Homemade Podcast Episode 28: The Holiday Table
Festive doesn’t have to mean fussy. Here’s how our nine of our guests celebrate the holidays at home.
What’s the one food that has to be on your holiday table? Your grandmother's recipe? Your signature cookies? One of the easier dishes in your repertoire? Host Martie Duncan asked this question to several Homemade guests, and these are just a few of their (very relatable) answers. As it turns out, even chefs and food media personalities turn to traditions over trendy recipes when planning their menus for Christmas, Hanukkah, and Thanksgiving.
On this episode of Homemade, get to know our guests through their favorite festive foods. Marcus Samuelsson, Ina Garten, Simon Majumdar, Alex Guarnaschelli, Eitan Bernath, Anne Burrell, Patricia Heaton, Dorie Greenspan, and Dan Pashman join us to share stories and a few recipe how-tos. The conversation includes turkey tips, two classic recipes that call for booze, and un-fancy dishes that feel right at home on the holiday table. Download it for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning December 23.
MARTIE DUNCAN: Welcome to Homemade. I'm Martie Duncan. Well, Thanksgiving has passed, but Christmas and New Years are knocking at the door. Maybe you’re looking for something special to add to your holiday table. Or, perhaps some tips for working more efficiently in your kitchen so you can enjoy more time with your family.
Good news! We've got some experts with us today who've got a lot really great ideas, starting with the centerpiece of most holiday meals.
MARCUS SAMUELSSON: So, we have turkey as Swedes, but our turkey was on Christmas, because Thanksgiving is just not something that I grew up with.
MARTIE: That's Chef Marcus Samuelsson. You might know him from Food Network's "Chopped." He's also won "Top Chef Masters." Marcus was born in Ethiopia, but he grew up in Sweden. These days, he's got restaurants all over the world. In Harlem, his restaurant is called Red Rooster. It is a staple of the community. And his new book is titled The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food. It's filled with wonderful stories, food history, and recipes.
MARCUS: I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday. Everybody gets together. So now when I roast my turkey — and I do it the way my grandmother taught me, I do it on Thanksgiving. But I always think about it as a Christmas item because that was the time that we had that. And obviously, the second day and the third day meal, it's even better whether you do a soup, turkey soup, with all those great...
MARCUS: Leftovers. And maybe you can even get a sandwich in on the third day. It's also transformational, being a Swede and becoming American. As an immigrant, we take so much pride in coming to this new country. And like Thanksgiving is the time, like, "I am an American!" You know?
MARTIE: Right! It's such a traditional American holiday. OK, walk me through how you roast that turkey. This is something I need to know.
MARCUS: Yes. So I actually love — if you want a juicy turkey, I like to brine it maybe a day or two before, then pat it dry. And then, actually, I cut it in half and spatchcock it like this.
MARTIE: Spatchcock it, yeah.
MARCUS: Because with the breast meat, it can get so dry. So the only way I can actually get evenly cooked at the same time and done at the same time is if you spatchcock it. I start with around 300 degrees in the oven, and then the last half an hour I turn my oven up to about 425, even deglaze it with all of that turkey fat that comes out. Then I add a little bit of maple syrup in the last 15 minutes. So it gets the super crispy skin and it's super delicious.
MARTIE: Ooo, it sounds good.
MARCUS: Always juicy.
MARTIE: That's a trick I haven't heard about, the maple syrup. So tell me real quick, just so...
MARCUS: Yeah, I mean, you have this, obviously...
MARTIE: You baste it...
MARCUS: You baste it.
MARTIE: With maple syrup.
MARCUS: But you've got to be patient. Got you got to do it to the very end. Because if you do too early, it's going to burn.
MARCUS: You want to take some good butter, take some of that turkey fat, all that beautiful stuff that comes out. Mix it, butter, maple syrup, maybe even some soy, to get that perfect color on it. And that's your last 15 to 20 minutes, and that's how you get it crispy.
INA GARTEN: What I do is what's called a dry brine.
MARTIE: That's the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten.
