Welcome to Your (practically) Stress-Free Holiday Kitchen

Two-Ingredient Biscuits, a food gift that packages itself, the “roast” you can't overcook & so much more.

By Hannah Agran
RECIPES by Charles Worthington Photos by justin Salem Meyer and Andy Lyons

Holiday cooking is a blast. But it's also kinda crazy. The brunches, the pies, the drinks, the big feast—to say nothing of that Pinterest-inspired day when you realize, elbow-deep in chocolate, that dipping truffles is definitely not your secret talent. Help is on the way. We've packed these pages with real-world recipes and tips designed to make your yuletide kitchen adventures just a little saner. (And tastier, too.) So relax! You've got this nailed. Well, nailed enough.

Go Dutch

Make-ahead breakfasts sound great…until you're assembling an egg casserole at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That's why we love this sweet-and-savory Dutch baby pancake. The batter's quick, and in the 15 minutes while it bakes, you can whip up the maple-glazed apple topping.

Sausage-Apple Dutch Baby

Hands on: 15 minutes Total: 36 minutes

  • 3 ounces fully cooked smoked chicken-apple sausage, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 3½ tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium red cooking apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  • Preheat oven to 425°. In a 9-inch cast-iron or oven-going skillet, cook sausage in 1½ tablespoons hot butter over medium heat until browned.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat eggs well. Add flour, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon; whisk vigorously until smooth. Immediately pour batter into hot skillet over the sausage. Transfer to oven; bake for 15 minutes, or until browned and puffed.
  • While pancake bakes, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add apple. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until apple is crisp-tender and browning on edges. Add brown sugar and maple syrup. Cook 2 to 3 minutes more, or until apple is tender. Serve Dutch baby topped with apples.

Makes 4 servings.

Tip: This recipe doubles easily. You can make two Dutch babies or a single large one in a 12-inch skillet. (Increase bake time by 3 to 5 minutes.)

Per Serving 349 cal, 18 g fat, 190 mg chol, 452 sodium, 37 g carbo, 2 g fiber, 11 g pro.

Memorize this recipe

For real. These biscuits have two ingredients. They're magic, basically.

Cream Biscuits

Place 2 cups self-rising flour in a medium bowl. (Or whisk 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt.) If you like, add 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar. Stir in 1⅓ cups whipping cream until dough just forms. Scrape dough onto a floured surface. With floured hands, flatten dough slightly and fold in half. Repeat 2 times. Pat dough into a 6×6-inch square about ¾-inch thick. Cut into 9 squares. Transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops with additional cream. Bake in a 450° oven about 12 minutes or until golden.

Learn to make Big-Batch Bacon

Go into a restaurant kitchen, and you won't find line cooks frying bacon four strips at a time in a skillet. They're doing it on sheet pans in the oven. Why? Less mess. Less stress. Less curling. Feeds a crowd. To do it, arrange bacon on a rack in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 18 to 21 minutes, turning once after 10 minutes.

Fancy it up
Sprinkle strips with brown sugar and cracked black pepper before baking.

Mix a morning mocktail

If your family likes to sip mimosas while opening presents, then by all means, have at it. We'll be pacing ourselves with this tart, fizzy, deliciously pink, nonalcoholic alternative.

Darling Clementine

In a pitcher, combine 2 cups chilled cranberry juice, 1 cup clementine juice (from about 8 clementines), ¾ cup lime juice and 3 tablespoons honey or simple syrup, stirring until honey is dissolved. Chill, covered, for up to 24 hours. Serve over ice, topped with club soda. (If desired, rim glass with superfine sugar or garnish drink with a slice of clementine or whole cranberries).

Bench the Keurig

A single-serve coffeemaker is great for one or two people, but making a house full of brunch guests wait in line for caffeine is not cool. Keep a basic 12-cup coffeemaker in the garage for occasions like these.

Even better
Buy a thermal carafe, so you can start a second pot before the first runs out.

Serve Grapes with Gusto

Somewhere on the road from fresh fruit to chutney, you'll find these rubylike beauties, slicked in olive oil and oven-warmed to concentrate their sweetness. They're a perfect match for cheese or cured meats.

Thyme-Roasted Grapes

Snip a big bunch of red grapes into small clusters and arrange in a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and rub to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425° for 8 minutes, then sprinkle with chopped fresh thyme or rosemary. Roast 3 to 5 minutes more, or until grapes have softened and puckered or split a bit. Serve warm.

Be Classic

Onion dip is a universal fave. So lean into tradition. Aim high. Make yours The Best Onion Dip Ever. Here's how.

