Five indulgent dinners for the holidays

In Emily Weinstein’s view, this week calls for all things creamy, lush, bubbling, tangy and bright

Monday 20 December 2021 14:07
<p>Chicken thighs, white pepper, chardonnay and 20 garlic cloves are all you need for this zinger of a one-pot meal</p>

Chicken thighs, white pepper, chardonnay and 20 garlic cloves are all you need for this zinger of a one-pot meal

We’ve nearly made it to the end of the year, and here’s hoping you will soon be gathered (safely!) with the ones you love, eating something delicious for one of the very many holidays from now to New Year’s Day. In my book, this week, of all weeks, calls for a little indulgence, a culinary glow — all things creamy, lush, bubbling, tangy and bright.

Garlic-braised chicken

“It’s the only place where you can find a giant vat of peeled garlic, because it’s the only place that truly understands how much garlic you’ll need for the kind of food your people eat,” Michelle Zauner writes about the supermarket H Mart in her memoir, Crying in H Mart. Thankfully, many other grocery stores now sell containers of peeled garlic cloves. If you don’t already buy those, then this recipe is a great reason to start. Chicken thighs, white pepper, chardonnay and 20 garlic cloves are all you need for this zinger of a one-pot meal, which braises in an hour. In that time, chicken fat, wine and water turn into a luscious sauce packed with garlicky redolence. The white pepper, musky and full of earthiness, is a key taste here, so don’t skip it.

By: Eric Kim

Serves: 2 to 4

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


Olive oil

900g bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 4)


20 peeled garlic cloves

¾ tsp ground white pepper

240ml dry chardonnay

Steamed white rice, for serving


1. Heat oven to 180C.

2. In a large casserole dish over medium-high, add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. Season the chicken with salt on both sides, then add to the pot skin side down. Cook until the skin turns golden and crispy, 8 to 10 minutes. If the skin browns too quickly, lower the heat. Flip, and sear the other side briefly, about 1 minute. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.

3. Add the garlic to the schmaltzy oil over medium-high, and stir until fragrant and very lightly golden at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the white pepper, then immediately add the wine and 1 cup water. Scrape up any stuck-on bits from the bottom of the pot while bringing the liquid to a simmer. Nestle the chicken in the pot skin side up, cover and cook in the oven until the chicken and garlic are meltingly tender, and the wine has reduced, about 1 hour. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Serve with rice.

Brown-butter orzo with butternut squash

A hearty one-pot autumnal meal that works just as well as a side for roasted meats and fish

In this autumnal one-pot meal, rice-shaped orzo is cooked with stock and butternut squash until it’s tender and creamy, a little like risotto but without as much stirring. Brown butter, lemon zest and sage add depth of flavour, while red-pepper flakes give this zip and heat. An optional dollop of ricotta intensifies the creaminess but feel free to skip it for a lighter dish. This recipe also works well as a hearty side for roasted meats and fish.

By: Melissa Clark

Serves: 4

Total time: 45 minutes


4 tbsp unsalted butter

180ml thinly sliced shallots (2 to 3), or use onion or leek

1 small (900g) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2cm cubes

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves, or 2 tsp chopped rosemary or marjoram, plus more for serving if you like

1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt, plus more as needed

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving

¼ tsp red-pepper flakes, plus more for serving

3 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock

250g uncooked orzo

1 lemon, zested and halved

2 tbsp grated parmesan, plus more for serving

130g whole-milk ricotta (optional)


1. In a medium casserole dish, or a large (30cm) frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides, the milk solids turn golden brown and it smells nutty and toasty, 3 to 4 minutes (watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn).

2. Stir in shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add squash, sage, a large pinch of salt, the ¼ teaspoon black pepper and the ¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes, and cook until squash is golden at the edges and begins to soften, 12 to 17 minutes.

3. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Stir in orzo, lemon zest and the 1 teaspoon salt. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until orzo is just tender and most of the liquid is absorbed, 14 to 18 minutes, stirring once or twice. If the pan dries out before the orzo and squash are tender, add a splash or two of water.

4. Remove pan from heat and stir in parmesan. Taste and add more salt if needed, and a squeeze of lemon juice if the dish needs brightness. Dollop with ricotta if using, and sprinkle with more grated parmesan and black pepper just before serving, garnishing the top with more red-pepper flakes and sage.

Fried snapper with Creole sauce

This bright dish is a classic on dinner tables in the Virgin Islands

Best enjoyed using local snapper, this bright dish represents the protein part of fish and fungi, a classic duo on dinner tables in the Virgin Islands. The fish is topped with plenty of thyme-laced, tomato-based Creole sauce and is typically served over a bed of fungi, the classic Virgin Islands side dish of buttery cooked cornmeal with sliced, boiled okra. Michael Anthony Watson and Judy Watson, husband-and-wife owners of Petite Pump Room in St Thomas, traditionally use whole fried snapper for this recipe, but you can use fish fillets. For authenticity, serve them with plenty of hot sauce on the side for a little extra heat.

