Want help planning Christmas dinner? Need dessert for a holiday party and don't know what to make? Confounded by basting? Rocco helps with your culinary conundrums and provides a recipe or two to get you through the after-holiday slump.
Patricia Sternon-Heroufosse asks: I would love to make a dessert that matches the qualities of an elegant Christmas eve meal. I can cook about anything but have always been challenged by the sweet side, could come up with something that has coffee in the background?
Rocco DiSpirito: Patricia, I have the perfect dessert for you, it's seasonal, very delicious and very elegant. It even has a tableside flambé element.
Persimmon Pound Cake
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- 2 cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup + 1/2 cup + 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups eggs (about 8)
- 1/2 cup persimmon puree (3-4 peeled persimmons, pureed in a blender and strained)
- 3 cups chestnuts in syrup, drained, or 3 cups roasted and peeled chestnuts
- pinch of nutmeg
- 3/4 cup brandy
Yield: 12 servings
Preheat oven to 350°.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Cream butter and 1 cup sugar in a mixer with a paddle for 5 minutes, or until it lightens and gets fluffy. With machine running, slowly add in dry ingredients until well blended. Slowly add eggs while mixing. Add persimmon puree and nutmeg and mix well.
If using chestnuts in syrup, simply drain them and toss 2 cups worth in a bowl with 1/2 cup sugar. If using roasted chestnuts, simmer 2 cups worth in 2 cups simple syrup for 5 minutes, then drain and toss in the sugar. Remove from the sugar and roughly chop by hand. Stir the chopped sugared chestnuts into the batter.
Grease the bottom and sides of a bundt pan. Pour in batter and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted to the middle of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is cooking, prepare your glaze. Cut the remaining 1 cup of chestnuts into slices. Melt 3/4 cup sugar in a saucepan with just enough water to dissolve the sugar. When the sugar reaches softball stage, remove it from the heat and add the sliced chestnuts. Set aside in a warm place until the cake is done.
When the cake is done, remove it from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert on a serving plate.
To serve, unmold the cake onto a cake platter. Ladle the chestnut syrup over the top of the cake, letting the nuts scatter (if the glaze is not a pouring consistency, warm it with 2 tablespoons of water until it loosens up). At tableside, douse the top of the cake with the brandy and flambé. When the flames go out, cut into slices and serve.
Rhonda Thomas Almarode asks: I'm tired of doing the typical turkey/ham thing for Christmas. I may do spaghetti or something like that for a change but I would really love an original menu. Something special but not too difficult. :)
Rocco DiSpirito: Rhonda, let me suggest a standing rib roast. It's what I am serving Christmas day!
Garlic and Horseradish Crusted Standing Rib Roast, Root Vegetable and Red Wine Gravy
- 1 prime, aged bone in, Rib Roast (4-5 ribs or about 10-12 lbs.)
- 4 tablespoons sea salt salt
- Freshly ground pepper
For the crust:
- 10 cloves garlic, cut into chunks
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 Tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
- 4 Tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
- 3 Tablespoons flour
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
For the roast:
- 2 cup onions, large chunks
- 1 cup carrots, large chunks
- 1 cup turnips, peeled, large chunks
- 1 cup celery root, peeled, large chunks
- 1 head garlic, split
- 2 cups chicken broth
For the gravy:
- 1/2 cup bacon, sliced into 1/4" strips
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 sprigs fresh oregano
Prime and aged beef is not essential for this recipe to be successful. Prime aged beef is more expensive than regular beef. If there ever was a time to splurge this is it. The difference in flavor and tenderness is remarkable.
Ask butcher for small end of the roast. The larger end comes from the shoulder area and is tougher than the smaller more tender end. Also, ask the butcher to trim the backbone (chine) off the roast and leave the rib bones still connected. Also make sure the butcher trims the fat cap off the roast and places it back on top before tying the roast.