Tangy Sour Cream and Onion Dip

In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 cup chopped onion and a pinch each of salt and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 1 clove minced garlic and continue cooking, 3 to 5 minutes more, or until onions are golden and caramelized. Transfer to a bowl; let cool 5 minutes. Stir in ½ cup each sour cream, mayonnaise and Greek yogurt. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for at least two hours or up to overnight.

Pop! the bubbly

Short of Santa hats and ugly sweaters, how do you turn an ordinary party into a Christmassy one? The drink. Serve an Eggnog Martini. Ladle up punch. Or keep it almost embarrassingly simple and greet guests with sparkling wine. Fizz in flutes says instant merry—and all you had to do was make room in the fridge.

Whatever happens, make this popcorn

This is caramel corn all grown up—studded with salted peanuts, flecked with rosemary and kissed with cayenne. Make a double batch to pack as gifts, or set a bowl on the coffee table as a way-fun alternative to Chex Mix.

Spicy Rosemary-Peanut Caramel Corn

Hands on: 20 minutes Total: 1 hour 50 minutes

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 12 cups unsalted popped popcorn
  • 2 cups cocktail peanuts
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup light color corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons flaky sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 275°. Coat a rimmed roasting pan with cooking spray; set aside. Place popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl; set aside. In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, cook and stir butter, brown sugar and corn syrup over medium heat until butter is melted. Stir in orange juice. Bring to boiling. Boil at a moderate steady rate for 2 minutes (do not stir). Remove from heat. Stir in rosemary, vanilla, baking soda and cayenne pepper (mixture will foam up).
  • Pour butter mixture over popcorn mixture. Stir to coat well. Spread in prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Transfer to a large sheet of heavy foil; spread evenly. Sprinkle with salt. Cool. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes 26 servings.

Per Serving 126 cal, 8 g fat, 9 mg chol, 225 mg sodium, 11 g carbo, 1 g fiber, 3 g pro.

Toss a better Salad

So many problems solved. This salad actually tastes better dressed hours ahead and served at room temperature, so it travels beautifully. Fresh cranberries and an assertive, gingery dressing balance rich meats and sides. And it's hearty enough to keep vegetarians at the table satisfied. Sold yet?

Kale, Cranberry and Root Vegetable Salad

Hands on: 30 minutes Total: 2 hours

  • 3 medium beets, trimmed, peeled, quartered and sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 5 medium carrots, sliced ¼-inch thick
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 4 medium shallots, peeled, and quartered lengthwise
  • ¾ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1 8-ounce bunch kale, stems removed and leaves cut into ½-inch thick ribbons (6 cups)
  • ⅓ cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ cup roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

  • Place a large rimmed baking sheet in oven and preheat to 425°. Meanwhile, in a very large bowl combine beets, carrots, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Carefully add carrots and beets to hot pan in a single layer; set bowl aside. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shallots and cranberries to pan, stirring to coat. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes more or until vegetables are just tender, stirring once.
  • Meanwhile, place kale in the bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Massage the kale with your hands until bright green and tender, about 2 to 5 minutes. In a small bowl, combine raisins, lemon juice, mustard, garlic and ginger.
  • When vegetables are done, remove pan from oven, add raisin mixture and stir to coat. Cool for 5 minutes. Add vegetable-raisin mixture to kale; toss to coat. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours, then bring to room temperature and stir before serving. To serve, transfer to a platter and top with pumpkin seeds.

Makes 10 servings.

Per Serving 154 cal, 7 g fat, 0 mg chol, 156 mg sodium, 20 g carbo, 5 g fiber, 5 g pro.

Never overcook a roast again

Roast beef and turkey demand precise timing. Braised brisket is kind and forgiving. It cooks low and slow and won't protest if you wander off and forget it for a while. It tastes great on Day One, even better on Day Two or even Day Three. In fact, brisket is such a generous entree, it actually gives back to you: This recipe makes its own gravy.

Beer-Braised Brisket

Hands on: 25 minutes Total: 4 hours

  • 1 3½- to 4-pound flat cut beef brisket, trimmed, leaving ¼-inch layer of fat
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage, crushed
  • 3 tablespoons coarse mustard
  • 3 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped (leafy tops reserved for garnish, if desired)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 12-ounce bottle brown ale
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • Celery-Horseradish Garnish (optional; recipe follows)

  • Preheat oven to 325°. Season beef on both sides with 1 teaspoon each salt and cracked pepper. Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart Dutch oven. Brown meat well on both sides, cutting in half to fit if necessary. Remove from heat; turn meat fat side up. Sprinkle with sage and spread with mustard. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic to pot.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together ale, the water and tomato paste. Pour mixture over meat. Bring to boiling over high heat. Cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 3½ to 4 hours or until fork tender.
  • Transfer meat to a cutting board to cool slightly. Meanwhile, prepare sauce by pureeing cooking liquid and vegetables in the Dutch oven with an immersion blender (or cool 15 minutes and transfer to a blender). Season to taste.

