If you need holiday advice on good gifts, you turn to Santa.
If you need holiday travel advice, especially in fog, you turn to Rudolph.
So, if you need holiday food advice, turn to another expert: L’Ecole Culinaire.
A team of wonderful chefs was up early for us at their school and restaurant on the Plaza Thursday.
Program Director Toby Freeland shared some great ideas if you are asked to bring a dish to the holiday get-together, including a mac’n'cheese with a little luxury -- in the form of lobster.
He also rolled out a table of retro favorites, going back in time via your tastebuds.
From fondue to punch with a “punch” to a Yule Log.
All of these things are very doable at home.
But, according to Toby, whatever choice you make: Keep it simple and easy.
Don’t let the prep get in the way of the fun.
By the way, if you leave a little something for Santa…something from L’Ecole would be perfect.
Below, we've left a handful of recipe ideas from the experts:
· Baked Brie en Croute
· Smoked Trout Brandade
· Winter Squash Gratin
· Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
Baked Brie en Croute
· 1 each brie or double cream brie cheese, 6 inches
· 1 sheet puff pastry
· 1 cup mango chutney or other preserves
· 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or another nut
· 1 egg, slightly beaten
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove Brie from wrapper and using a knife, scrape rind off one side of brie. Spoon chutney on to side of brie without the rind and smooth out almost to the edges. Sprinkle on the walnuts, pressing them down into the chutney so they stay.
- Lay puff pastry on a surface, roll out or combine to sheets to make large enough to wrap around the brie. Flip brie over and center on puff pastry chutney side down. Wrap puff pastry around brie if necessary use another piece of puff pastry to completely wrap. Seal using beaten egg to glue pastry together
- Turn it over, smooth side up and place it on a parchment lined sheet tray. Cut out decorations using a paring knife or small cookie cutters. Color with food coloring if desired. Place your decorations on the top of the pastry. Brush with egg. Bake for 20 minutes or until the outside is golden, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 10-20 minutes longer.
- Serve with crackers, rustic breads, fruits and vegetables
Smoked Fish Brandade
- 8 ounces smoked fish (trout, cod, salmon)
- 11 ounces peeled baking potatoes, like russets
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt, and white pepper
- Cracker display
- Cook potatoes until tender in salted water, drain and cool.
- In a small saucepan cook garlic and cream over medium heat until tender 8 to 10 minutes and cool.
- In a food processor pulse the 1/4 of the garlic cream, potato and smoked fish at a time.
- Remove the mixture and repeat.
- Fold the olive oil in by hand. Adjust the seasoning. Brandade should be light and fluffy.
Butternut and Acorn Squash Gratin
- 8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ tsp olive oil
- 1 medium acorn squash, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 tsp unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped (divided)
- 1 tsp fresh sage, chopped
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 3 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Butter a 2 ½ quart gratin baking dish.
- Distribute half of the squash and garlic evenly in a single layer, alternating acorn and butternut.
- In a small bowl, combine the nutmeg, salt, pepper, 1 tsp of the thyme and sage. Sprinkle half of the mixture over the squash. Continue with the remaining ingredients in the same order.
- Pour cream over the assembled gratin and cover with a piece of parchment paper.
- Bake until squash is soft when pierced with a knife, about 40 to 45 minutes.
- Combine the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs in a small bowl.
- After about 30 minutes of baking time, remove parchment, gently smash down the squash to make sure it is covered in the cream. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the squash.
- Bake uncovered until golden brown, 10 – 15 minutes.
- Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Garnish with remaining thyme
Lobster Macaroni and Cheese
- 1-pound Cavatappi pasta
- 1-quart half and half
- 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 4 cups Gruyere cheese, grated
- 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ½ pounds lobster meat, cooked chopped roughly
- 1 ½ cups breadcrumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook according to the directions on the package, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
3. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg. Add the cooked macaroni and lobster and stir well. Place the mixture in 6 to 8 individual gratin dishes.
4. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine them with the fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.
- Cranberry Champagne Punch
- Cheese Fondue
- Dr. Pepper and Pineapple Ham
- Yule Log
Cranberry Champagne Punch
- 2 (750 ml) bottle champagne or sparkling wine
- 1 (750 ml) bottle white wine
- 1 (12 fl. oz.) can cranberry juice concentrate
- 1 (12 fl. oz.) can orange juice concentrate
- 1 (12 fl. oz.) can lemonade concentrate
- 2 (1 L) bottles of ginger ale
- Orange slices
- Lemon slices
- Fresh or frozen cranberries
- Mint leaves
- In large punch bowl, combine the cranberry juice concentrate, lemonade concentrate, orange juice concentrate and white wine, divide in half.
- Combine one half of the juice and wine mixture with one bottle of champagne and one bottle of ginger ale.
- Place some of the cranberries, lemons, oranges and mint into a Bundt pan or jello mold and fill with the champagne mixture.