Recipe from: Judy Watson

Adapted by: Korsha Wilson

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes


For the Creole sauce:

3 tbsp olive oil

3 medium yellow onions, halved and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices

1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices

1 green bell pepper, cored and cut into 0.5cm-thick slices

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 (400g) can tomato sauce

4 fresh thyme sprigs

4 tsp distilled white vinegar

4 tsp seasoning salt, such as Creole seasoning or Lawry’s

Salt and ground black pepper

For the pan-fried snapper:

80ml vegetable oil

70g all-purpose flour

1½ tsp seasoning salt, such as Creole seasoning or Lawry’s

4 skin-on red snapper fillets (about 170g each)

Hot sauce (optional)


1. Prepare the sauce: in a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium until shimmering. Add the onions, red and green bell peppers and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.

2. Stir in the tomato sauce, thyme and 400ml water; bring to a boil over high.

3. Stir in the white vinegar and seasoning salt, reduce the temperature to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the fish: heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium. On a large plate, mix the flour and seasoning salt with a fork.

5. Pat the snapper fillets dry using paper towels, and season 2 fillets with salt and pepper before dipping them into the flour mixture until coated on both sides.

6. Once the oil is shimmering, gently lay the floured fillets in the hot oil, skin-side down, and cook until skin is crispy, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a fish spatula, carefully flip fillets and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until cooked through.

7. Transfer the fish to a large paper-towel-lined plate. Cover loosely with foil and repeat with the remaining fillets.

8. Divide fish among plates, skin side up, and top with the Creole sauce. Serve immediately, passing hot sauce at the table.

Baked alfredo pasta with broccoli raab and lemon

One of the great things about baked pastas is that you can get two different textures in one dish

One of the great things about baked pastas is that you can get two different textures in one dish. Take the typical pasta Alfredo that’s prepared in a frying pan: it’s delightfully creamy and lush, but the same, bite after bite. But add a green vegetable to that Alfredo pasta, pile it into a dish, top it with melty cheese and a crunchy breadcrumbs, then bake it, and you get a vegetarian dinner that’s got it all. If broccoli raab isn’t your thing, you can substitute cut asparagus or broccoli florets.

By: Ali Slagle

Serves: 4 to 6

Total time: 35 minutes



8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 2.5cm pieces

60g panko breadcrumbs

180g finely grated parmesan

1 tsp fresh lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

Black pepper

450g casarecce, cavatappi or other small tubed or curly pasta

1 bunch broccoli raab, trimmed, then cut into 1.5cm pieces

230g heavy cream

1 small garlic clove, grated

170g fresh mozzarella, cut into 1.5cm pieces


1. Heat the oven to 260C. Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Place the butter in a 22-by-33cm/2.8L pan or baking dish and transfer it to the oven to melt while the oven heats; remove it from the oven once it’s melted.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the panko, a sprinkling of parmesan and the lemon zest. Add 1 tablespoon of the melted butter from the baking pan, stir until the panko is moistened with butter, then season with salt and pepper.

3. When the water’s boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions suggest. During the last minute of cooking, add the broccoli raab. Reserve 120ml pasta water, then drain the pasta and broccoli raab.

4. Whisk the cream, garlic and pasta water into the melted butter in the baking dish until smooth. Add the remaining parmesan in large handfuls, vigorously whisking until smooth and combined. Add the pasta, broccoli raab and half the mozzarella. Taste, and season well with salt and pepper. Stir until very combined.

5. Top with the remaining mozzarella, then sprinkle evenly with the panko mixture. Bake until the mozzarella has melted and the panko is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.

Folami’s BBQ tofu

A great option for the karamu feast

Kwanzaa gatherings continue to go strong in community centres and at home in dining rooms, as they have since 1966. The seven-day holiday of self-reflection, often an extension of Christmas or the winter solstice, culminates with the karamu, or feast. The spread leans heavily vegetarian. In Atlanta, Folami Prescott-Adams dries, seasons, fries and broils pounds of tofu. Shop-bought, tomato-based barbecue sauce provides the comfort factor. She is a 40-year veteran of Kwanzaa and maintains a spreadsheet of potluck logistics for her family and guests. Alongside this vegetarian barbecue, Prescott-Adams’ buffet feeds more than 100 people, and the greatest hits include macaroni and cheese, red punch and black-eyed peas.

Recipe from: Folami Prescott-Adams

Adapted by: Nicole Taylor

Serves: 4

Total time: 30 minutes, plus drying


450g extra-firm tofu, cut into 1.5cm slices

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter or vegan butter

1 tbsp tamari

140g barbecue sauce


1. Start drying out the tofu 2½ hours before serving. Place the slices in a single layer between clean, dry dish towels or double layers of paper towels. Press to remove water from the tofu, and let stand for 2 hours, replacing the soaked towels once or twice, until there is very little water left in the tofu (you can press and dry the tofu quickly, and use it immediately, but it will be less crisp).

2. Heat a grill to its highest setting. Heat a large frying pan over medium and add the oil and butter, swirling to cover the bottom. Pour the tamari into a small, shallow dish. Press the tofu one last time. Quickly dip both sides of a single slice in the tamari and place it in the pan (be careful as the liquid may lead to hot pops from the oil). Repeat with the remaining tofu slices and tamari.

3. Cook until the tofu gets the same beautiful golden brown on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. While the tofu browns, spread half of the barbecue sauce on a small rimmed baking tray. Transfer the tofu to the barbecue sauce on the sheet, then cover with the remaining sauce. Broil, turning once, until the sauce thickens and bubbles, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve hot.

Tip: Scale up the proportions to prepare as many pounds of tofu as you’d like.

© The New York Times

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