To serve immediately: Thinly slice meat across grain. Arrange on a platter and top with some sauce. Top with Celery-Horseradish Garnish if desired. Pass remaining sauce.

To serve soon: Thinly slice meat across grain. Arrange in a casserole dish or on an oven-safe platter. Top with some sauce and cover with foil. Keep warm in a 275° to 325° oven for up to 1 hour. Top with Celery-Horseradish Garnish if desired. Pass extra sauce, rewarmed if necessary.

To serve later: Wrap cooled meat and transfer sauce to a covered bowl. Chill up to 2 days. To reheat, slice beef across grain; arrange in a casserole dish. Top with sauce (remove congealed fat first) and cover with foil. Warm in a 325° oven for 1 hour or until heated through. If you like, transfer beef to a platter and sauce to a pitcher. Top with Celery-Horseradish Garnish, if desired.

Celery-Horseradish Garnish

In a small bowl, combine ¾ cup chopped celery leaves, ⅓ cup chopped fresh parsley, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish and ½ teaspoon kosher salt.

Makes 12 servings.

Per Serving 412 cal, 32 g fat, 91 mg chol, 498 mg sodium, 7 g carbo, 1 g fiber, 22 g pro.

Outsource the bird

Brisket's easy, but you know what's even simpler? Splurging on a smoked turkey. Just follow the heating directions and plan on divine leftover sandwiches for days. Two good sources: Wisconsin's Nueske's (from $60, nueskes.com) and Missouri's Burgers' Smokehouse (from $70, smokehouse.com).

Cook a one-ingredient gift

Dulce de leche is lusciously thick Latin American caramel that's traditionally made by boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk. Our slow-cooker method allows you to monitor the caramel's color, plus the end result is an instant gift.

Here's what to do: Divide 2 14-ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk among six 4-ounce canning jars. Secure lids. Place in a slow cooker; add enough hot tap water to cover by 1 inch. Cook on low for 11 to 12 hours, or until thick and richly colored. Remove with tongs. Cool to room temperature; store in refrigerator up to 3 weeks.

Whip it good

The honest truth? Purchased pumpkin pie tastes darn near as good as homemade, so if you're going to cut corners, this is one place to do it. Then cover your tracks with fresh, real, ready-in-minutes whipped cream. Add a splash of bourbon if you're feeling jolly.

Let them eat ice cream

Vanilla ice cream, pistachios and crisp purchased meringues match wits with a triple threat of raspberry—sorbet, jam and fresh fruit. Such an effortlessly glamorous dessert shouldn't taste this good. In fact, we were worried it would just be a pretty face. Boy, were we wrong.

Frozen Raspberry Pistachio Terrine

Hands on: 15 minutes Total: 8 hours 15 minutes

  • 2 pints good quality vanilla ice cream, such as Häagen-Dazs
  • 1 pint raspberry sorbet
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • ½ cup salted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped, plus additional for garnish
  • ⅓ cup seedless raspberry jam, stirred to soften
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • Purchased meringues, coarsely broken

  • Place ice cream and sorbet in refrigerator until slightly soft, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, coat a 9-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper 9 inches wide and 15 inches long. Fit paper into pan so that paper hangs over the long sides of the pan. (Crease paper with the blunt end of a knife so it fits in neatly.)
  • Randomly fill pan with 2- to 3-tablespoon scoops of ice cream and sorbet, using a different spoon for each and occasionally pressing lightly with backs of spoons to remove air pockets. As you fill the pan, periodically pause to sprinkle and drizzle in some of the ½ cup pistachios and raspberry jam. (You should use all the pistachios and jam by the end, and end with a layer of ice cream.) Tap the pan on the counter a few times before covering with plastic wrap. Freeze until solid, at least 8 hours or up to 5 days.
  • To serve, remove plastic and run a thin knife or spatula along short ends of pan. Invert onto a chilled serving platter and remove paper. Decorate with raspberries, additional pistachios and meringues.

Makes 8 servings.

Per Serving 454 cal, 23 g fat, 98 mg chol, 124 mg sodium, 56 g carbo, 3 g fiber, 7 g pro.