The holiday season looks different this year. Because of the pandemic, many people won’t be celebrating with friends and family as they have in the past. But the smaller table might bring an opportunity to spend more creative time in the kitchen. This might be the holiday season when you finally try that seitan roast, or a recipe for pumpkin brulee, or a spiced (and spiked) cider. We’ve reached out to some local chefs for recipes our readers can try this holiday season, so we can continue to eat our feelings into the new year.
Jeffrey Owen of Ciao Baci
Jeffrey Owen wanted to put an appetizer on Ciao Baci’s November menu that was approachable, vegetarian and keto-friendly and also reminiscent of the holidays. The Mediterranian spices in his Butternut Squash Hummus served with warm toasty pita or apple slices would be a welcome addition to any holiday spread. Owen and Ciao Baci were kind enough to share the recipe with Arkansas Times readers.
Butternut Squash Hummus
2 small or 1 large butternut squash seeded and roasted
1 T. tahini
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt to taste
Puree peeled, roasted squash in a food processor with tahini, cumin, lemon juice and salt. Slowly add olive oil until smooth and creamy.
½ cup pumpkin seeds
¼ cup coriander seeds
¼ cup fennel seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
Toast seeds until nutty and aromatic. Let cool. Pulse seeds in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until coarsely ground. Use as garnish. Serve with toasted pita and apple slices.
Kara Bibb of Boulevard Bread Co.
Kara Bibb is one of Little Rock’s most recognizable baristas. Not only has she been preparing tasty and eye-catching coffee drinks at Boulevard Bread Co. for the last 14 years, she also brings an infectious energy and enthusiasm to the market along with a sharp sense of humor and knack for puns and wordplay.
Outside of work, in the comfort of her own kitchen, she bakes. If you follow Bibb on social media you know that she’s spent quarantine time baking stunning creations like the “Focaccia where I want ya,” a loaf decorated with vegetables to resemble a garden. She’s also been making tarts, pies and galettes as well. Bibb is currently competing in The Greatest Baker online baking contest.
In the South, people generally think of hand pies as being filled with fruit or meat, Bibb said. But she thinks that the hand pie is a perfect vessel for savory Thanksgiving leftovers. Try hers.
Thanksgiving Leftovers Hand Pies
You can put anything into your hand pies, but it’s a perfect vessel for Thanksgiving leftovers! For this recipe I used the dark meat from a rotisserie chicken, cubed and roasted butternut squash, dried cranberries, sauteed and fresh green onions and goat cheese. I mixed everything together except for the cheese. You don’t want your filling to be too wet.
Hand pie dough
2½ cups (320 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 sticks (227 grams) cold and cubed unsalted butter
1 large egg lightly beaten
4-6 T. ice water
Directions: In a food processor, pulse together flour and salt. Add cold butter cubes and pulse for 10 seconds. Mixture will resemble a coarse corn meal with some small pebbles of butter. Move mixture to large mixing bowl. Add beaten egg and stir into mixture with a spoon.
Next, add a tablespoon of ice water at a time, while shaping mixture into a dough ball with your hands. It will seem too crumbly but keep at it! Once the dough ball is formed, place on a lightly floured surface. Cut into two pieces, preferably with a bench knife. Form each half into a round disc. about 5-inches wide and 1-inch thick. Add flour to the work surface as necessary. Smooth out any cracks around outside (a bench knife works great here or just use your hands).
Plastic wrap each disc and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Prep your filling.
Remove the first disc from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Place dough onto a lightly floured surface. Dust your rolling pin and hands with flour. Roll your dough by starting from the center and working outward in all directions.
Dough should be around ⅛-inch thick and about 12-inches in diameter. Cut into 5-inch circles using a bowl or cookie cutter (a little bigger than 5 inches is OK).
Spoon filling onto one half of each circle and sprinkle with cheese. Leave ¼ -inch space of crust around the edge of the circle. Paint a little egg wash on the edge of dough to help when closing. Fold over the other half and press ends together with fingers. Use a fork to pinch together. You may want to flour the tines as you go.
Lay each pocket onto a lined baking sheet. Slit two small lines in the center with knife. Using a small pastry brush, apply egg wash onto top and sides of pie.