INA: So, for example, in my book Make It Ahead, I have a turkey that I rub the outside with lemon zest, salt, and thyme. I think that's what it is. And you put it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, and the seasoning really gets into the meat. Because very often the seasoning's just on the outside, but the meat of the turkey is really kind of boring. And this is a turkey that you actually make earlier in the day. You carve the whole thing up, you make gravy ahead, and then do a puddle of gravy on the oven-proof platter, slice the turkey and just set it aside, cover it and set it aside. And just before dinner, put the whole thing in the oven and reheat it. And it comes out so moist because the turkey is sitting on the gravy, and it stays really warm for a long time. It's the best turkey. So, a dry brine is best.
MARTIE: I think that sounds easy, too.
INA: And you're not worried about whether it's done or not. You know, it's all done before guests arrive.
MARTIE: If there’s one thing that Ina values, it's making big meals as low-fuss as possible so she can enjoy company instead of spending all of her time in the kitchen. But that doesn't mean a meal has to be basic.
INA: I think — it's luxurious, so it's good for the holidays — but I think, like a roast filet of beef is the easiest meal in the world to make. And you can make all different kinds of sauces. You can make a cold horseradish sauce or you can make a hot gorgonzola sauce. You can just serve it with mustard, and you've got a great dinner that's really special and it doesn't take any time at all.
MARTIE: I usually do like a big rack or something for Christmas or Christmas Eve.
INA: Standing rib roast.
MARTIE: Yeah, a standing rib roast or something like that. And I think this sounds a lot easier.
INA: And it's easier to carve. All you have to do is just slice it. And if it's slow roasted, it comes out perfectly. The perfect temperature, like, perfectly rare all the way through. It's just great.
MARTIE: Celebrity cook, author, and world traveler Simon Majumdar also has his favorite, and his meal is inspired by his British roots.
SIMON MAJUMDAR: Even though I've been in the United States now for nearly 11 years, I'm still kind of easing my way into American holidays. So I still think of, for me, the big holidays in the United Kingdom. So Christmas is obviously a huge one. But the one that I really loved was Easter.
And my mom would always cook lamb on Easter, of course, the paschal lamb, the Easter lamb. And she would always cook a huge shoulder of lamb. And shoulder of lamb to me is one of the most delicious dishes in the world because it's a little fattier. The outside skin goes crunchy and crispy if you rub it down with a bit of flour and oil and lots of salt, pepper.
And so for me, a big thing of roast lamb with a mint sauce made out of fresh mint, a little bit of sugar and vinegar and salt. And then really good, because of the time, new potatoes, the first potatoes that are coming through almost like little fingerlings just boiled with butter on top and a bit of salt, just super simple.
MARTIE: So on your holiday table for Christmas, you're going to do like a traditional British style? Like Yorkshire pudding and a big roast? Or are you going to do something more American?
SIMON: I would do probably the British style. So we have classics like bread sauce, which is something that a lot of Americans don't know. But that's a classic and really wonderful. Super simple again. You get a whole onion, stud it with cloves, put it in milk, and just simmer it very, very, very gently. And that flavors — the onion and the clove flavors the milk. Take the onion out. You can use that for something else. Throw away the cloves. And this is a classic Victorian Christmas meal. You then get stale bread, blitz that to crumbs, and you just cook that down in the milk. So, super simple, salt, pepper. This is a classic accompaniment to wild game like grouse, wonderful with pheasant. Then you'd have big fat pork sausages wrapped in bacon, roasted. You'd have stuffing or dressing, big roast bird, a lot of different vegetables for me. I have a lot of cabbage, carrots. All of those wonderful things.
And then, of course, you have to have two desserts for me. One is you have to have a classic English trifle. So those layers of biscuits at the bottom, English custard, fruit, and jelly topped off with whipped cream and shavings of chocolate.
MARTIE: Oh yum.
SIMON: And then secondly, which is important, you've got to have a big old Christmas pudding that's brought to the table flaming in brandy. And you've got to have it with brandy butter, or ice cream, but I love brandy butter. And the key is, we always did it — you'd probably get arrested if you did it now. But you brought it to the table and in the pudding, which is usually mixed about six months before, because you kind of pour alcohol over it, like a really great fruitcake. But while you're mixing it, my mom would put one of the old coins, a sixpence, and you would put that in the cake mix. And then if you've got the sixpence in your portion, then that meant you had good luck for the rest of the year.