- Place in the freezer overnight. When time to serve, pour ½ of the ginger ale and 1 bottle of the champagne into a punch bowl with the other half of the wine and juice mixture.
- Place in the frozen mold and garnish with oranges, cranberries, lemons and mint.
- 1/2 pound imported Swiss cheese, shredded
- 1/2-pound Gruyere cheese, shredded
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cherry brandy, such as kirsch
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- Pinch nutmeg
- Assorted dippers
- In a small bowl, coat the cheeses with cornstarch and set aside. Rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic, then discard.
- Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Gradually stir the cheese into the simmering liquid. Melting the cheese gradually encourages a smooth fondue. Once smooth, stir in cherry brandy, mustard and nutmeg.
- Arrange an assortment of bite-sized dipping foods on a lazy Susan around fondue pot. Serve with chunks of French and pumpernickel breads. Some other suggestions are Granny Smith apples and blanched vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and asparagus. Spear with fondue forks or wooden skewers, dip, swirl and enjoy!
Dr. Pepper Ham
- 1 whole Fully Cooked Bone-in Ham (15-18 Pounds)
- 24 pineapple rings
- 24 maraschino cherries
- Whole Cloves
- 3 cups Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup Spicy Brown Mustard
- 1 can Dr. Pepper or Coke
- 3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Score the surface of the ham in a diamond pattern about 1/8-inch deep. Place cloves in the middle of each diamond.
- Using toothpick, stick the cherries in a pattern around the ham, and hang a pineapple ring over each cherry.
- Place the ham in a large roasting pan with a rack, tent it with foil, and bake for 2 to 2/12 hours---or longer, depending on the package directions. (Some hams may require 3 to 3 1/2 hours at a lower temp; just check the package.)
Heat the brown sugar, mustard, vinegar and soda in a small saucepan until bubbly. Cook until reduced and a bit thicker, about 15 minutes.
After about 2 hours of baking time, remove the foil and brush the glaze on the ham in 20 minutes intervals (put the ham back in the oven, uncovered, in between) until it's nice and glossy.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest 15-20 minutes before carving.
For the Cake Layer:
· 6 eggs, separated
· ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
· ½ cup all-purpose flour
For the Hazelnut Mousse:
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 5 oz. hazelnuts, toasted
- 5 oz. milk chocolate, cut into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp. hazelnut oil
For the Chocolate Frosting:
- 12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
- 8 oz. unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
- ½ cup strong coffee
- ¼ cup sour cream
For the Cake layer:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Butter a jelly roll pan, line with parchment paper, butter the paper and sprinkle with flour, tapping to remove excess flour.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.
4. Meanwhile, place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Turn the machine up to high, and beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, continue to beat until shiny but not stiff. Add the flour to the yolk/sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Add ¼ of the egg whites to the yolk mixture, whisking to lighten the mixture. Then return the yolk mixture to the egg whites, and fold gently.
5. Scrape into the prepared pan and even the top by running a long offset spatula across the surface.
6. Bake until cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, l2 to l5 minutes.
7. Cool on a rack. Set aside.
For the Hazelnut Mousse:
- Place cooled hazelnuts on a kitchen towel and rub together to remove skins.
- Place the skinned hazelnuts in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 1 minute. Add the hazelnut oil through the feeder tube and process until a paste forms.
- Melt chocolate in a medium bowl placed over simmering water, or melt in a microwave oven. Add the melted chocolate to the hazelnut paste and set aside.
- Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Fold in the hazelnut/chocolate mixture. Keep covered in the refrigerator until needed.
To Assemble Cake Roll:
- Trim the edges of the sponge cake.
- Place the Hazelnut mousse on the cake layer.
- Spread the mixture evenly over the cake, leaving a 1-inch space along the long side.
- Using the parchment paper to aid you, carefully roll up the cake into a thick log, enclosing the mousse. Leave the wrapped, rolled-up cake on the sheet pan and refrigerate until filling is firm, at least 2 hours.
For the Chocolate Frosting:
- Melt the chocolate. In a small pot, heat the coffee and cocoa.
- Add the sour cream.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy.
- Add the chocolate mixture and combine completely.
- Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside until of spreading consistency
To Decorate and Serve:
- Remove pan with cake from refrigerator and place wrapped cake on a firm surface. Carefully unwrap cake. Using a serrated knife, from one end cut a 2-inch piece of cake on the diagonal. Set the cut piece aside.
- Cut out a piece of cardboard the length and width of the cake. Cover the cardboard with foil and place the cake on it. Spread a little frosting on the bottom of the small cut piece and set on top of the cake roll. Using a small spatula, spread the frosting over the entire cake as well as the small piece atop the cake. With a wooden skewer or the point of a small knife, make furrows to simulate bark along the sides and top of the cake.
- Arrange Christmas greens, plastic holly, and Meringue Mushrooms around the Yule Log. Sift powdered sugar over the whole thing to simulate snow. Fresh cranberries can be scattered around for added color.