Refrigerate the first batch while you repeat this process with your second pie disc. Refrigerate the second batch while you preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake on the parchment paper-lined baking trays for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve with cranberry sauce, sour cream, gravy, chutney or anything that makes you happy!
Meredith Coleman of MeMe’s Twisted Potato
Meredith Coleman owns and operates the vegan restaurant MeMe’s Twisted Potato in a building that used to be her mother’s beauty salon on Asher Avenue. When Meredith was a little girl, she’d hang out in the kitchen with her mother and vegetarian grandmother while they cooked. Meredith started baking at 4. A holiday staple in the Coleman family is a vegan fruit compote pie that Coleman learned from her grandmother.
MeMe’s Vegan Baked Fruit Compote Pie
1 can (28 ounces) pear halves in heavy syrup
1 can (28 ounces) peach halves in heavy syrup
1 can (20 ounces) pineapple chunks in juice
½ cup dried apricots
½ cup dried prunes
½ cup dried cherries or raisins
½ cup dried plums
2 T. packed brown sugar
¼ cup brandy if desired
½ tsp. bitters (bitters bring out fruit flavor)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ cup slivered almonds, if desired
1 cup crushed graham crackers (enough to spread over the top of the pie)
Directions: Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Drain canned fruit, reserving syrup and juice; mix syrup and juice. Cut pears and peaches into bite-size pieces. Layer canned and dried fruit in a 3-quart casserole or 13 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular baking dish. Mix brown sugar, bitters and brandy and pour over fruit. Pour reserved juice mixture over fruit just until fruit is covered and discard remaining juice mixture. Sprinkle cinnamon, nutmeg, almonds and crushed graham crackers over fruit.
Bake uncovered for about 45 minutes or until bubbly. Serve warm or cool.
Cash Ashley of Raduno
This is a recipe for Apple Crisp, though some would say “crumble,” which my mom used to make for us at holiday time growing up. My mom always said “crisp,” so I still say that. I’ve revamped it over the years, and this iteration is my current fave.
10 Granny Smith apples cored and diced. I like ½-inch chunks, but this is just a personal preference. I also leave the skin on, but some folks prefer no apple skin.
1 cup white sugar
1 lemon seeded and juiced
½ tablespoon salt
After cutting, toss the apples in the sugar and lemon juice/zest, then let sit for 20-30
While your fruit is macerating, make your topping.
2 cups brown sugar
2 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Directions: Mix the topping ingredients together in a bowl and add 1 cup cold and cubed butter. By hand, rub the butter into your topping mixture. When it’s completely incorporated, it will resemble wet sand.
After your topping is made, set the oven to 375 degrees F. Taste your fruit mixture. If the sweetness is to your liking, proceed. If not, add some more sugar, and let it macerate a bit longer.
Once your fruit mixture and topping are ready, get the pan you are going to cook it in. Put all of your fruit mixture into a dish. Scrape every bit of juice from the bowl into the dish! Then put your topping on the fruit and spread it out evenly. Cover your dish with aluminum foil, then put in the oven for 20 minutes. At 20 minutes, remove the foil and set another 20-minute timer. Cook until the topping is golden brown and fruit mixture is bubbling around the edges. Serve by itself or topped with ice cream, which is certainly my preferred way of eating it. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled. The recipe provided is for a large pan at home. Definitely family sized!
Scott McGehee of Yellow Rocket Concepts
Scott McGehee’s family’s Christmas morning breakfast tradition goes back generations. The centerpiece is a Southern-fried quail served with thick sliced bacon, homemade sausage, smoked ham, cheese and pepper grits, slow cooked eggs, white and wild rice, biscuits, gravy, fresh squeezed orange juice and lots of dark coffee (for starters). McGehee said part of the tradition is rubbing a little quail on babies’ gums so that later in life they can say that they had Southern-fried quail every Christmas morning since they were born. When McGehee was a kid, his family would go out at 3 a.m. and hunt for the quail and bring them back to his great-grandmother, although he said that tradition has faded.
