Christmas Dinner Ideas, Latkes and Roasting

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This recipe is from host Evan Kleiman.

Applesauce means Latkes--or potato pancakes--to many of us, and often, the best thing about them is the accompanying homemade applesauce.

Applesauce couldn-t be easier to make simply chop up you favorite apples. Or maybe a mix of several varieties, if you feel really lazy you don-t even need to peel them, just core and seed. Then place in a pot with an inch of water place over medium high heat until the water starts boiling then stir and cover the pot. Turn down the heat and let the apples begin to soften. When they are softish, remove the lid and start to stir occasionally so that the apples begin to break down and to prevent burning. You want a thick, rough pureed mass. Begin to taste. Want a little more sweetness? Add some sugar. Some spice? Add a bit of cinnamon or ginger either dried, fresh or ground, but all the while watching a stirring. They will begin to brown as the sugars in the apples begin to caramelize. It's important to watch.

When the apples have reached a stage you like, take them off the heat.

These recipes are from Mark Bittman. He is the author of How to Cook Everything and The Minimalist Entertains, as well as the Minimalist column in the New York Times.

Helen Art's Potato "Nik"
Makes at least 8 servings
Time: About 30 minutes

  • 3 to 4 pounds baking potatoes, like Idaho or Russet, peeled
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, matzo meal or flour, as needed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed, corn or canola
1. Grate the potatoes and onion by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor; if the mixture is very moist, drain in a colander or strainer for a minute.

2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the salt, pepper, and bread crumbs, matzo meal, or flour; stir in the potatoes and onion. The mixture should just barely hold together if you pinch a bit; if it does not, add a little more bread crumbs or substitute.

3. Preheat the oven to 400DF. Put the butter and oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet and turn the heat to medium. When the butter melts and bubbles, pour the batter into it. Cook for a minute or 2, then transfer to the oven. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until nicely browned on the bottom; slide the cake out onto a plate (it will hold together). Cover with another plate, then invert the plates. Slice the pie back into the pan, cooked side up, and return to the oven until the bottom is brown; this will only take 10 minutes or so. Remove from the skillet and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Crisp-braised Duck Legs with Aromatic Vegetables

  • 4 duck legs, trimmed of excess fat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 celery stalks, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the duck legs, skin side down, in a skillet large enough to accommodate all the ingredients comfortably; turn the heat to medium. Brown the duck legs leisurely, carefully, and evenly. Meanwhile, chop the vegetables.

2. When the legs are nicely browned, turn and sear the meat side for just a minute or two and season with salt and pepper Remove to a plate; remove all but enough of the fat to moisten the vegetables (there's plenty more fat where that came from). Add the vegetables along with some salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the duck legs, skin side up, to the pan and add the stock; it should come about halfway up the duck legs but in no case should it cover them. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and transfer to the oven.

3. Cook for 30 minutes, then turn the heat to 350 degrees. Continue to cook, undisturbed, until the duck is tender and the liquid reduced, at least another half hour and probably a bit longer. (When done, the duck will hold nicely in a warm oven for up to another hour.) Serve hot.

Govind Armstrong is the chef at Table 8 Restaurant
7661 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles

Salt Roasted Porterhouse for Two

  • 1 lb Kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoon whole coriander seed
  • 6 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp chile flake
  • 1 Tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 Tablespoon mustard seed
  • 1 32 oz dry-aged porterhouse
Preheat the oven to 475*. Combine all the ingredients for the crust in a bowl and moisten with 1/8th of a cup of water. Place the steak in the center of a cast iron pan, lay a few fresh thyme sprigs on the meat and cover with the salt. Place in the oven for 25 minutes for medium rare, then put under the broiler for about 1-1/2 minutes. Allow the steak to rest for about 10 minutes. Crack the salt crust using the back of a spoon and remove the remaining salt from the meat. Check for doneness, place under the broiler if you prefer it cooked a bit more. Carve the New York side first and then slice the tenderloin. Enjoy!

Roasted Cauliflower Puree

  • 4 heads cauliflower
  • 2 onions, julienned
  • 16 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 cup cream
  • 4 slices bacon
Core the cauliflower and cut into medium-sized pieces. Using butter and oil, caramelize the cauliflower in a large saut- pan with the onions, garlic and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the wine and transfer to a large sauce pot. Add the stock and reduce. Add the bacon and cream, cover with plastic wrap and allow to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the bacon and thyme sprigs, transfer to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Allow to cool before serving.

Faye Levy is the author of Feast from the Mideast, published by HarperCollins.

Israeli Eggplant Dip with Garlic Mayonnaise
(salat hatzilim im mayonez)

Serve the dip with any kind of fresh bread you like: baguette, sesame bread, sourdough bread, whole-wheat bread, rye bread, or pita, or with sesame pita crisps. For a tasty sandwich, spread this eggplant dip on a whole-wheat roll and top with slices of smoked turkey, kashkaval cheese, or one of each.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 medium eggplants (total 2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 large fresh garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons minced green onion or mild onion (optional)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mayonnaise
  • 2 to 4 tsps strained fresh squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salty and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 to 2 hard-boiled eggs (optional), coarsely grated
  • 1/2 cup finely diced cucumber (optional)
  • 3/4 cup finely diced tomato
Roast, broil, or grill eggplants, then peel them. Chop eggplant pulp fine with knife or in food processor. Transfer eggplant to bowl. Add garlic, green onion, and mayonnaise, and mix well. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste; mixture should be generously seasoned. Lightly stir eggs and taste again. Refrigerate in a covered container at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. A short time before serving, fold in diced cucumber and tomato. Serve cold in a shallow bowl.