MARTIE: Oh yeah, that's like a king cake with a baby.
SIMON: Yeah. And if anyone's ever tried one, it's really rich and delicious, fruity, dark. You cover it to brandy or rum. And you can buy them here now in the United States, smaller ones. The traditional ones, it was a classic pudding that you steamed for a few hours. The modern ones, you could do more quickly. But I just love that with just like brandy butter or a big dollop of ice cream or something.
MARTIE: For "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli, Christmas is a time she lets her teenage daughter take control of the kitchen.
ALEX GUARNASCHELLI: It's really become more about Ava. She loves Gordon Ramsay, the chef. So instead of taking any of my recipes, she takes his beef Wellington and she makes that. That's kind of a tradition for her. And then we always have fish, some type of seafood, like some shrimp. Or she likes eel or lobster or squid or octopus. We always have some sort of unusual — we don't get the seven fishes.
ALEX: We get to like two fishes. And it wouldn't be Christmas without those things for me.
MARTIE: All right. So I want to make this mashed potato souffle thing for Christmas or for Thanksgiving.
ALEX: It's so good.
MARTIE: Walk me through that real quick, if you don't mind.
ALEX: So you make traditional mashed potatoes with the butter cream and milk and boiled potatoes, and then when that's finished and still warm, you fold in unsweetened whipped cream that's whipped, like as if it were going to go on dessert but it doesn't. And grated Parmesan cheese. And then you pour this mixture, which is a little bit liquid-y into a baking dish that's greased. And then you top it with more Parmesan cheese and you put it in a really hot oven and you bake it. And it kind of puffs up. It's still liquid-y, like mashed potatoes. It doesn't become a soufflé, per say. But it just has a different texture because it's both mashed and then baked, and it gets a little bit sort of fluffy and aerated from the whipped cream. But more importantly, the ultimate hat trick is how so many rich ingredients come together and end up tasting unbelievably light. And I think my mother really loves that about French cooking.
MARTIE: I cannot wait to make this. I bet a lot of our listeners are gonna make it as well. So the recipe, we can find it if we search for it online.
ALEX: Oh, yes, for sure.
MARTIE: Alex's daughter Ava isn't the only teenager who's comfortable in the kitchen. You may have one in your house, as well. And there's a pretty good chance they've been inspired by Eitan Bernath. The 18 year old is dominating TikTok, and he's got more than a million followers who can’t get enough of his cooking videos.
EITAN BERNATH: Most of the cooking I do is on camera nowadays because of much content I create.
EITAN: I honestly try to make the holidays, a lot of times, a time when I cook not with the camera. So, cook with family sometimes. One of my mom's cousins who actually worked in the food industry for a while, I'll cook with him. Shout out to you, Sean.
MARTIE: Yeah, Sean.
EITAN: Or cook with my grandma and different things like that. So for me, it's really, I think family's the most important. And then next to that — weird segue from family to this — next is mashed potatoes. I think mashed potatoes are one of the most incredible things in the entire universe. And I have an unpopular opinion that French fries dipped in mashed potatoes is delicious. And anybody who has not tried it, they, they, they — their life is not going to be the same after.
MARTIE: I've never tried it. But how could you not like potato on potato?
EITAN: Not only potato on potato: crispy potato dipped into creamy potato. There is no sauce better for French fries than mashed potatoes, which I know is technically not a sauce. And I will stick by that till the day I die.
MARTIE: I'll give you credit for that one. I have never tried it. Never thought about trying it.
EITAN: You got to.
MARTIE: But I would. Now that you've you brought it up, I will try it. I do like fried potato patties with leftover mashed potatoes, like if I have some. I'll put in a little bit of egg, maybe some cheese or scallion or onion or whatever I have. And then fry it where it gets really crispy.
EITAN: Ooh. Kind of like a latke, almost.
MARTIE: Yeah, almost. But I use the leftover mashed potatoes rather than grating the potatoes, because then you bite and you get that crispy, crispy bit on the outside.
EITAN: That sounds delicious.
MARTIE: And then that squishy, lovely, pillowy mashed potato on the inside. That's one of my favorites.
