5 Crowd-Pleasing Holiday Recipes and the Stories Behind Them

Herb-Roasted King Salmon with Pinot Noir Sauce Recipe

Salmon Fit for a King

As young actors in New York in the early ’80s, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I couldn’t afford to give presents, so instead we would invite friends over to our one-bedroom apartment for elaborate 10-course meals. The portions were tiny, but I cooked my heart out. We served wines we’d been given as tips from various catering jobs. The women wore their best gowns, the men were in jackets and ties, and everyone brought extra silverware or plates … even chairs! I always included a few recipes from Food & Wine, where I have worked off and on for 38 years: editor W. Peter Prestcott’s shredded brussels sprouts sautéed with beef stock and heavy cream (December 1984); Bob Chambers’ Chocolate Shortbread Hearts (February 1988); the roasted salmon with Pinot Noir sauce from the Hotel Sorrento, suffused with tarragon, fennel, and thyme (May 1987). It was a way we could say “I love you” to our best friends, and it’s now a tradition we remember with joy. —David Mccann, Former Test Kitchen Assistant and Actor

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Black Friday Stew

Red Wine Venison Stew Recipe

Every year, I make venison stew for about 30 people the day after Thanksgiving. It’s become a time-honored tradition, if 15 or 20 years of doing so counts as time-honored. I am able to do this because my uncle-in-law is basically a WASP banker with strong good ol’ boy tendencies, and he spends much of his free time shooting things; the trailer hitch of his SUV is a brass plate that looks like the end of a 10-gauge shotgun shell. Last year, on the day I was actually making the stew, I ran out to get gas for my car, and the local deer community decided to exact retribution for all those years of stewing up their relatives with juniper berries, mushrooms, onions, and so on. (Evidently deer do not have a sense of humor when it comes to being turned into stew.) The deer chosen for the honor did a kamikaze bolt into the front driver’s side of my car, destroying the car (and itself) but failing to kill me in the process. Ha! Nice try. I went back, finished up the stew, served it to everyone, and headed out the next day to look for a new car. Take that, you furry bastards. 
—Ray Isle, Executive Wine Editor

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Lobster For a Crowd

Pan-Roasted Lobster with Chive Beurre Blanc

When I spend the holidays with my family in Boston, there are some constants: a fire in the fireplace, my dad’s old-fashioned in a Spode Christmas tree glass, and a pan-roasted Maine lobster dinner. It’s my simplified adaptation of a fancy restaurant dish: quartered lobster roasted in butter, flambéed with bourbon or sherry, then drowned in chive beurre blanc with lobster roe. Restaurants prepare each lobster in its own skillet, but you get the same 
result—and easily feed a crowd—using a hot oven and a sheet pan. —Mary-Frances Heck, Senior Food Editor

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Best-Ever Brisket

Cranberry-Onion Hanukkah Brisket

About 12 years ago, Jason, my husband, who is Jewish, insisted on making me his three-ingredient brisket for Hanukkah. He lined a roasting pan with enormous sheets of heavy-duty foil, plopped a 5-pound brisket on top, then slathered it 
in a combination of Lipton onion soup mix and canned cranberry sauce. I remember looking on in dismay as he assembled this nightmare. When it was done braising, I was informed we wouldn’t eat it until the next day—it was better if chilled overnight because he could then remove much of the fat, slice it easily, and rewarm it in all the juices. As lowbrow as it seemed, it was, to my surprise, incredibly delicious. Now, after over a decade of cooking professionally and discovering some of the best recipes in the country, it is still our tradition to make this brisket for Hanukkah. My version’s a little fancier, but the original is still close to my heart. —Justin Chapple, Culinary Director-At-Large

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A Hot Pot Holiday

Steak and Shrimp Hot Pot Broth Recipe

As a chef, I've spent a lot of holidays in restaurant kitchens. Only in the past few years have I had time to be home with my family. While they would love for me to cook for them, I’d rather relax than prepare a big dinner. Our compromise: We do hot pot. There is a small amount of prep to be done (cutting up vegetables, mainly), but using the butcher counters at the local Asian and Latin markets really helps to get the meats prefabricated and done. We set up one big communal pot in the middle of the table on top of a burner and fill it with soup stock for cooking the raw meats and vegetables. We lay out a spread of raw mushrooms, cabbage, tofu, dumplings (a good frozen one is not a terrible thing to have around), daikon, shrimp, watercress, pea shoots, thinly sliced beef, pork, chicken, and basically anything else we can boil somewhat quickly and pick out of the pot. Everyone also gets a bowl to create their own dipping sauce, so they can pick their food straight out of the pot and dip it into their own customized sauce. I like mine with raw egg, scallions, cilantro, vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, and hot chile paste. Toward the end of the meal, we’ll drop in some noodles to cook in the now-extra-flavored soup base so we can finish the meal with a bowl of noodles. —Nick Wong, Chef De Cuisine, Ub Preserv, Houston

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