Well the holidays have finally arrived – my favorite time of year! I love having some time to rest and relax and enjoy quality time with friends and family, especially around the table sharing delicious food and wine. So to celebrate the season, I’ve rounded up some of my favorite holiday recipes that I’ve created over the years – either for myself or a few of my clients (KitchenAid, Colavita and Seven Barrels), that I wanted to share with all of you. From appetizers, to salads, to desserts, entrees and cocktails, they all have that special magic touch perfect for the holidays.
I’d love to hear in the comments below what some your favorite holiday recipes are too – feel free to post them and share a link below, and if you want to share my recipes online please include a link back to my site and credit to Kristen Hess / The Artful Gourmet and @artfulgourmeton social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr).
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and a joyous and prosperous New Year 2017!
So here is my award winning Mac and Cheese recipe that I am proud to share with all of you! I was awarded as a Grand Prize Winner in the Challenge Dairy Real Heritage Recipe Contest for my Amazing Macaroni and Cheese! Although this was a few years ago, I am still so grateful for this opportunity to submit my winning recipe and to be a part of this amazing recipe contest. Check out the story I wrote and winning recipe below, andmore contest winners on Challenge Dairy’s website.
There’s No Place Like Home
Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.
That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.
One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.
My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.
I hopped in a cab to Zabar’s (my favorite gourmet store on the Upper West Side) with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, heavy cream, premium real butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta – this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese. Definitely not your Mama’s.
I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.
Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.
Amazing Macaroni + Cheese > There’s No Place Like Home
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Yield: Yields 6-8 servings.
Serving Size: 1 cup
This is a super luscious and decadent grown up Mac and Cheese! Filled with Gruyere, Fontina and Mascarpone for extra creaminess, a little cooked bacon and a Parmesan buttery bread crumb topping for extra crunch. Definitely worthy of a special occasion or the holidays to impress your guests!
4 slices bacon or pancetta, cooked and crumbled
5 ½ tablespoons Challenge European Style Butter (salted), divided
¾ cup Japanese Panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
dash of nutmeg (? teaspoon)
dash of ground cayenne pepper (? teaspoon)
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte cheese, grated (3 oz.)
1 cup Fontina cheese, chopped into small pieces (5¼ oz.)
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 ½ cups dry elbow macaroni (6 oz.)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine, plus extra for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Cook the bacon or pancetta, drain and crumble and set aside.
In a small sauce pan, melt 2½ tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the bread crumbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.
Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, do not let the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cream; cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, Gruyère, Fontina , Mascarpone. Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.
Prepare pasta according to package directions for al dente (7 - 8 minutes). Drain the macaroni and combine with the cheese sauce. Add crumbled bacon and parsley; mix well.
Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly. Serve hot immediately and garnish with additional fresh parsley, if desired.
You can also substitute the meat using some baked ham or prosciutto, or make it vegetarian and just add extra cheese or some veggies like zucchini, squash, brussels sprouts or mushrooms.
This recipe is also delicious with a little drizzle of truffle oil in the cheese sauce or topped with white or black truffle salt as a garnish.
Croquettes are delicious small fried food rolls – crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy on the inside. They are usually filled with mashed potatoes or minced meat such as beef or veal, poultry, fish, vegetables or shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp and salmon are common). The ingredients are mixed together with fresh herbs and spices and oftentimes a creamy white sauce, then shaped into cylindrical patties, coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried (or you can bake these in the oven if you prefer).
Originating in France, the word croquette means “to crunch”. Perfect for a cocktail party appetizer or just a luscious small dish, served with a salad and a glass of crisp white wine. Serve with a remoulade dipping sauce and a splash of lemon.
1 1/3 c chicken, finely shredded (white meat)
2/3 cup mushrooms, finely chopped (cremini and/or white button)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp celery salt
dash of cayenne
dash of nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c canola oil, for frying
Herb Cream Sauce
1/4 c butter
1/2 c flour
1 c. chicken stock
1/3 c cream
1/2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
2 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp chopped capers
1 ½ tbsp chopped chives
1 ½ tbsp. chopped tarragon
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp chopped chipotle pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
Tabasco, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
To prepare remoulade: In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, capers, chives, tarragon, parsley, chipotle pepper, and Dijon mustard. Add Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce and lemon juice to taste. Cover and chill until ready to use.
To make the croquettes, first shred and chop the warm, cooked chicken (a rotisserie chicken is a fast and easy way to do this or you can use shredded parboiled chicken). Finely chop the mushrooms and mix in salt, celery salt, cayenne and nutmeg, mixing all ingredients together.
Make the herb cream sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and slowly adding flour, chicken stock, herbs and cream together, whisking thoroughly and often until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Add the sauce to the chicken and mushroom mixture, then add one beaten egg until it has a moist but firm texture; set aside to cool. Shape into cylindrical patties and coat with breadcrumbs. Place croquettes in a frying pan in heated oil over medium high and fry until the croquettes have a crispy, golden brown crust, about 5-6 minutes, and drain on paper towels.
Serve with a side salad of mixed greens with lemon juice and olive oil dressing, a crisp white wine and remoulade sauce for dipping.