MARTIE: Another thing I like to make Christmas week is carbonara. It's a really easy, really delicious dish. I base my carbonara recipe on Anne Burrell's recipe, the one she learned while she was working in Italy. You know Anne from "Iron Chef" and also from her show "Worst Cooks," which is one of the longest running shows on Food Network. I asked Anne to walk us through the recipe.
ANNE BURRELL: It is such a quick and easy thing to make. And it's so, so, so delicious. You start off a pan, a cold pan, and either pancetta or guanciale. I mean, a lot of people can't find guanciale, which is cured pork jowl. It behaves just like pancetta or bacon, but it has a little bit of a sweeter flavor. So you put that in a cold pan with just a splash of olive oil and you bring it to a low heat and let the fat render out. So, you kind of get golden pancetta or guanciale. Just cook it really gently in its own fat until it gets golden and crispy delicious.
On the side, while that's happening, you take a bunch of eggs. I like to make mine a little bit more saucy than most people. So, I use a decent amount of eggs. I use, per pound of pasta like eight eggs. So it's like beat those together with a whole bunch of either Parmigiano or pecorrino. This is one place I use black pepper because it's very traditional. And you beat that together till it's a homogeneous mixture. You cook your spaghetti or whatever pasta it is. You take it right from the pan into your pan full of fat, and toss it all around. So like, the hot spaghetti, the hot bacon grease or pancetta grease, and then you turn your pan off and stir in those eggs and cheese really quickly. And keep it moving. So the residual heat from the pasta and the bacon grease or the pancetta grease is what cooks the eggs ever so gently. So it becomes like a sauce, like a cream sauce, but there's no cream in it. It's like a custard.
MARTIE Ooo, delicious.
ANNE You can stop stirring and put a lid on it for like 30 seconds just so all that steam and vapor just kind of cooks those eggs ever so gently. Then take it off. One more big spin around, and eat it immediately. Don't wait.
MARTIE: Coming up after the break, a creative way to use your leftovers and making the perfect eggnog.
I'm Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.
PATRICIA HEATON: If you can safely get together with your family and friends, don't stress about the food.
MARTIE: That's good advice from three-time Emmy Award winning actress and favorite TV mom Debra Barone on "Everybody Loves Raymond," actress Patricia Heaton. One of those Emmy's she won was for outstanding culinary program for her show, "Patricia Heaton Parties."
PATRICIA: Because my husband's British, they have a little thing they have over there called Christmas crackers. And they're these little cardboard tubes with little gifts and jokes inside and little paper crowns. And you take one end and the person seated next to you takes the other and you pull it apart and it cracks. That's why they call it a cracker. And your toy flies out and your jokes fly out. And you put your crown on your head and you all sit around with your paper crowns, looking very silly, which is a great way to just relax and have fun.
MARTIE: I love it.
PATRICIA: And you read your jokes and your brainteaser questions out to each other. So that's one thing that we've been doing for years. And my husband insists on getting them shipped from either Harrods or Fortnum and Mason.
MARTIE: Fortnum and Mason, my favorite store ever.
PATRICIA: Yes! (laughs)
MARTIE: But I love those traditions, those family traditions, things you do year after year. And I love the fact that you're bringing these cultural things from your husband's background into it also.
MARTIE: Now, what would the one dish be, that it wouldn't be the holidays at your house without blank? What would that be? The one dish that you have to have to make your holiday feel complete?
PATRICIA: Well, I think we're fairly traditional in an American sense, the stuffing and the cranberry sauce. I mean, I grew up with that cranberry sauce out of the can that you slice.
MARTIE: I love it. I gotta tell you, I love it.
PATRICIA: I just feel like my boys — I've always made my own cranberry sauce because I just thought they're going to make fun of me for this cranberry stuff in a can. You know, we're in L.A. It's very, like, everything has to be organic. You're not going to do the cranberry stuff out of a can. But I feel like I should have really made that a tradition in our family just to bring my Ohio roots into the equation.
MARTIE: It's not too late. You can do it now. I do both, because there was just something so satisfying about taking that can —that would always be my job in the kitchen with my mom — and cutting the bottom and the top off of the can. And then holding and shaking it until the plop.
PATRICIA: Yeah, but it makes it kind of like sucking noise as it comes out. You know, it's like...
