Brunch on the Range
Food blogger and cookbook author Molly Yeh shares easy, festive recipes that blend her Midwestern, Jewish, and Chinese roots.
For all of us, the holidays loom large. On the calendar. In the heart. So we scale up the meal to match the importance of the day. A turkey always seems substantial. A dry-aged, bone-in rib roast is unfailingly weighty. Every good ham has heft. This stuff is large. No matter the size of the family, we cook big. We give these meals more.
More time. We call the butcher to reserve our roast weeks before, requesting that he trim it just so. We tear new recipes months in advance. We scout the markets to find a bin of hulled chestnuts or an ample supply of baby bok choy. The holidays take root in moments like these.
More skill. The paper-thin slicing of the Granny Smiths, the drying of the homemade bread crumbs, the proper brining of the bird.
More ambition, too. Menus broaden and grow. My mother treated every holiday meal as an elaborate opportunity to place unfamiliar foods in front of the sometimes-scowling faces of her three ungrateful sons. Roast fennel, steamed kale, wild rice and plums, cold turnip salad, beet greens with baked apple.
And on the day in question? More coats on the bed. More cars in the driveway. More seats at more tables. More cousins. More noise. More faces at the table. And there in front of them, the grand production of time, ambition, and love: the holiday meal.
All that, of course. And more.
Mix peppercorns, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds in a small bowl. Prick skin of duck legs all over with a paring knife; season generously with salt. Sprinkle duck legs with spice mixture, pressing to adhere. Score fat of each duck breast in a crosshatch pattern, spacing 1/2″ apart; season all over with salt. Divide legs and breasts between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Let sit at room temperature 1 hour or chill uncovered up to 3 days.
If chilling, let duck legs sit at room temperature 1 hour before braising.
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 300°. Heat oil in a large wide Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium and cook leeks, stirring occasionally, until softened and browned around edges, 8–10 minutes. Add thyme sprigs, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and garlic is slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
Remove pot from heat and slip duck legs, skin side down, into liquid (depending on size of pan, they may overlap quite a bit—this is okay!). Pour in water to come three-quarters of the way up legs. Cover pot and braise duck legs in oven until submerged in their own fat, 1 1/2–2 hours.
Turn duck legs skin side up and continue to braise (still covered) until tender and the bones wiggle easily in joints, 1 1/2–2 hours longer. Let legs cool in braising liquid, then chill until fat rises to the surface and solidifies, at least 2 hours.
DO AHEAD: Duck legs can be braised 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
Cook clementines, figs, cognac, sugar, mustard, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar, until figs absorb some liquid and mixture is syrupy, 10–15 minutes. Let cool; remove bay leaves. Stir in vinegar, then strain 1/3 cup syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; set aside to use for glazing duck. Set remaining relish aside for serving.
Let duck breasts sit until room temperature, about 1 hour.
Place 2 duck breasts, skin side down, in a large skillet; set over medium-low heat and cook duck, occasionally pouring excess fat from skillet into a bowl (save it!), until skin is golden brown and crisp, 12–15 minutes. Turn duck over, increase heat to medium, and cook on other side 2 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Wipe out skillet and let cool down, then repeat with remaining 2 breasts. (If you have 2 large skillets, by all means do all 4 breasts at once.) Let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Remove duck legs from braising liquid, brushing off any seeds or fat clinging to surface. Place, skin side up, on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and lightly brush with reserved glaze. Roast until golden brown and skin is crisp, 10–15 minutes.
Serve duck legs and sliced breasts with reserved relish.
DO AHEAD: Relish can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill strained glaze and relish separately. Bring to room temperature before using.
Working in 2 batches, scatter rosemary over a paper towel-lined plate. Top with another sheet of paper towel and microwave on high 1 minute. Check rosemary and continue to microwave in 20-second intervals, until dry and crisp. Grind rosemary in spice mill or with mortar and pestle to a powder. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in fennel pollen.
Place roast, fat side down, on a cutting board with a long side facing you. Using a sharp slicing knife and long strokes, cut roast into two 3-bone roasts. French rib bones 1 1/2″ from tip of bones, if desired. Score fat cap in a crosshatch pattern, spacing cuts 1″ apart. Rub roasts all over with garlic, then coat with rosemary mixture. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place, fat cap up, on a rack, set inside a roasting pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
Let roasts sit at room temperature 2 hours for even roasting.
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 225°. Roast meat, rotating pan once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of roasts registers 125° for medium rare, or 130° for medium, 3 1/2–4 hours. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and let rest 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook bacon in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 8–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a small bowl; reserve for another use (it's the fat you're after). Add butter pieces to drippings in pan and cook, stirring often, until mixture foams, then browns, 5–8 minutes. Strain into a medium nonreactive bowl. Immediately stir in shallot; let cool (butter will have set up but will still be soft). Using an electric mixer on medium-high, add room-temperature butter to bacon fat mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Mix in chives and vinegar; season bacon butter with salt. Chill, stirring occasionally, at least 20 minutes (butter should be a little more firm but still light and fluffy).
Move rack to upper third of oven; increase oven temperature to 500°. Roast meat until deep brown and exterior is crisp, 8–10 minutes. Serve rib-eye roast with bacon butter.
DO AHEAD: Bacon butter mixture (without chives and vinegar) can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled. Let soften slightly before adding chives and vinegar.
INGREDIENT INFO: Often labeled “concentrate cooking tamarind,” tamarind concentrate can be found at Asian and Thai markets, and online.