Cilantro Pesto
(salsa bel kizbarah)
Makes 3/4 cup, about 8 servings

  • 6 to 8 medium garlic cloves
  • 4 to 6 Tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
  • 2 cups small cilantro sprigs, loosely packed
  • 1 cup small Italian parsley sprigs, loosely packed
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
Finely chop garlic in food processor. Add half the nuts, half the cilantro, and half the parsley and process until herbs are chopped. Remove mixture and chop remaining nuts, cilantro, and parsley. Return first mixture to processor. With blade turning, add olive oil. Scrape down sides and process until mixture is well blended. Transfer to bowl. Add paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste if you like; mix well.

Chicken Pecan Bulgar Cakes with Cilantro Pesto
(kibbit djaj)
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 1/2 onions
  • 4 to 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 cup bulgar wheat, preferably finest grind
  • 1/3 cup parsley sprigs
  • 12 ozs ground chicken (about 1/1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1/3 cup pecans, chopped
  • Cilantro pesto
Chop 1 onion. Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Add chopped onion and saute over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until beginning to turn golden. Transfer to plate and cool. Pour 3 cups cold water over bulger wheat. Refrigerate and let soak for 10 minutes; if using medium bulgur, soak it for 15 or 20 minutes. Drain in a strainer and squeeze out excess liquid. Put in large bowl.

Cut remaining 1/2 onion in large dice. put in food processor with parsley sprigs, and chop them fine. Add chicken, salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne and process until well blended. Add 3 tablespoons cold water and process briefly. Transfer to bowl of bulgur wheat and mix well with your hands. Add pecans and cooled sauteed onion and mix again. Broil or microwave a teaspoon of mixture and taste it for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Shape mixture in small round cakes using 1/4 cup mixture for each, and flatten them. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large heavy skillet. Add enough cakes to make one layer without crowding. Saute over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown and cooked through; use two slotted spatulas to turn them carefully. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep finished cakes warm on a baking sheet in a 250 degree F oven. Saute remaining mixture, adding oil to skillet if necessary and heating it before adding more cakes.

Serve hot or warm. Top each with a spoonful of cilantro pesto or serve it as a dipping sauce on the side.

Grated Vegetable Salad with Pistachios, Raisins, and Yogurt
(mast-o kheeyar)

In the Mideast, cooks often use rich, whole-milk yogurt or labneb for salads like this. Use all yogurt or a combination of yogurt and sour cream of any degree of richness to make the creamy dressing as luscious or as lean as you like. Goat's-milk yogurt gives the salad an intriguing tang, rich and sheep's-milk yogurt is a terrific choice if you can find it, but plain cow's-milk yogurt is fine too. If your raisins are not moist, soak them in hot water for a few minutes until they soften, then drain them before adding them to the salad.

Makes 3 or 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated peeled cucumber (from about 2 pickling cucumbers, total 6 ounces)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated peeled carrot or jicama
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped green onions, green and white parts
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 1 Tablespoon dried dill
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup moist dark raisins
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Drain grated cucumber in strainer for 5 minutes. If there is water in the yogurt, pour it out. Lightly mix cucumber with carrot, green onions, and dill with fork. Reserve 1 tablespoon parsley, 2 tablespoons raisins, and 2 tablespoons pistachios for garnish. Gently stir remaining parsley, raisins, and pistachios into vegetable mixture. Lightly stir in yogurt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve cold in shallow bowl. At serving time, sprinkle with reserved parsley, raisins and pistachios.

Green Salad with Herbs and Radishes
(marul salatasi)

Although green salads are not as common in the Middle East as salads of diced vegetables, they are valued in the Turkish, Armenian, and Lebanese culinary repertoires. Cooks use a variety of greens, from peppery watercress and arugula to delicate purslane, each on its own or in a mixture like this one, Some season the greens with only olive oil and lemon juice but like many cooks, I add sliced green onions, or sometimes minced garlic, for a little extra punch. Salads of finely shredded cabbage are prepared the same way.

If you like, garnish this salad with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds instead of olives. Serve it along with other vegetable appetizers or to accompany roast chicken or grilled meats.

To serve this salad the Iranian way, instead of tossing the ingredients, arrange the greens and vegetables on a platter, keeping each type separate and leaving the herbs in sprigs. Either make the dressing or set out cruets of oil and vinegar. Serve the vegetables with lavash, feta cheese, and walnuts

*Makes 4 servings

  • 5 to 6 cups bite-sized pieces romaine lettuce, or one 10 ounce package romaine
  • 3/4 to 1 cup coarsely chopped arugula or watercress (optional)
  • 6 small red radishes, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill or mint
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice or white or red wine vinegar
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup good-quality black olives, such as kalamata (optional)
Toss lettuce with arugula, radishes, green onions, parsley, and dill in bowl. Whisk lemon juice with oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Pour over salad and toss lightly. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with olives.

Rose Levy Berenbaum is the author of The Bread Bible, published by Norton.

Note: The recipe is very, very long for the brioche. If you would like this recipe specifically, please reply in an email and we will send it to you.