So, the big cooking holiday already passed by us last month (can you believe Christmas is already almost here? Why does it always feel like a surprise, even though we know it’s coming every year?). But that doesn’t mean you can’t cook up something special for one of the December holidays, or even for New Year’s! Whether it’s Hanukkah (happening this week), Christmas, Kwanzaa, or whatever it is that you love to celebrate, here is a collection of recipes that local chefs and cooks handpicked for this time of year.
The Partridge Inn, Augusta
“The salmon and stone ground grits recipe is the second dish that I learned to make when I was about 9 years old. My mother and grandmother taught me how to make it, and I’ve enhanced the entree over the years. I offer a variation of salmon and grits at every restaurant where I have worked, and it’s one of the most popular dishes on the Partridge Inn Bar and Grill menu. I especially love the delicious combination of flavors.” — Executive Chef Dominic Simpson
- – 2.25 pounds salmon (6 ounces each)
- – Salt and black pepper to taste
- – 2 teaspoons oil per salmon piece
- Preheat a large heavy skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Coat salmon with oil. Place in skillet, and increase heat to high. Cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Turn salmon over, and cook for 5 minutes, or until browned. Salmon is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
- Transfer salmon to individual plates.
- 2 cups Adluh stone ground yellow grits
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups fish stock
- 4 ounces butter
- Salt to taste
- Bring cream and stock to a boil; slowly stir in grits and return to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, then finish with butter.
- 1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- Place oil in a small sauce pot.
- Once the oil is hot, add the garlic.
- Remove the pot from the heat and place the wine in the pot.
- Place the pot back on the heat.
- Let the wine reduce down, and add the can of stewed tomato.
- Cook the tomato for 10 minutes on low heat.
- Turn off heat and add the fresh herb.
- Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
Fat Man’s Mill Cafe, Augusta
“I know this is an odd pick, but let me explain before you judge… When you are in the catering business during the holidays, you get extremely tired of the traditional menu. After frying hundreds of turkeys, baking and carving thousands of pounds of ham, mixing endless bowls of cornbread dressing and boiling massive quantities of sweet potatoes, the last thing you want on Thanksgiving or Christmas is more of those things. This is our version of holiday meat. Beef sounds phenomenal after so much pork and raw poultry! Next time you aren’t feeling the good ol’ ham and turkey, go by Lanier’s Meat Market, pick up a few cube steaks and give this recipe a shot. If you don’t feel like cooking, this is always our Speshul at Fat Man’s Mill Cafe for the month of December, as well.” — Executive Chef and Vice President Havird Usry
COUNTRY FRIED STEAK & SAUSAGE GRAVY
For the country fried steak:
- 2 pounds Lanier’s cube steak, cut into eight 4-ounce pieces
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- – Pinch cayenne powder
- – 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- – 4 tablespoons butter, divided
For the sausage gravy:
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 package of ground sausage
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
- Pinch cayenne powder
- Few grinds fresh nutmeg
- 1 quart whole milk
- Cut cubed steaks into eight equal portions.
- In bowl combine 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, onion powder, paprika and cayenne. Dredge steaks on both sides in this flour, shake excess and set aside on your cutting board. Do not throw the flour mixture away.
- Make sausage gravy. In a skillet over medium high heat, melt butter and break up sausage into the butter. With the back of a wooden spoon, break up even further until they are small pieces. Cook for a few minutes to brown.
- Lower heat to medium and add 1/2 cup flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg and mustard. Cook this mixture for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add half the milk, stirring with the wooden spoon until thick and pasty. Add the remaining milk and stir again with the wooden spoon to combine into a creamy sauce. Gravy can be made ahead and reheated, and if there is extra, it makes some great biscuits and gravy in the morning.
- Dredge the 8 steaks a second time in the flour mixture and shake off excess.
- In a large cast-iron pan at medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Cook four steaks for about 3 to 4 minutes per side to get a crisp outer skin and medium in the center. Remove the four steaks to a pan with paper towels to soak up grease. Clean out the pan and add the remaining oil and butter and cook the last four steaks.
- Reheat the gravy if needed, adding more milk if too thick.
- Serve the sausage gravy over the chicken fried steaks with any traditional or holiday sides.
Most importantly, ADD LOVE & ADD SOUL!