Make sure rib roast is at room temperature before placing in the oven. Let is sit outside at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap for at least one hour before cooking. This is very important. It won't cook properly in the time/temperature allotted if it starts out icebox cold.
A large stainless steel or cast iron heavy bottomed roasting pan is ideal for long, slow, low temp roasting like this.
No time/temp formula can ever be 100% accurate due to the variables in oven temperatures from home to home. Using an oven read meat thermometer is the only way to make sure the roast is cooked to your liking. All roasts must rest after they are removed from the oven for these temperatures to be accurate. Remember a roast this size continues to cook even after its removed from the oven. For a roast this size 30-45 minutes tented with foil in a warm area is recommended.
You will need a gravy separator (the one where the pour spout is attached at the bottom) to make the gravy.
See chart below:
|Rare||110°/120° - 125°|
|Medium-rare||130° - 135°|
|Medium||140° - 145°|
|Medium-well||150° - 155°|
|Well done||160° and above|
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place garlic, onion, horseradish, oregano, flour, and mayonnaise into a food processor and pulse until a rough paste forms. Smooth garlic mixture on the top and sides of the roast.
From "roast" ingredients place onions, carrots, turnips, celery root, garlic and chicken broth into roasting pan.
Place crusted roast-rib side down in then pan on top of the vegetables.
Place the roast into the pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees F. and cook about 20 minutes per pound.
Test the beef with a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the roast (center of the eye) being careful not to touch the bone. Remove the roast when the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees F. for rare, 130 for medium rare or 140 degrees F. for medium or as desired, using above chart as a guide.
Cover the roast loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for a minimum of 30 minutes. The internal roast temperature will continue to rise about 5 degrees even after you take it out of the oven.
While the roast is resting make the gravy. Remove all the juices from the pan. Use the gravy separator cup to decant fat from the juices. There is no better way to do this.
Heat the roasting pan on the stove top with the vegetables in it and add the sliced bacon, when the bacon is warm add the flour and stir until blended and cook for 5 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine and reduce by half. Add the chicken broth and the natural juices and the oregano and simmer on the stove top for 30 minutes. Skim the fat off the top periodically. You can strain it before serving if you like but I like the chunky version very much.
While gravy is simmering remove the fat layer and trim off the rib bones if you like. You may also trim off the tail portion of the roast depending on its fat content and your cholesterol levels.
Using an electric knife carve the roast at the table. Outside portions are more done than the inside portions. If you have a portion that is more rare than your guest wishes, return that portion to the kitchen and place it in the pan with drippings. Cook on top of the stove for 30 seconds on both sides and that should do it.
Serve with hot gravy and prepared horseradish on the side.
Christi Zumft Knight asks: Actually- come to think of it- would love some help- would love a festive buffet style dinner- easy clean up and not to much fuss- have neighbors and kids coming over- want to be festive- but also shove off for vacation first thing in morning the next day- so don't want to waste either... I typically always do the tenderloin with potato rolls- need to switch it out..change it up- Rocco style.
Rocco DiSpirito: Christi, I hear you loud and clear. In fact, I go through the same thought process when I entertain. But every time I try something new I am invariably told by one of my guests that they where hoping to see some of their old favorites. That said, here's something old and new from the world of side dishes I think you might like.
Popovers with cheese
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups milk
- 8 large eggs
- Non-stick vegetable oil spray
- 10 ounces grated Cheddar cheese (2-1/4 cups)
Makes about 24 popovers
Preheat the pan. Place the popover pan in the oven. Heat the oven and pan to 350° F. Make the batter, place the flour and salt in a fine sieve and sift it onto a piece of wax paper.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk until small bubbles appear around the edges.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Slowly whisk in the hot milk so as not to cook the eggs. Set aside.
Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the egg mixture stirring until almost smooth. Fill the Pan Remove the popover pan from the oven and spray it with non-stick vegetable spray. While the batter is still slightly warm or room temperature, fill each cup at least three-quarters full. Top each popover with some of the grated Cheddar. Place a baking sheet on the rack below the pan to catch any drips.
