12 Holiday Dinners That You Unwrap Like Delicious Gifts
This holiday season, let Chef John be your dinner-time Santa Claus. True, we can always count on Chef John to deliver the gift of a delicious meal. But with these top-rated recipes, he's gifting us with delectable dishes that feature hidden treasures buried within. Each one like a savory Christmas present. Go ahead, tear into them to reveal the savory somethings inside. Enjoy them throughout the holidays, as well as for Christmas or Christmas Eve dinners. They are Chef John's 12 dinners of Christmas.
Cranberry Stuffed Game Hens
Let's start this celebration with a Christmas classic in miniature, with game hens replacing the big bird here. Dig in to discover the walnut-bread and dried cranberry-stuffing! "If you're cooking for a smaller group during the holidays, game hens are a fantastic way to downsize, without losing any of the special occasion feel," says Chef John. "Even stuffed to excess, they only roast for about an hour in a hot oven, and as long as you don't overcook them (use a thermometer!), you'll be enjoying the kind of juicy, flavorful meat that people cooking turkey only dream of."
Chef John's Salmon in Parchment
Maybe the best thing about baking fish in parchment paper is you can also cook your vegetables right alongside your main dish--it's a complete meal all wrapped up in a pretty package! Chef John says, "Cooking fish in parchment paper is incredibly simple. Just make sure your fish is completely thawed. It doesn't need to be room temp, but if it's still ice-cold, the cooking time will be longer. Also, be sure whatever vegetables you include in the packet are pre-cooked enough to finish during the 15 minute cooking time."
Chef John's Baby Porchetta
This pork tenderloin is rubbed down with an aromatic paste of fennel, garlic, sage, rosemary, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and lemon zest and then swaddled up with strips of bacon and roasted until the bacon is perfectly crispy and the pork "is amazingly moist and tender," says Chef John.
Chef John's Chicken Kiev
It's Christmas in Kiev. Chef John confesses, "I'm not going to say this chicken Kiev is 'easy to make.' It's really not. So, why try? Because, if and when you pull this off, you'll be enjoying one of the greatest chicken experiences of your life. It's also one of the greatest garlic experiences of your life, as well as one of the greatest butter experiences of your life."
Chef John's Beef Rouladen
"For something that looks and tastes as impressive as this beef rouladen, it's actually one of the simplest stuffed meat recipes I know," says Chef John. "You can pretty much use any cheap cut of beef; I used round steak, but rump, chuck, flap meat, and other similar cuts will work work."
Baked Stuffed Brie with Cranberries & Walnuts
This incredible baked brie features a festive, seasonally appropriate filling of cranberries and walnuts. "One of the most common mistakes people make when serving cheese is not letting it come to room temperature first, so that all the flavors can be fully realized," says Chef John. "This beautiful baked stuffed brie takes that principle to the next level."
Bacon-Wrapped Cranberry Walnut Pork
"This amazing roast pork recipe is more than festive enough for the fanciest of holiday menus, but it's also fast and easy enough for any old weeknight," says Chef John. "Just keep that last part to yourself, so as not to ruin the mystique. Beyond being able to adapt this to your tastes, another advantage is that we can prep it ahead of time, and just pop it into the oven when we're ready to rock, and by 'rock,' I mean impress our guests."
Chicken and Mushroom Chimichangas
Break through the crispy crunchy tortilla shell to reveal succulent chicken, earthy mushrooms, green chiles, and pepperjack cheese. "This is not Mexican food," says Chef John. "It's a 100% American invention. These chimi's are not deep fried, they're pan-fried in a little oil. I like to serve with dollops of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa."
Stuffed and Rolled Pork Tenderloin
You'll stuff pork tenderloin with fresh parsley, rosemary, garlic, plain breadcrumbs, and currants, the secret ingredient. "Sometimes you just have to show off," says Chef John. "This is one of my many recipes that looks very impressive to your dinner guests but is, in fact, quite simple and easy to prepare."
Chef John's Scotch Eggs
Instinctively, we think of these sausage-wrapped fried eggs as maybe more of an Easter thing. But truly, it's all we want for Christmas -- for Christmas brunch, anyway. "In my version of Scotch eggs, I keep the egg soft, so when you bite in, you get that amazing contrast in texture between the molten yolk and the crispy sausage shell," says Chef John.
Chef John's Pumpkin-Braised Pork
OK, how impressive is this? Fill a cooking pumpkin with seasoned pork shoulder, pour in some hard cider, and slow braise in the oven. "A whole pumpkin produced some very succulent, flavorful pork and also made for an absolutely stunning presentation," says Chef John. "This looked so good, that many people might think it was faked, which really is the ultimate compliment. I plated mine up with buttery mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts."
Chef John's Beef Braciole
Celebrate the season with one of Chef John's all-time favorite Italian recipes. A little rustic, a bit fancy, and all delicious. It's pounded steak stuffed and rolled, and then braised in tomato sauce. "This is stuffed, rolled beef that's cooked in a little bit of tomato sauce," says Chef John. "I didn't have some of the classic ingredients like currants and pinenuts, but used what I had, and it came out wonderfully. Fill it with your favorite dried fruit, nuts, herbs, cheese, etc. Enjoy!"