Edgar’s Grille, Augusta
“It all comes down to Mom’s words of wisdom… Waste not. Want not. In restaurant kitchens, we are trained to use everything when possible. It translates to the home, too. Of course, there is a little bit of planning involved. When planning Thanksgiving Day dinner, I also plan for the next couple of days and the utilization of the leftovers. The next morning, I usually prepare turkey benedicts for the family. The leftover stuffing replaces the English muffin. The turkey replaces the Canadian bacon. A nice poached egg and the turkey gravy replaces the hollandaise sauce. When lunch time comes around, we have the turkey cranberry and Brie sandwich. We will have a cheese platter on Thanksgiving, and that is where the Brie will come into play. The bread we have used for toast points for the spinach artichoke dip I prepared, and of course the freshly made cranberry relish tops it off. Actually, my Dad was the first to come up with the sandwich in our house. Thanksgiving night when all the guests have left and it’s around midnight, my Dad and I would be in the kitchen with all of the leftovers placed on the clean, spotless counter. (Mom was not happy the next morning with the mess.) We would then make a turkey sandwich and a have a big glass of milk to go with it. Out of all the combinations of sandwiches through the years, the turkey, Brie and cranberry was my favorite.” — Executive Chef Peter Vossenberg
GRILLED TURKEY, BRIE AND CRANBERRY SANDWICH
- 4 ounces of your choice of turkey
- 2 slices of sourdough bread (any leftover sliced bread from making dressing? Use that.)
- 1 ounce of cranberry sauce
- 2 full slices of Brie (for me, it’s more like 4-5 slices)
- Soften unsalted butter
- Sea salt and black pepper
- Butter each side of the bread on one side.
- Place/spread cranberry sauce on unbuttered side of bread.
- Add your favorite part of the turkey.
- Top off the turkey with sliced Brie.
- Place second slice of bread on top, butter side out — or not. The more butter, the better. (Don’t tell your cardiologist.)
- Heat saute pan with a dab (teaspoon) of butter.
- Place your masterpiece in pan and gently heat 2-3 minutes on each side.
- “GBD!” (Golden Brown and Delicious)
- Serve with your favorite sandwich side item and extra napkins.
Hint: If you are making more than one masterpiece, use a sheet pan. Follow all the previous steps until the use of the sauté pan. Replace with buttered sheet pan in 350-degree oven. Be CAREFUL when flipping the sandwiches. Pull the pan out of the oven and then flip sandwiches.
GLAZED CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD
Servings: 16 (4 mini loaves, 4 portions to each loaf)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 orange
- 2 whole eggs
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 16 pecan halves
- 1/2 cup powdered 10X sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier (or more!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients/fixings.
- Add chopped pecans and mix. Set aside. If using food processor, do not “overchop.”
- In another mixing bowl, zest an orange or use a microplane. (1 tablespoon of zest; juice orange to measure 1/4 cup)
- Add melted butter.
- Add eggs and 1 1/4 cups milk.
- Whisk until blended.
- Add the wet fixings to the dry fixings.
- Mix just until dry fixings are nice and moist. DO NOT OVERMIX! Please and thank you.
- Gently add the cranberries into the batter. (Batter = dry + wet)
- Fill each greased mini loaf pan with 1 cup of batter.
- Place four pecan halves on top of batter. (what’s batter?)
- Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Double check with a toothpick or wooden skewer. Insert, and when it comes out dry, it is finished. You’re looking for “GBD” (Golden Brown and Delicious).
- Cool in pan for about 5 minutes. Poke holes in top of loaves with the toothpick.
- Combine powdered sugar with the 2 teaspoons milk and Grand Marnier.
- Drizzle the glaze over the loaves.
- Pop out the loaves and let them cool on a cooling rack.
- After the loaves are completely cooled, you could add another recipe of glaze.
Enjoy your masterpiece!
Roux’s Gourmet Catering, Augusta
Robert Williams, chef and owner of Roux’s Gourmet Catering, said he values the following recipes the most for holiday dinners. “(These dishes) represent the flavors I grew up with, and I can’t imagine a holiday meal without one or both of these delicious casseroles,” he said. “I made both for Thanksgiving (this year).”
- 1 pint oysters
- 2 cups saltines, crushed
- 1 cup fine diced onion
- 1/2 cup fine diced celery
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 3/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup oyster liquor
- 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
- Drain oysters, reserving 1/4 cup liquor.
- Sautee onion, celery and garlic until tender, then combine with cracker crumbs and butter.
- Spread 1/3 crumb mixture in greased 8×8 casserole dish.
- Cover with half the oysters and half the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with half the pepper.
- Using another third of the crumb mixture, spread a second layer; cover with remaining oysters and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with remaining pepper.
- Combine cream, oyster liquor, Worcestershire, Tabasco, and salt. Pour over oysters.
- Top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes.
SEAFOOD AU GRATIN
- 2 pounds fresh Georgia shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 pound crab claw meat (picked for shells)
- 1 pound crawfish tails
For the sauce:
- 2 cups diced onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups half and half
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For the topping:
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cups bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan on low heat. When the butter is completely melted, stir in the flour and whisk until lightly browned.