Bake the Popovers. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan 180° so that the popovers will rise evenly. Bake for 35 minutes more or until golden brown. To Serve Invert the pan and remove the popovers. Serve immediately. The popovers can also be made up to 2 hours in advance. Cool on a wire rack. Reheat in a low oven just before serving.
Renee Hyle Gitto asks: I would love to make a sophisticated and kid friendly dessert to serve after a traditional Italian Christmas eve dinner. Any suggestions? THANKS!!
Rocco DiSprito: Renee, here's a suggestion for a dessert kids and adults will love equally. It's got Fluff in it. Need I say more?
- 8 Keebler Mini Graham Cracker Pie Crusts, or other tart shells of choice
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 8 large strawberries, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups Fluff
Estimated Cost: $9.75
Preheat toaster to medium heat oven. Place tart shells inside and allow to become golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from toaster oven and turn setting up to dark toast. In a double boiler, over low heat, melt chocolate. Spoon a little more than a tablespoon of chocolate into the bottom of each shell and arrange slices from one strawberry in the chocolate. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of Fluff inside each shell and spread to cover the entire surface of the shell. Sprinkle a tiny amount of salt on top. Place filled tartlets in the toaster oven. Watching carefully, allow the Fluff to become toasty brown and remove from oven. Place two tartlets on each plate and haphazardly drizzle some chocolate over them and on the plates. Serve.
Debra Iozzi Giacalone asks: On one of your shows you had the recipe for Sangria...had apricot juice in it? Did I miss it in the cookbook? I didn't see it...please post the recipe, sounded delicious...
Rocco DiSpirito: Debra, thanks for watching Rocco Gets Real. I am glad you noticed, I love apricot anything! Here's the recipe. Use a sweet red wine called Brachetto if you can find it.
- 1 1/2 cups apricot nectar
- 3 cups red wine
- juice of 2 lemons
- juice of 2 limes
- pinch of salt
- 6 fresh apricots, halved
- 2 6.75-ounce bottles Aranciata (or to taste)
Combine first 5 ingredients in a pitcher. Add ice and apricots and stir in desired amount of Aranciata. Serve immediately.
Candy Schaffer asks: Hi Rocco! I'm thinking of doing a salmon mousse on cucumber slices as a Hors d'oeuvre to bring to my in-laws for Christmas Eve Dinner. We had an amuse-bouche similar to this at the Escoffier and everyone loved it. I don't like seafood, but they all love it and I'll make sure my husband is the taste tester before it goes anywhere. Do think it's a wise choice, or would you suggest something else?
Rocco DiSpirito: Candy, I love that you have been to The Escoffier Room at my Alma Mater, The Culinary Institute Of Amercia. I remember that salmon mousse well. But take it easy on yourself this season and serve high quality sliced gravlax on black bread toasts. Add some dill yogurt for an additional layer of flavor. Here is my recipe for gravlax just in case you want to get crazy this year.
Bergamot and Lime Cured Salmon
- Cure for salmon
- 1 10-12 pound farm raised salmon
- 4 quarts of sugar, 1 1/2 quarts
- 1 cup bergamot tea
- 1 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup dry sherry
- 1/2 bunch oregano, chopped
- Zest of 3 lemons, oranges, limes
- Juice of 2 lemons, oranges, limes
Makes 40 servings
Mix above ingredients until cure is consistency of wet cement. Rub cure on salmon and leave for 18 hours, rinse for 10 minutes in cold water. Slice thinly.
Melissa Winn asks: Hi Rocco. I love cooking but I also want to be part of the holiday festivities and not spend hours in the kitchen. My problem is I have several friends who are vegetarians and some who only eat fish and chicken and some who are strictly meat and potatoes folks. How do I make sure everyone has something to eat without slaving all day? Thanks for your help and I love the show.
