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Holiday Side Dishes

Asiago and Dill New Potato CasserolePhotographed on Fiesta Dinnerware

Holiday meals are what memories are made of. The meal is the central event that brings us all together. It doesn't matter what the holiday actually is; it could be Thanksgiving or Christmas. Or, you could be like me and have to work on the holidays, so your special meal at home may come before or after the actual day. What really matters is that the meal helps create the memories.

As a chef, the people I cook for hold me to a higher standard. I cook turkey as often as anyone else -- about once or twice a year. Yet, because I am a cooking professional, I am supposed to turn out a better turkey than anyone else. Therefore, I have to put a lot of effort into making sure I know what I am doing so that I can live up to everyone's inflated expectations. I start thinking about holiday meals about six months ahead of time, and with all that effort, I always deliver the goods.

Every year I like to have something different in addition to the familiar dishes traditional in my family. There is no way that I could put together a holiday meal without the required pumpkin pie. There is no way to have a roast turkey without the family's favorite stuffing. Yet every year I like to mix in a few new flavors with the old traditions just to keep them right on the edge of their comfort zone and blow them all away. Here are a few recipes that I came up with for this year. Who knows, maybe one of them will become a new tradition on your holiday table.

Apricot Cranberry Chutney with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup diced dried apricot
  • Zest and Juice of 1 orange
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
Roast the pumpkin seeds in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until slightly browned on the edges, puffed and crunchy. Set aside. Peel the zest from the orange using a vegetable peeler or a zester, being careful to get only the orange zest and none of the white pith. Slice into very thin strips and add to the remaining ingredients. Squeeze the juice from the orange into the mix as well.

In a non reactive sauce pan, combine all the ingredients except for the pumpkin seeds, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently until thickened and the cranberries have all popped, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Stir in the roasted pumpkin seeds.

This recipe makes a large batch, and it can be frozen. It should keep for more than a week in the refrigerator. It is also a side dish that is practical to make ahead of time.

Corn and Roasted Chili Pudding

  • 3 ears fresh corn, scraped off the cob and partially pureed.
  • 4 hatch chilies or 2 poblano peppers, roasted, seeded peeled, and diced.
  • ½ Red Bell Pepper, diced small
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup corn meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups diced white crusty bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • Paprika and more Parmesan cheese for garnish
Sweat the onions and the bell pepper in butter in a saut pan over medium heat until soft. In a bowl combine the remaining ingredients except for the bread cubes, and mix thoroughly. Add the peppers and onions and the bread cubes to the mixture and mix well. Place in a buttered baking dish, sprinkle with a little paprika and Parmesan cheese and cook at 350 degrees until edges are browned and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean. Depending on the type of cooking dish you use, it could take up to an hour or more to cook. Serve immediately or cover with foil and keep warm until service.

Horseradish Mashed Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 russet potatoes
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ stick butter
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped Parsley
Well, this is just mashed potatoes. The key here is adding flavors that you like. Boil the peeled potatoes in salted water until soft but not overcooked. Drain, then add the other ingredients and mash until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a little milk if the potatoes are too thick.

Here is a trick for potatoes that get boiled for too long a period of time. Drain them, put them back in the pot and place in the oven to dry them out. The potatoes are cooked; you just don't want all the extra water they absorbed. The water evaporates, leaving the starch behind. Then you can add your butter and cream and mash away.

Asiago and Dill New Potato Casserole

  • 6 to 8 medium sized red potatoes, sliced very thin with the peel still on.
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded asiago cheese plus more for topping
  • 2 tablespoons dill
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Pepper
These potatoes are special. They are similar to a scalloped potato, yet the custard binds them a little more. I suppose the closest comparison would be that of a quiche without a crust. You can make them ahead of time, chill them, and then cut them into serving sized pieces and reheat in the oven without worrying about them losing their shape.

More Great Sides Recipes from Grandma's Cookbook
Combine the cream, eggs, dill, shallots, garlic and salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly. Add the cheese. Toss in the thinly sliced potatoes, making sure that everything is evenly distributed throughout. Spoon the potatoes into a buttered casserole dish. Pack the potatoes into the casserole, making sure air pockets between potato slices are minimal by rearranging the slices as necessary. Slowly pour in the remaining custard mixture until the custard comes up to the level of the potatoes. Depending on the dish used, and the thickness of your sliced potatoes, you may not have the exact amount of custard needed. If you have too little custard mix, make more with cup cream, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon salt. If you have too much custard, you can add more potatoes or just discard the extra custard.

Sprinkle the top with additional asiago cheese and bake in a 325-degree oven for 1 to 2 hours depending on the size of the casserole. The potatoes are done when the top is a rich golden brown, and a knife inserted into the middle of the custard comes out clean without any wet custard mixture on it, and potatoes are soft. Most probably, the custard will cook before the potatoes are soft, so the texture is what you are most interested in here.

Allow the potatoes to rest for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Happy Holidays!

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