Category: Winter Holidays


Border Sugar Cookies

sugar cookies

Photo: Helen Rosner

Mary Sue’s mother, Ruth, came up with the secret ingredient that gives these crumbly sugar cookies their irresistible crunch. It is only a small amount of potato chips, but what a terrific difference it makes. Just place a few handfuls in a bag and crush with a rolling pin or the palms of your hand.

These sugar cookies stay fresh for a couple of weeks stored in an airtight tin.

Makes about 24 cookies

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup crushed potato chips
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Sugar, for dipping
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the salt and vanilla. Then add the pecans and potato chips and mix well. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour just until it disappears.

Roll the batter into balls about the size of a large walnut and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet, allowing plenty of room for spreading. Coat the bottom of a heavy glass with butter and then dip in sugar. Press and twist to flatten each ball into a 3-inch circle. Transfer cookies to oven and bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges turn lightly golden brown. Transfer to racks to cool.

For optional garnish, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Let cool slightly. When cool enough to handle, dip your fingertips, or the tines of a fork, in the chocolate and drizzle over the cookies. Refrigerate to set.


Yucatan Poached Capon

Yucatan Lime Poached Capon

Photo: Gentyl + Hyers

In this Yucatan-inspired recipe, capon is gently poached, yielding silky, succulent meat, and then served in a lime broth. For hormone-free birds, seek out humanely raised capon from a purveyor like D’Artagnan, which does not use any growth stimulants.

Larger than a chicken, but smaller than a turkey, the capon is regarded for its broad breast and flavorful white meat. Capons are actually roosters that have been castrated at a young age and grow tender and plump, making them ideal for a holiday dinner.

Serves 8 to 10

Vegetable oil, for frying
6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
One 7 to 9-pound capon, giblets reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
8 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
6 bay leaves
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
3 strips (1 x 2 inches) of grapefruit zest
1 cinnamon stick
6 fingerling potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 chayotes, cut into 1 inch chunks
3 leeks, white parts only, cut into 2 inch pieces
2 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 ribs of celery, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup lime juice
3 plum tomatoes, cored and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 red or green serrano chiles, stemmed and sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 bunch (1 to 2 cups) cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced

Heat 1 inch of vegetable oil in a deep, 12 inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350 degrees F. Add tortilla strips and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined baking sheet.

Pat capon dry and season liberally, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour.

Place capon, neck, stock, and enough water to cover bird in a large stockpot. Add oregano, bay leaves, garlic, zest, and cinnamon; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to gentle simmer; cook 1 hour.

Add capon heart and gizzard, the potatoes, chayotes, leeks, carrots, and celery; gently simmer 20 minutes. Add capon liver; simmer 10 minutes more. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes.

Transfer capon, giblets, and vegetables to serving platter; cover with foil. Discard bay leaves, garlic, zest, and cinnamon. Bring broth to a boil, add lime juice and tomatoes, and season with salt.

Carve capon at the table. Ladle broth into bowls; top with capon, giblets, and vegetables; and serve with tortilla strips, chiles, limes, cilantro, and avocado on the side for guests to add to their bowls.


Seeded Lamb Chops with Tomato Mint Salsa

Seeded Lamb Chops

This mixed seed crust used on the lamb chops would be terrific with beef steaks as well. If you need to cook the Seeded Lamb Chops in batches, be sure to wipe out the pan in between to remove any burnt seeds.

Serves 4

1 1/2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
3 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon celery seeds
8 (4-ounce) lamb chops, about 3/4-inch thick
Salt to taste
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Tomato Mint Salsa, see recipe below, for serving

Mix together the cracked pepper and sesame, cumin, and celery seeds in a small shallow bowl. Season the lamb chops all over with salt. Firmly press each chop into the seed mixture to coat all over. Set aside.

In a large, preferably cast-iron, skillet that comfortably holds all 8 chops, heat the oil to very hot but not smoking. Cook the chops in the bubbling oil until the seeds are golden, about 2 minutes per side. (Do not worry about a few seeds slipping off.)

To serve, spoon Tomato Mint Salsa onto 4 serving plates. Top with two lamb chops each and serve.

Tomato Mint Salsa

1 bunch mint, leaves only, finely chopped
6 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and reserve in refrigerator.


Roasted Duck with Grape Sauce and Crispy Chestnuts

roasted duck

Photo: Gentyl + Hyers

Roasted duck may not be part of the traditional holiday spread, but it should be. Choose duck for your table, and you’re in for a steak-like treat. Roasted, the thick fat underneath the skin renders, basting the meat and crackling the skin.

You’ll want to rub the bird with salt and pepper and let it sit in your refrigerator for a day or two before you roast it — this extra step is well worth the advance planning, as it results in deeply flavorful meat and ultra-crisp skin.

Serves 2 to 4

1 medium (5 to 6 pound) whole duck; neck, gizzard, and heart reserved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
6 bay leaves
2 ribs of celery, cut in thirds
1/2 pound seedless green grapes, halved
1/2 pound seedless red grapes, halved
1 pound fresh or jarred chestnuts, lightly roasted, shelled, skinned, and coarsely chopped


2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup minced shallots
1 cup Madeira wine, divided
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

With a knife, prick duck skin all over except legs. Without cutting into flesh, score breast skin in crosshatches. Season duck liberally, inside and out, with salt and pepper. Place on a rack set in a roasting pan and refrigerate, uncovered, 1 to 2 days.

Bring stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add neck, gizzard, and heart; simmer 30 minutes. Strain and set aside. If you like, reserve solids for sauce; shred neck meat and finely chop heart and gizzard.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 3-quart saucepan over low heat. Add shallots; cook until soft, 10 minutes. Increase heat to high, add 1/2 cup Madeira, and cook until reduced by a third. Add reserved stock and, if using, reserved giblets; cook until reduced by a third. Add honey and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Whisk in cornstarch mixture; simmer until thickened, about 4 minutes. Set sauce aside.

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Let duck sit at room temperature 1 hour. Stuff with bay leaves and celery; place breast side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan filled with 1/4-inch of water. Roast 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees; roast 40 minutes. Turn breast side down; roast 40 minutes longer. Return to breast side up; roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into breast reads 145 degrees, 15 to 30 minutes longer.

Transfer rack to a cutting board and tent duck with foil. Increase oven to 450 degrees F. Pour drippings from pan into a heatproof measuring cup. Allow fat to rise and skim it off, reserving drippings for future use. Add 1 tablespoon fat to roasting pan, reserving remainder. Heat pan over medium-high heat; add green and red grapes and cook, swirling, until slightly soft, 5–7 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup Madeira and bring to a boil, scraping browned bits from bottom of pan. Cook until reduced by two-thirds, about 3 minutes. Add reserved sauce and simmer 2 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter, transfer to a gravy boat, and keep warm.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat reserved duck fat (about 1 cup) over high heat. Fry chestnuts in three batches until golden brown, about 2 minutes each. With a slotted spoon, remove chestnuts and drain on paper towels. Season with salt.

Place rack back in roasting pan. Roast duck until skin is crisp, 10–15 minutes. Carve immediately and serve with the sauce and chestnuts on the side.