MARTIE: There's something so satisfying about that. I love making the cranberry sauce from scratch, like you. I read your recipe where you do the cranberries, a little bit of water, some sugar, orange.
PATRICIA: It's so interesting because cranberry sauce is the easiest thing to make, and it's so much more satisfying, I think, when you can make it fresh like that. I mean, there is something about the canned stuff, as we said. But I love having big bowls of it, because I eat it with all the leftovers. And we're just a big relish family. My husband really loves chutney because he's British. So we always have to have a lot of jars of chutney with us. And relish is kind of like, I don't know what the origins are, but to me it's sort of that American version of chutney.
MARTIE: It is. And you can keep it for a while, even in the fridge. I saw where you do a cornbread muffin. And I think this is a perfect dish for the day after Thanksgiving or the day after Christmas. The cornbread muffin where you put the cranberry relish and then you stuff it with ham.
PATRICIA: Yes. Or turkey. To do that with leftovers. Yeah.
MARTIE: It's called Cranberry Cornbread Bites, for anybody who wants to Google it. It's such a great idea for the day after a holiday, and then you can serve it up with some soup or chili or something. I think it’s a wonderful idea.
DORIE GREENSPAN: If I could only have one autumn fruit, it would be apple. Baked apples, a lot of people don't like them. I love them.
MARTIE: That’s legendary baker Dorie Greenspan. She’s the author of 13 cookbooks and winner of five James Beard Awards.
DORIE I'm really attracted to galette. I'm not a fancy baker. When I first started baking...
MARTIE I'm not a fancy baker! I'm just known for it worldwide... not a fancy baker. Oh, I think you're a fancy banker. Yes.
DORIE I'm not. I don't do a lot of decorating. So a galette, that's the perfect dessert for me. I love dough. I love pie dough, tart dough. But with the galette, you just roll the dough out any which way. It's nice that it has ragged edges. It doesn't have to be a particular size. I like it a little thick, actually, so it makes it even easier. And then maybe some bread crumbs on the bottom and sliced apples and a little honey over the top, maybe some spice, into the oven. To me that's a perfect fall dessert. Ice cream, it needs ice cream on top.
ALEX: The thing about the holidays is you have so many things that have a lot of fruit and a lot of sweetness to them. Even at Thanksgiving you have cranberry sauce, which feels almost like a dessert, then you have all those pies. And at Christmas, you know, you're going to have those big desserts. But for me, I feel like chocolate and something that's not super sweet, like a sesame cookie, are the things that get overlooked in the holiday menus.
MARTIE: While Alex Guarnashelli is known for her savory cooking, but she’s also got a ton of cookie recipes.
ALEX: You would be surprised at Thanksgiving or Christmas when you bust out just good old chocolate chip cookies that are well made, how grateful people are to have something that's like kind of not holiday grace the table with all the holiday dishes. It almost provides this like little refuge or this little variety. It always works.
MARTIE: I love the idea of these sesame cookies. I did see that as one of the recipes in your new book. Tell us about those. How did those come to be? Is that something from your Italian roots? Where does that come from?
ALEX: It actually doesn't. It's one of those recipes that I picked up working in kitchens. It isn't something at all that comes from my childhood or from my parents. And there are some things that just provide that relief, too. Like, "Oh, God, does every recipe have to be a story about my mom or dad?" And the answer is no. Sometimes there's just something that crosses your path in another way. This is one of those recipes.
MARTIE: Well, it looks delicious and like a lot of people don't like really sweet things. So when you have that person in your family, this seems like a wonderful recipe to pop out for. Like you said, for the holidays.
ALEX: You could dunk them in chocolate or top them with jam or sautéd fruit, and they'd become something more. And I kind of like the versatility of something that's almost unadorned but delicious. And then you can take it to another level if you want.
MARTIE: We're going to close out this show with Dan Pashman. He's the host of The Sporkful podcast. He's got a holiday favorite in his house, his mom's thumbprint cookie.
DAN: Oh, for sure. I grew up making that dough with my mom, and we'd roll it into small balls, maybe about the diameter of a quarter and put them all out, and then she has a clothespin. She actually makes the thumbprints using a clothespin that has like a knob on the top. It's like an old-fashioned — it's not one of those clothespins that has the spring. It's her grandmother's, my great grandmother's clothespin.