This season, McGehee wanted to make something that would incorporate commodities grown in Arkansas. Here’s the recipe:
Arkansas Pureed Sweet Potato, Fresh Pear, Armagnac and Toasted Pecans
Serves 12-14 people
2½-3 quarts peeled and cubed sweet potato (about 7 medium sweet potatoes)
1 stick of salted butter
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 T. salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ cup Armagnac or Cognac
1 T. white wine vinegar
2 cups cream
5-6 ripe pears
Directions: Bake sweet potatoes at 350 degrees F., skin on, for about an hour, until just cooked through. Set aside and let cool for about 30 minutes to an hour.
Peel sweet potatoes with your hands and a paring knife where necessary to remove skin. Cut into rough 1 x 1-inch cubes and put into a large pot.
In a separate saute pan, melt the butter, add sugar, salt, cinnamon and cook on medium heat, stirring to incorporate for about 1 minute.
Away from the heat, making sure there are no people close to the stove (and keeping your own face away from the pan best you can), add the liquor to the sugar and butter mixture. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN COOKING ALCOHOL. Carefully return the saute pan to the heat and ignite the liquor to flame.
Once most of the alcohol has burned off, add 2 cups of cream to the mixture. Bring the cream to a simmer and immediately add the mixture to the sweet potatoes along with the white wine vinegar. Cook on low heat, scraping the bottom often with a plastic or wooden spatula to make sure all of the sweet potato is soft and cooked through.
Remove from heat and smash thoroughly with a potato masher, or for a smoother puree (my preference), force it through a potato ricer.
Peel, core and dice the pears into bite size pieces. A little fresh lemon juice will keep the pears from browning as you complete this task.
Gently fold pear bits into the warm sweet potato puree.
Transfer the puree into a baking/serving dish.
If you like, garnish with toasted pecans. I like to toss pecans in a saute pan with a little melted butter and salt until they start to brown a little on the edges.
Serve immediately, or cover and keep in a warming oven, or cover and refrigerate for reheating later.
PRO TIP: A little drizzle of melted butter, a large sprig of fresh rosemary, fresh cracked pepper and pomegranate seeds can jazz up the presentation!
Georges Launet of Hill Station
Georges Launet grew up eating turkey at Thanksgiving and not enjoying it. “Old-school turkey was always dry and gross to me,” Launet said. One year when Launet didn’t go to his grandmother’s for Thanksgiving, his mother asked what he and his sister wanted to eat. “My sister and I always loved lobster, so we asked if we could do that,” he said. It became a new tradition. Launet incorporates a French mayonnaise he learned from his French father. But Launet adds something to the mayonnaise that his father didn’t.
“I was reading in a book about using the lobster tomalley (the digestive gland of the lobster that turns green when cooked) to use as a flavor or salt. It also acts as a thickening agent,” he said. “A lot of people are intimidated by lobster, but it’s so easy to make. I think people associate it with high end cuisine, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
Bouquet garni with thyme, parsley and laurel (thyme, parsley and laurel tied together with butcher’s twine)
Directions: Fill a large stockpot about half full of water. Add salt, carrot and bouquet garni and bring to a boil. When the water has come to rolling boil, place the lobsters head-first into the pot. Once the water starts to boil again, cook the lobsters for 12 minutes.
When the lobsters are done, pull out with tongs and set them aside to cool. I like my lobsters at room temperature, so I will place them in the fridge until they are cool enough to handle.
While lobsters are boiling, make tomalley mayonnaise.
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. Dijon
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Maldon salt, to taste
1 garlic clove
First, crack the egg and separate the yolk. Place the yolk in a small- to medium-sized mixing bowl. Next add the Dijon and whisk the two together. Add sunflower seed oil, very slowly. This is the most important part in order to not break the emulsion. Once you’ve added the oil and you have a firm mayonnaise, place in the refrigerator to chill.
When the lobster is cool enough to handle, separate the head from the tail with a twisting motion. Now pull the back of the shell upward and separate from the bottom of the body where the legs are. You will see a light greenish paste: This is the tomalley. Scoop out and set aside. Remove all the claw and tail meat from the shell. Set meat aside. Mince garlic and add to mayonnaise. Next fold the tomalley in with a spatula. This will not only add its own specific flavor but will also act as a seasoning ingredient. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Sit down and enjoy one of the best things the ocean has to offer. Bon appetit!