Rocco DiSpirito: Melissa, it sounds like you need some new friends, just kidding. What you need to do is a mixed grill theme. All you have to do is get individually portioned cuts of all the meats your friends love; beef, chicken, fish and tofu (for the vegetarians) and marinate them in something yummy and broil them and serve them with my recipe for curried vegetables below.
- 2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
- 1 bunch Thai basil, leaves picked, washed and chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, leaves picked, washed and chopped
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup chopped garlic
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh ginger
- 1 head cauliflower, cut into medium florets
- 1 medium leek, sliced in half lengthwise and sliced 1" thick
- salt and fresh ground pepper
- 3 red bell peppers, large dice
- 1 large head collard greens, cleaned (about 6 cups)
- 1 1/4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 3/4 cup Bertolli Tomato and Basil sauce
- 1 15-ounce container Fage 2% Greek yogurt
Heat olive oil over high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in remaining 2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder and saute 1 more minute. Add cauliflower, leeks and peppers to the pan and season well with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, currants and marinara to the pan and bring to a simmer. Stir in collard greens. Cover with lid and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in remaining herbs and yogurt. Adjust seasonings, if necessary.
Lynn Maxwell asks: Rocco - any tips on getting a precise dry measure? I have two sets of dry measuring cups and they measure out very differently. Or maybe a recommended brand?
Rocco DiSpirito: Lynn, as a matter of fact all professional pastry chefs encounter the very same problem which is why they all use weight measurements and a scale to measure all the ingredients. Volume measurements are notoriously unreliable.
Kristen Payne asks: The meat, potatoes and pies are all great during the holidays but I like vegetables too. Do you have a couple easy yet flavorful vegi dishes for more formal meals? The kids like green beans so something including those would be great. THANKS!!!
Rocco DiSpirito: Kristen, I love brussel sprouts for the holiday season. I know that they are kryptonite to most humans but I swear if you make them the way I do, everyone will love them. I slice them very thin and saute them in bacon fat and when they are browned and tender I add chopped chestnuts and lemon zest at the end. Sublime. Plus they are super good for you.
Sophia KDash asks: Low calories but yummy dessert, Rocco?
Rocco DiSpirito: Sophia how about a low cal cheesecake that takes about 15 minutes to prepare?
Strawberry Graham Cracker Tarts
- 4 mini graham cracker shells
- 1/2 vanilla bean split, seeds scraped
- 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese
- 1/4 cup Splenda
- or use stevia powder if you don't care for sugar substitutes
- 1 cup 0% Fage Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
- 8 large strawberries, washed and sliced thinly
Serves 4 - about 100 cals per serving
In a medium bowl, whisk together vanilla beans, cream cheese and Splenda. Mix in yogurt and pommegranate juice. Fill each tart to the top with cream cheese. Arrange strawberry slices on top of the tarts and refrigerate, if desired. Serve.
Beckey Casey asks: I am baking challenged, any easy yet yummy holiday treats?
Luci At Block asks: We're tired of Figgy Pudding...any different ideas for Christmas dessert, Rocco?
Rocco DiSpirito: Becky and Casey here's an easy to prepare dessert that requires no baking and is beloved by the world over. I add vermouth to mine. Yum.
Martini Rosso Tiramisu
- 5 tablespoons Martini Rosso
- 1 1/4 cups espresso
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar*
- 24 oz mascarpone cheese, prefferably Galbani
- 4 1/2 ounces soft ladyfingers
- unsweetened cocoa
Number of Servings: 4
Estimated Cost: $19.65
In a small saucepot, combine 3 tablespoons Martini Rosso, the espresso, 1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved and the alcohol flavor is cooked out. Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat together the mascarpone, 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar, 2 tablespoons Martini Rosso and a pinch of salt until fluffy. Lay down half of the ladyfingers in an 8x8 inch dish and, using a pastry brush, soak them with half of the espresso liquid. Carefully spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the soaked ladyfingers. Repeat this process once more. Dust the tiramisu with cocoa powder and serve or allow to chill for a few hours before serving.