MARTIE: Oh my.
DAN: Before they had metal spring on, they were just kind of like a clip.
DAN: It had sort of like a little almost like a hair bun on the top of it, you know, a little like round ball that would go on the top of the clothespin. And you press that down and you make — then you bake them and you put a little raspberry jam in.
MARTIE: Dan is Jewish, so there’s no Christmas dinner on his table. But that doesn’t meal there isn’t a Christmas meal for him, his wife, and their two kids.
DAN: Every year, Christmas Day, we drive into New York City, we volunteer, we deliver meals with our kids.
MARTIE: That's a great family tradition. I love that.
DAN: Yeah. I'm glad we do that. So like we go to a shelter. We help package the meals and then deliver them to seniors around New York who can't cook for themselves on Christmas. The kids sing Christmas carols and stuff. And that's fun.
MARTIE: I love that. Oh.
DAN: Yeah. So that's really nice.
MARTIE: All right. I have two words to say to you now that we're talking about the holidays.
MARTIE: Egg nog.
DAN: Oh! Yes. Every year around Christmas or New Year's, I make one batch of homemade eggnog. I use the Joy of Cooking recipe, although I'm sure there's also great recipes on Allrecipes. You know, there's more than one way to make an eggnog. But I grew up drinking eggnog out of the carton. I had never had real homemade eggnog until a coworker of mine brought it in once around Christmas. And then I was like, "Oh my God, this is ridiculous."
MARTIE: So tell me. You make it. Can you walk me through how you do it?
DAN: It's really pretty straightforward. You're basically like making a cake. But without — instead of flour, you put in liquor.
DAN: And then you drink the cake.
MARTIE: Yeah, don't bake it. Just drink it.
DAN: Right, yeah. It's like a dozen eggs, a pound of sugar, a gallon or a half gallon of heavy cream. And like a bottle of liquor. And you just mix them together in the right order and you end up with this absolutely magical concoction. Definitely let it sit in the fridge overnight after you mix all together. It's got to kind of come together and get real chilled.
MARTIE: Right. So, you separate the eggs.
DAN: Right. Separate the eggs. You make the drink only with the egg yolks. Keep the whites separate. And then when I go to serve it, I whip the whites into sort of a meringue and then I kind of fold that in. So you get the frothy egg whites on the top and...
MARTIE: And the light.
DAN: And you get the creamy...
MARTIE: It becomes lighter that way.
DAN: Oh, my God.
MARTIE: Now, are you a rum guy or a bourbon or whiskey or a brandy? Which do you prefer, all of the above?
DAN: Oh, you know, it's sort of whatever I have. That part varies a bit from one year to the next. I mean, definitely rum. I think I always want rum in there. I like to mix two. But it's, I guess by most often I would say rum and bourbon.
MARTIE: Yeah. Bourbon for me too.
DAN: Yeah. But sometimes if I've got brandy around and I feel like emptying that bottle then that's what we'll do.
MARTIE: Right. Brandy is very, very good. Sometimes I'll put a little bit of grand marnier in with that.
DAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
MARTIE: And a bit of orange zest and that's pretty good. They do some with booze, some without booze.
MARTIE: And there's always a lot left without booze. There's never any left with booze.
I hope you've enjoyed this holiday episode of Homemade. Thanks to all of the chefs, celebrities, and home cooks who've shared their stories and recipes with us here on the podcast and at Allrecipes.com.
If you've only recently discovered Homemade, be sure to go back and listen to conversations and food memories from folks like Guy Fieri, Patti LaBelle, Rachael Ray, Chef John from FoodWishes, Aaron Sanchez, Carla Hall, Justin Warner, and just so many more.
Don't forget, you can find thousands of recipes, meal ideas, and cooking how-tos from the world's largest community of cooks at Allrecipes.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
This podcast was recorded in Birmingham, edited in Atlanta, and can be found wherever you get your podcasts. Homemade is produced by Allrecipes with Executive Editor Jason Burnett. Thanks to our Pod People production team: Rachael King, Eliza Lambert, Tanya Ott, and Maya Kroth.
Thanks for listening! I’m Martie Duncan, and this is Homemade.