This hearty holiday menu is perfect for cozy Texas-style gatherings this season
From a Mexican stew to an Italian dessert, this melting-pot menu warms the soul.
Weeknight Beef Chili
1½ pounds ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup tomato paste
15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
2 cups beef broth
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces medium cheddar cheese, shredded
Add the ground beef, onion and bell pepper to a large, deep pot and cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. When meat is cooked through, drain fat from pan.
Add the jalapeño, garlic, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth, chili powder, cumin and salt and stir.
Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for at least 20 minutes, preferably an hour for the best taste and texture.
3⁄4 cup dried chiles de árbol
4-5 dried ancho chiles
6 cloves garlic, divided: 2 smashed, 4 finely chopped
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut in half
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large white onion chopped
8 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
3 (15-ounce) cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
Toppings: sliced radishes, chopped onion, fresh cilantro, fried tortilla strips
Slice open the chiles de árbol and ancho chiles and shake out as many seeds as possible. Put the chiles in a bowl and cover with boiling water; weigh down the chiles with a plate to keep them submerged and soak until soft, about 30 minutes.
Transfer the chiles and 11⁄2 cups of the soaking liquid to a blender. Add the smashed garlic and 1 teaspoon salt and blend until smooth. Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pushing the sauce through with a wooden spoon; discard the solids.
Combine the cumin with 1 teaspoon salt and rub the mixture over the pork; set aside. Heat the vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook 2 minutes.
Increase the heat to medium high. Push the onion and garlic to one side of the pot; add the pork to the other side and sear, turning, until lightly browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Stir in 2 cups water, the chicken broth, oregano, bay leaf, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 3⁄4 cup of the chile sauce. Bring to a low boil, and then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Partially cover and cook, turning the pork a few times, until tender, about 3 hours.
Stir in the hominy and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the pork starts falling apart, about 1 more hour. Remove the bay leaf. Transfer the pork to a cutting board; roughly chop and return to the pot. Add some water or broth if the pozole is too thick. Season with salt. Serve with assorted toppings and the remaining chile sauce.
Winter Vegetable Soup
1⁄4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cups celery root, medium dice
2 cups fennel, cored, stalks removed, medium dice
1 head cauliflower, cored and cut into florets
32 ounces chicken stock, divided
3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3 ounces pancetta, fried
Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed round oven. Add onions and sauté over medium-low heat stirring occasionally, until tender. Do not brown the onions.
Add celery root and fennel. Sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower to pot, pour in 3 cups of stock and salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Vegetables should be very tender.
Add remaining stock and 1 cup of water. Bring pot to a boil, lower heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Working in batches, purée soup in a blender. Be sure to only fill container half full, otherwise it will overflow. Process until well blended.
Pour blended soup back into pot, add salt as needed. Reheat soup over medium-low heat.
Meanwhile fry pancetta and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
Ladle hot soup into bowls, top with pancetta, croutons (see recipe) and drizzle with olive oil.
Homemade Croissant Croutons
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Gently slice croissants into cubes. Place in a medium bowl. Pour in butter and add salt. Stir with wooden spoon to thoroughly combine. Arrange croutons on the prepared sheet pan in single layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
2 eggs, beaten
1 (16-ounce) can creamed corn
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 8-ounce container sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a 9-by-13-inch glass casserole, combine all ingredients. Gently mix with a silicone spatula until thoroughly combined.
Bake for 35-38 minutes or until golden brown.
Gingerbread Cupcakes with Cinnamon Browned-Butter Frosting
Yields: 12 cupcakes
11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄3 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄2 cup molasses
1 egg, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, more as needed
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, molasses and egg; beat until combined. Turn the mixer to low and add the milk in two additions, alternating with the flour mixture. Continue mixing until everything is combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin pan. Transfer to the oven and bake 18-22 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick. When cooked through, remove cupcakes from oven. Remove from the pan and cool before frosting.
To make the buttercream: Add 1 stick butter to a small skillet set over medium heat. Stirring often, allow the butter to brown lightly until it smells toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer the butter to the mixing bowl. Allow the butter to cool to room temperature.
Add the remaining stick of butter and 2 cups powdered sugar to the browned butter. Beat the butter and powdered sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the honey, vanilla and cinnamon. Continue beating until combined, adding more powdered sugar as needed until desired consistency is reached. Frost and decorate cupcakes as desired.
Eggnog Panna Cotta with Spiked Cranberry Sauce
Yields: 6 (4-ounce) servings
2 tablespoons cold water
2 1⁄4 teaspoons (1 packet) powdered gelatin
2 cups commercially prepared eggnog
6 ounces fresh cranberries
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
Zest of one orange
1⁄4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons orange liqueur
Panna cotta: Place the cold water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water evenly and let stand until the gelatin is absorbed.
In a small saucepan, heat the eggnog until hot, but not boiling. Remove from heat and add the gelatin to the hot eggnog. Whisk until the gelatin is dissolved.
Place 6 (4-ounce) dessert glasses on a baking sheet. Divide eggnog mixture equally among the glasses. Transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator. Chill for 2 hours.
Cranberry sauce: Combine the cranberries, sugar, orange zest and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. When berries begin to pop, reduce the heat to a simmer. Mash berries with the back of a spatula against the bottom of the pan. Continue to simmer until most of the berries are broken down.
Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and stir in the orange liqueur. If the mixture is too thick to fall from a spoon, stir in a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a sauce consistency is achieved. Let cool and then refrigerate until ready to use.
When the panna cotta is firm, spoon the cranberry sauce on top until filled to the brim of the glass. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Yields: About 25
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries with stems, drained
1⁄3 cup Fireball whisky
1⁄3 cup whipped cream-flavored vodka
1 cup white chocolate chips
Place cherries in a medium bowl and add Fireball and vodka. Cover and soak cherries for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Drain cherries and pat dry with a paper towel. Reserve alcohol for another use.
Place white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in 20-second intervals, stirring in between, until fully melted. Meanwhile, pour sprinkles into a shallow bowl and line a sheet pan with wax paper.
Dip each cherry two-thirds of the way into melted chocolate, twisting slightly to coat. Immediately dip cherry in festive sprinkles and place on prepared pan. Chill in fridge for at least 20 minutes.
Alicia Cahill is the owner of The Kitchen Chick, 2402 Market St. in Galveston.