- Add celery, onion and garlic. Cook until tender, add white wine. Slowly add the half and half. 3. Whisk until smooth and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Add cream cheese and stir until well blended. Add salt, black pepper, and cayenne. Remove from the heat.
- Sautee shrimp in 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 1 minute or until partially cooked; season with salt and pepper. Let drain and add shrimp to large mixing bowl.
- Add the crab meat and crawfish tails; gently toss to mix. Pour the sauce over the seafood and gently combine.
- Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with vegetable oil cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the dish.
- Mix bread crumbs and melted butter until combined; add parmesan cheese and mix again until well blended. Place the buttered bread crumbs and parmesan cheese on top, completely covering the seafood.
- Bake in a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 25 to 30 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned on top.
The VeryVera Show, Augusta
“We had a contest at VeryVera to create a macaroni and cheese that was truly a Southern classic while maintaining a certain level of sophistication. Four different cheeses make this recipe the creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese you’ve ever tasted. Panko bread crumbs add crunch and texture without stealing moisture from the rich, cheesy pasta underneath.” (This recipe will be featured in the VeryVera Cookbook, hitting shelves on April 17.) — Hostess Vera Stewart
MACARONI AND CHEESE
Servings: 8 to 10
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 to 30 minutes
- 1 pound macaroni
- 1 3/4 cup cheddar cheese (reserve 3/4 cup for topping), hand-shredded
- 1/3 cup Monterey Jack cheese, hand-shredded
- 1/3 cup Havarti cheese, hand-shredded
- 6 ounces Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
- 1 stick salted butter (reserve 1 tablespoon)
- 2 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 large egg
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Boil the macaroni according to the package directions until al dente, being careful not to overcook.
- Drain the cooked macaroni.
- In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of the shredded cheddar, the shredded Monterey Jack and Havarti and cubed Velveeta, 7 tablespoons butter, and heavy cream.
- Pour the hot macaroni over the cheese mixture, cover, and let sit until the cheese is soft but not completely melted.
- In a separate large bowl, beat together the egg, salt, and pepper. Add this to the macaroni mixture and combine thoroughly.
- Pour the macaroni mixture into a large, greased casserole dish. Top with the reserved 3/4 cup shredded cheddar and panko bread crumbs, and dot with the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: I always grate my own cheese when a recipe calls for it. This will be fresher, and you can choose the size of the grate, depending on the recipe. If making a day ahead, stop after adding the macaroni mixture to the casserole dish. Just before heating, top with cheese, panko and butter; bake, and serve when ready.
The Willcox, Aiken
“I’m from New Zealand and I have an English background, so every Christmas we have what we call mince pie, and it’s basically brandied dry fruit that we that we put in a sweet crust pastry. And you normally eat it for dessert or when you have your coffee. So, for the transition for American tastes, I took basically the apple pie concept and added the mincemeat to that. So it’s definitely traditional, New Zealand/English dessert that you eat at Christmastime. … It’s nostalgic for me, and that’s probably why I love it, but I kind of also like the concept of sharing it with Americans and doing a little something that reminds me of home and giving Americans something that’s maybe new to them, but still old because apple pie is pretty much American to me… Just a little bit of both — sharing me, and introducing Americans to something a little bit different.”— Executive Chef Regan Browell
BRANDIED FRUIT AND APPLE PIE
Pie base and top:
- 8 ounces butter
- 3 ounces sugar
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 pound flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
For the filling
- 5 large apples (use 2 different varieties, like Granny Smith and Fuji)
- half a lemon
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
- 400 grams Robertsons Mincemeat (Find on Amazon, or make at home)
- Cream the 8 ounces of butter with the 3 ounces of sugar. Add oil, vanilla and egg to the mixture. Sift the flour and baking powder, slowly adding to the mixture until it combines. Let rest in fridge for 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Prepare the pie crust: Cut the pastry into 2/3rds and 1/3rd. Grate the bigger piece and arrange in a DEEP pie plate, that has been sprayed with nonstick spray, pushing all the way up to the sides. Set aside in the fridge with the smaller piece of dough.
- Peel and core the apples. Slice them very thin, about 1/8 inch.
- Put them in a bowl and squeeze lemon juice on them, tossing to coat.
- In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice.
- Add the apples.
- Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Turn the heat up to high and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the liquid is bubbling and has reduced somewhat. Take off the heat, and stir in the mincemeat.
- Pour the apples into the unbaked crust and set aside.
- Either grate the second piece of pastry or roll out, cover the top of the pie (I have made smaller individual ones in the photo; these are the same process as a 9” pie)
- Place the pie pan on a baking sheet.
- Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (20-25 minutes for smaller)