Let ham sit at room temperature 1 hour for even baking.
Place a rack in lower third of oven; preheat to 300°. Wrap ham tightly in foil and place on a wire rack set inside a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of ham, avoiding the bone, registers 120°, 1 1/2–2 hours.
Meanwhile, mix chiles, garlic, ginger, tamarind, and 1/2 cup honey in a small bowl; season lightly with salt. Set 1/3 cup glaze aside for sauce.
Remove ham from oven and uncover. Increase oven temperature to 450°. Brush ham with 1/3 cup glaze and bake 10 minutes. Brush with another 1/3 cup glaze and bake until surface is crisp and looks lacquered, 10–15 minutes. Remove from oven and tent with foil; let ham rest 20 minutes before slicing.
Meanwhile, bring wine to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Whisk in reserved 1/3 cup glaze and remaining 1 Tbsp. honey. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add butter 1 piece at a time, incorporating completely before adding more, until sauce is glossy, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt.
Serve ham with sauce alongside.
DO AHEAD: Glaze can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.
INGREDIENT INFO: Pomegranate molasses, a thick pomegranate syrup, can be found at Middle Eastern markets, some supermarkets, and online.
Preheat oven to 350°. Place lamb shanks on a large rimmed baking sheet; season generously with salt and pepper. Mix cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, and cardamom in a small bowl; massage spice mixture into lamb. Let rest 1 hour at room temperature or chill uncovered up to 12 hours (the longer, the better).
If chilling, let shanks sit at room temperature 1 hour for even roasting.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pot over medium-high. Working in batches, cook lamb shanks until brown on all sides, 10–15 minutes. Transfer lamb to paper towels to drain.
Wipe out pot and let cool slightly so that vegetables don't burn. Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in pot over medium. Add onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and softened, 8–10 minutes. Add thyme sprigs, garlic, and bay leaves and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle flour over and stir vigorously to evenly distribute. Cook, stirring often, until flour is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add wine; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Gradually stir in broth, pomegranate juice, and pomegranate molasses. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.
Arrange lamb shanks in a single layer in a large roasting pan. Pour in onion mixture and push lamb shanks down into liquid (about three-quarters of lamb shanks should be submerged; add more broth if needed). Cover pan with foil and cook lamb, turning occasionally, until meat is fork-tender and almost falling off the bone, 1 1/2-2 hours. Remove pan from oven and let lamb rest, covered, in liquid at least 30 minutes.
Transfer lamb to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm. Strain braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan; skim off fat from surface and discard. Add walnuts to braising liquid and bring to a simmer over medium-high. Cook until reduced by one-third, 15–20 minutes (sauce should be slightly thickened and velvety). Add butter a piece at a time, stirring after each addition until incorporated before adding more; sauce should look glossy. Return lamb to pot and cook, stirring to coat, until heated through. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Arrange lamb over polenta on a platter and spoon walnuts and sauce over; top with lemon zest.
DO AHEAD: Lamb shanks can be braised 1 day ahead. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.
This first part might not be pleasant, but it'll be over quickly: Working with 1 lobster at a time, place on a cutting board, belly side down, with head facing you (freezing them 8–10 minutes first will render them fairly immobile). Insert a chef's knife where the tail meets the head, and swiftly bisect head lengthwise in one fell swoop (leave tail intact). Using the back of a cleaver or a lobster cracker, crack each claw on all sides. Twist off tails and cut in half through shells lengthwise. Remove any tomalley or eggs (reserve if you like). Twist off knuckles and claws, then separate knuckles from claws using cleaver.
Heat 1/3 cup oil in a wide Dutch oven or heavy pot that's large enough to hold pasta over medium-high. Season lobsters with salt and, working in separate batches and being careful not to overcrowd pot, sear lobster pieces, turning occasionally and adding more oil if pot looks dry, until shells are bright red, about 4 minutes for knuckles, claws, and tails; about 6 minutes for heads. Transfer lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet; let cool slightly. Remove pot from heat and add brandy. Return to heat and cook, scraping up browned bits, until smell of alcohol is almost gone, about 2 minutes. Transfer brandy mixture to a small bowl. Pick lobster meat from knuckles and claws; discard shells. Place in an airtight container with tails; cover and chill until ready to use. Set heads aside. Wipe out pot and reserve.
Working in batches, pulse onions, carrots, and fennel separately in a food processor until finely chopped; transfer vegetables to a large bowl after each is chopped. Heat remaining 1/3 cup oil in reserved pot over medium-high. Cook vegetables, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, 8–10 minutes. Add garlic, chiles, and 1 tsp. red pepper flakes and cook, smashing garlic with a wooden spoon and stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and reserved lobster heads; bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced by one-third, about 2 minutes. Add tomato purée to pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened, 10–15 minutes. Discard lobster heads.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente. Drain, reserving 3 cups pasta cooking liquid.
Add butter, chilled lobster meat, lobster tails, pasta, reserved brandy mixture, and 2 cups pasta cooking liquid to sauce. Cook, tossing to combine and adding more pasta cooking liquid as needed, until sauce coats pasta. Because you're working with a large amount of pasta and sauce, this will take effort—toss using a long sturdy spoon in each hand, and make sure to get to the bottom of pot as you go. Add parsley and lemon juice, then transfer pasta to a platter, arranging lobster tails on top. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.
DO AHEAD: Lobsters can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
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