The holiday season is an especially wonderful time to get together with loved ones and eat copious amounts of food. And while the company is the most important thing, we at Cook’s Country want to make sure that the food is just as good.
That’s why we’ve had our test cooks and editors weigh in on their favorite recipes from the December/January 2023 issue of Cook’s Country to help you have the coziest, comfiest, and most delicious holiday season yet.
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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.
Sinigang (Pork and Vegetable Soup)This sour, complex pork-and-vegetable soup helped one chef embrace her Filipino culture.
Growing up, one of my best friends was Filipino, and I remember how much I loved eating meals at her house. The umami, rich, tangy, and sweet/savory combinations of flavors were so unique to my young palate—I couldn’t get enough. When I heard about Bryan Roof’s On The Road adventures to California to learn how to make sinigang with Janice Dulce, I couldn’t wait to try it. Little did I know I would have the pleasure of cooking this dish behind the scenes for Cook’s Country TV, making it eight times consecutively in various stages! From the first spoonful, I fell in love. The backbone of the dish starts with fatty ribs creating a rich, velvety saucelike stew; tamarind paste gives the dish its signature sour flavor. The fish sauce adds even more umami to the stew and, as part of the topping, is combined with Thai chiles. This floral, spicy, salty sauce is incredible, and I found myself probably spooning too much on top. I haven’t even mentioned the unique variety of vegetables—daikon radish, green beans, and Japanese eggplant—all eventually stewed in with the ribs and soaking up the flavors. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Gingerbread Snack Cake
Gingerbread Snack CakeIn Appalachia, gingerbread is a time-honored tradition.
For me, Ronni Lundy’s Gingerbread Snack Cake was a revelation, both in terms of flavor and history. Ronni has been writing about Appalachian food, music, and culture for more than 40 years, and it was a true pleasure to talk with her about the long relationship that generations of southern mountaineers have with gingerbread. Even greater was testing out her incomparable snack cake. It’s airy and delicate yet rich and comforting, chock-full of tantalizing flavors that abound in the Appalachian larder. Of course, there’s a strong hit of ginger’s spiciness (from both ground and candied ginger), but there’s also a few unexpected ingredients that take this simple-to-prepare snack cake in sophisticated and surprising directions. Coffee and orange marmalade layer in a pleasant, complex bitterness that balances the cake’s sweetness with roasty and fruity notes. Sorghum syrup adds a buttery savoriness that molasses lacks and is much more mellow. Finally, black pepper adds very subtle, lingering heat, which in my opinion should be turned to for more desserts. Altogether, the ingredients sing in harmony, creating a cake like nothing I’ve tried before and one that’s impossible to resist snacking on.
Marinated Seafood Salad
Marinated Seafood SaladYou don’t need seven fishes to make your holiday swimmingly delicious.
I was not expecting to love Matthew Fairman’s Marinated Seafood Salad as much as I do. I’d always been lukewarm when it comes to chilled shellfish (I’ll take hot peel-and-eat shrimp over shrimp cocktail any day), but this salad instantly changed my mind. It features a mix of tender scallops, shrimp, squid, and mussels (each take their turn in a bath of garlicky simmering wine, ensuring they all cook perfectly), mixed with crunchy fennel, red bell pepper, green olives, and a vibrant lemony dressing. The result is a bright and harmonious mix of textures and flavors, each bite bringing something different. It’s hard to stop eating. And it checks off four of the seven fishes, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Roasted Beets with Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Roasted Beets with Lemon-Tahini DressingThe key to well-seasoned beets lies in prepping them before—rather than after—cooking.
I am really excited about Mark Huxsoll’s easy method for roasting beets in Roasted Beets with Lemon-Tahini Dressing. Peeling and slicing beets into wedges before roasting means not having to wrangle hot beets. More importantly, roasting beet wedges, rather than whole beets, gives the beets tons of surface area through which to absorb seasoning. Cooking the beets covered first, with a bit of water in the pan, helps ensure even cooking. I also love that the aromatic flavors the beets absorb during roasting (particularly garlic and thyme) are echoed in the creamy, earthy, tangy tahini sauce. While the beets take some time to do their thing in the oven (the total roasting time is about 1½ hours), the beauty of the method is how hands-off it is; while the beets are roasting, you have plenty of time to make your sauce and prepare other elements of your meal.
La Viña–Style Cheesecake
La Viña–Style CheesecakeWho says cheesecake needs to be fussy? This version has just five ingredients, an easy method, and a sweet backstory.
One of the most important things I’ve ever cooked in my life was cheesecake. Baking classic New York–style cheesecakes directly from the back of the graham cracker crumb box with my mom is amongst the earliest memories I have in the kitchen. Not only did I love eating the decadent cheesecake, but I fell in love with food. Those early days baking cheesecakes were a major catalyst to why I went to culinary school and became totally immersed in food and the kitchen. It makes perfect sense that my favorite recipe in this issue is Nicole Konstantinakos’ La Viña–Style Cheesecake. Though there’s no crust, a departure from the New York style I grew up with, the dichotomy of textures at play are the stuff my dreams are made of. Just set and fluffy outsides give way to an almost underbaked center that slightly oozes. The caramelization on the top adds a roasted sugar depth and complexity to something so simple yet so refined. A true masterpiece of luscious dairy that I will make over and over.
Avocado SaladAvocados often play a supporting role in salads. It’s time to make them the stars.
As a born-and-raised Californian, I’m obligated to believe that avocados are the holy grail of foods. Among local eateries, there are always a couple (albeit overpriced) slices of avocado on every sandwich, burger, omelet, or burrito. But I always found myself wanting more; let the avocado shine as the main character not the sidekick! Morgan Bolling’s Avocado Salad provided just that catharsis. A big plate of shingled avocados dressed in a bright, punchy topping is not only eye candy for the table but it also takes the flavors of avocado front and center. Even though avocados are technically a fruit, they’re rarely devoured on their own, due to their lack of sweetness or tang. Bolling’s recipe overcomes this by topping the avocado with zippy hints of citrus zest and cumin, which mingle with lemon juice and sugar to infuse balance back into the fruit. Jalapeños add heat and pepitas provide crunch, while fresh cilantro and shallots further brighten the whole affair. And with each slice glazed in floral olive oil, this dish is as beautiful as it is delicious. Avocados finally step into the limelight here, and it’s definitely the moment I’ve been waiting for.
Duck Leg Confit
Duck Leg ConfitWe recommend serving this smoked duck shredded atop a main-course salad.
Our love of poultry is well documented—chicken is everywhere and there’s a whole holiday with turkey front and center. For me, duck is where it’s at, especially Matthew Fairman’s Duck Leg Confit recipe! This traditional French cooking method produces tender, succulent meat wrapped in crispy well-seasoned (pepper, ginger, nutmeg, clove) skin that’s worth the time and effort alone. The beauty of this recipe is in its versatility. Whether you’re making an upscale dinner for loved ones or going more casual, this preparation has you covered. Confit duck legs pair well with just about anything. I love eating them with the accompanying Cranberry Gastrique, which is the best of sweet and tart, but perhaps my favorite application to shred the meat and stuff it into tacos where the crispy skin adds flavorful textural contrast, or even in a pasta dish.