and Ras El Hanout seasoning. Set instant pot to “sauté” and pour olive oil into pot. Once hot, place shanks in to brown evenly on all sides. Remove shanks and add onions. Brown on all sides. Remove onions and scoop out excess grease.
Deglaze pot with chicken bone broth and scrape bottom to get brown bits. Add shanks and onions back to pot and cover with remaining broth. Put on lid and set the pot to 60 minutes on “meat stew.”
Meanwhile, in a clean, small pot, add jam and top with pineapple rings, brown sugar, cherries, pumpkin pie spice, orange juice and salt. Simmer for 10–15 minutes.
When the meat has finished cooking, top with glaze and serve.
Winter Vegetable Sausage Stuffing
By Rachel Bartlett (Plumb Oyster Bar)
3 day-old French baguettes
1 Spanish onion
1 whole celery root or celeriac
1 whole butternut squash
3 lbs spicy sausage, loose
1 quart chicken stock
1 oz dried oregano
1 cup fresh chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Cut baguette into medium cubes and air dry. Meanwhile, peel the celery root, butternut squash and parsnips, and then dice them, along with the onion.
In a medium saucepan, combine the sausage with all the vegetables and sauté on low heat until sausage is thoroughly cooked. Do not drain excess fat—it will help keep the stuffing moist. Add chicken stock, chives, oregano, salt and pepper, and let simmer for five minutes. Transfer to an 8×8 inch casserole dish and cook at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.
Brown Butter Brussels Sprouts With Maple-Mustard Gastrique
By Jeff Strom (Next Door Kitchen & Bar)
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, cored and leaves picked (chef used an apple corer)
3/4 lbs butter, divided
4 medium-sized shallots, sliced into
1 honey crisp apple
1/4 cups pomegranate arils (seeds)
1-2 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
For the gastrique:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (cider vinegar can also be used)
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
Prepare the gastrique by heating maple syrup and vinegar to a simmer and reduce by a third. Whisk in the mustard. Cool to room temperature.
Prepare the crispy shallots and brown butter. Set up a bowl fitted with a strainer. Heat 10 tablespoons of butter in a medium-sized saucepan on medium high heat until melted. Add the sliced shallots. Continue cooking for 30–40 minutes, stirring every two minutes or so until the butter begins to foam. At this point, stir the shallots constantly until they are golden brown. Watch carefully and remove from heat, as the butter will foam over. Have a second, wider-bottomed pan on hand to catch the foamed-over butter. Strain the shallots into the bowl, season with salt, and lay to cool on paper towels.
Heat two large sauté pans over high heat with the brown butter, being careful not to let the butter burn. Add Brussels sprout leaves, season with salt and pepper, and press down using a large spoon or spatula until the sprouts are browned. Flip or toss the sprouts over and repeat pressing them down. Add the two remaining tablespoons of butter once the bottom layer of sprouts begins to brown. Once sufficiently browned, transfer sprouts to your serving platter.
Slice apple using a Japanese mandoline slicer fitted with teeth or julienne using a chef’s knife. Liberally drizzle the Brussels sprouts with the gastrique. Top with julienned apple, pomegranate arils, crispy shallots and freshly picked thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!
3-4 medium delicata squash, thinly sliced
2 lbs yukon gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large pale or light green leek, thinly sliced and rinsed in cold water
1 medium fennel bulb with fronds,
1 tbsp rosemary, chopped
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
Cut ends off delicata squash. Use a tablespoon to hollow out seeds from the center and a mandoline to thinly slice squash to 1/4 inch. Rinse and peel potatoes and slice to the same size as the squash.
Add two tablespoons of butter to a medium-sized saucepan on medium low. Add sliced leeks and fennel to pan and sweat down until soft and fragrant. Add chopped rosemary and heavy cream and bring to a simmer for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish. (Note: chef used one that was 12x7x2 in.) Start by layering potatoes in a shingle pattern in bottom of dish and follow with squash on top. Then spoon in heavy cream mixture (about 1/4 cup) and sprinkle a tablespoon of parmesan cheese on top. Repeat layers until you reach the top of dish. Finish the top with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and remaining butter.
Cover with parchment and foil. Cook on the middle rack at 375 degrees for 35–40 minutes. Remove foil/parchment from dish and cook uncovered for 10–15 minutes or until breadcrumbs have browned.
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Michele Hunter (Hamlet & Ghost)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp clove
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1 stick (4 oz.) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Sift first seven dry ingredients together and mix to combine. Set aside.
Whisk together buttermilk and the pumpkin purée, set aside.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla with the paddle in your stand mixer for two minutes on medium speed. Scrape down the bowl and paddle and continue mixing for five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, allowing one to fully combine before adding the next one. Scrape down the bowl and paddle.
With the mixer on its lowest setting, gradually add the wet and dry ingredients. (You can do this at the same time, or alternate dry and wet.) Once all ingredients are added, mix for 10–12 seconds to make sure everything is well combined.
Divide the batter into three eight-inch cake pans. (Suggestion: spray with cooking spray first, then line with parchment paper.) Bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool and frost with your favorite frosting (chef’s favorite: cream cheese frosting).
Blood Orange Margarita
Next Door Kitchen & Bar
1 1/2 oz Cazadores Blanco Tequila
2 oz blood orange juice
1/2 oz arancino blood orange liqueur
1/2 oz agave nectar
1/2 oz jalapeño simple syrup (2 jalapeño peppers, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup water)
Combine ingredients and serve in margarita glass with salted rim (this one uses Himalayan black salt). Garnish with blood orange and jalapeño wheels.