Baltimore chefs share holiday recipes

A home-cooked holiday meal means something different for every family. We all have our favorites, from the stuffing only Mom makes the right way to green beans with onion straws that must come from a can. Here, five local chefs share recipes for the foods they cook around the holidays — and the stories behind those dishes that make their meals special.

Turkey and Stove Top Stuffing-Style Dumplings with Smoked Turkey Broth and Cranberry-Marinated Kale


Chef Cyrus Keefer, Allbird



Chef Cyrus Keefer's childhood holidays were filled with food, from American mainstays like turkey and ham to the meatballs and pasta made by his Italian grandmother. Cooking holiday meals for his own family, Keefer draws on those memories but gives the meal a twist, turning the traditional turkey and stuffing into Asian-spiced dumplings served over kale marinated in tart cranberry vinegar.

"I have fond memories of how delicious those meals were — because of the love in which it was prepared," he says. "As a chef, I want to create my own classics. This is the way in which I show my love and nourish. Cooking from the heart is a celebration."

Yields 24 dumplings

For the stuffing:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon shallot, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

¼ cup Maitake or shiitake mushroom

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup brioche, challah or potato bread crust, cubed

1 leaf of fresh sage, minced

Salt to taste

¼ cup hot turkey broth (see recipe below)

1.Heat the oil in a pan over low heat. Add the shallots and garlic to sweat. Do not brown; cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.

2.Add the ginger and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender, about 8 minutes.

3.Add the butter and, after it has melted, add the bread cubes. Toss all ingredients, then remove from heat.

4.Place the bread and mushroom stuffing mixture in a large bowl. Add the fresh sage and salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon).

5.Pour the hot turkey broth over the stuffing, mix, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let the bread soak up the broth.

6.Once the stuffing has cooled, refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, until chilled.

For the turkey:

1 cup ground turkey (preferably a mix of breast, leg and thigh turkey meat)

1 tablespoon scallion, minced

1 tablespoon white soy sauce

1 teaspoon salt

1 pinch sugar

7.In a separate bowl, mix the ground turkey meat, scallion, white soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar and mix until incorporated.

8.Once the stuffing has cooled, gently fold the stuffing into the turkey meat.

For the dumplings:

1 pack of Gyoza or round dumpling wrappers (about 24 per pack).

9.Make each dumpling one at a time. First, place 1 teaspoon of turkey stuffing into the center of the dumpling wrapper.

10.Dribble cold water on the top half moon of the wrapper. Bring the bottom of the wrapper to the top and crimp to seal the wrapper. Make sure it is sealed completely.

11.Place 1 ½ cups water in a large saute pan over high heat; bring to a boil.

12.Insert a steamer basket into the water. Pack about 8 dumplings in the basket and cover with a lid.

13.Cook until the mixture inside is cooked through; about 8 minutes.

For the broth:

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 bunch scallions

1 shallot, peeled and halved

2 cups of smoked turkey legs, necks and other pieces

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 pinch sugar

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns

2 star anise

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

1 clove garlic, minced

1.Place a stockpot over high heat and heat until blistering hot. Add oil and continue to heat until oil is moving and almost smoking.

2.Add whole scallions and halved shallot; cook until charred.

3.Carefully place the remaining ingredients in the pot. Add water to just cover the ingredients and bring to a near boil.

4.Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.

5.Before using, strain broth.

For the kale:

1 cup kale leaves, rinsed

1 teaspoon shallot, minced

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon grated ginger root

1 tablespoon cranberry vinegar

1 pinch salt

1 pinch sugar

1.Mix all ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the garnishes:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 sage leaves

1 pinch salt

1 bunch scallions

1.Add the butter, sage and salt to a hot pan over medium high heat.

2.Cook until the butter becomes brown and emits a nice, nutty aroma. This will take a few minutes — don't leave the stove until the butter browns.

3.Remove from heat and set aside to cool until ready to use.

4.Chop scallions and set aside until ready to use.

To serve:

1.Place marinated kale in the center of a bowl. The dumplings go on top of the kale.

2.Pour the broth around the dumplings and kale.

3.Garnish with chopped scallion and sage butter.

Insalata di Mare Calda

Chef Gia Daniella, Cafe Gia Ristorante

410 S. High St., Little Italy

410-685-6727; cafegiabaltimore.com

"Growing up, Christmas Eve was a big deal at my house," says Chef Gia Daniella, the owner of Cafe Gia Ristorante in Little Italy. That night, her family hosted the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a grand seafood meal with Italian roots.

"We always entertained and had a spread of seafood and side dishes — all Italian and Italian-American," she recalls. "My mother is from Italy — Sicily," she explains. "The Seven Seafoods is actually a regional tradition in the south."

The mixed seafood salad was always one of Gia Daniella's favorite Christmas Eve dishes. The recipe below is served warm but is equally appealing when chilled, she says. And best enjoyed when surrounded by loved ones.

Yields 4 servings

For the salad:

3 russet potatoes, cut into cubes

3 bay leaves

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 lemons

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, cleaned and deveined

1 pound calamari, cleaned and cut into rings

1 pound clams, cleaned

1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded

1 ½ cups celery, finely chopped

4 cups arugula (optional)

For the dressing:

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

½ cup lemon juice

3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

½ cup capers

Salt and pepper to taste

1.Fill a large stockpot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the potatoes and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Remove potatoes and set aside.

2.In another stockpot, combine 3 cups of water, bay leaves and crushed garlic.

3.Slice the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the second pot, then place the lemon rind in the pot.

4.Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low.

5.Add the shrimp to the stockpot for two minutes, then remove, strain and set aside in a bowl.

6.Add the calamari to the water for 1 ½ minutes. Remove, strain and add to the bowl with the shrimp.

7.Add the clams and mussels to the pot and cook until their shells open, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove, strain and combine with the shrimp and calamari.


8.Combine the mixed seafood and potato in one large bowl and add the chopped celery. Add a dash of salt and pepper to taste and gently fold.


9.To make the dressing, using a mixer, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley and capers and season with salt and pepper to taste.

10.Gently toss the seafood and potato salad with the dressing. Add another dash or two of salt and pepper (to taste).

11.For a festive presentation, serve over fresh, crisp arugula.

Potato Latkes with Creme Fraiche, Smoked Trout and Trout Roe

Chef Josh Hershkovitz, Hersh's Pizza and Drinks

1843 Light St., South Baltimore

443-438-4948; hershspizza.com

Some of Chef Josh Hershkovitz's favorite Hanukkah memories from childhood involve getting in trouble — thanks to his mom's great latkes. "I have many fond memories of my sister and I standing around the stove while my mother was frying them and eating quicker than she could pull them out of the oil," he laughs. "Resulting in our mother scolding us for not leaving latkes for anybody else."

As an adult, Hershkovitz still loves the crispy potato pancakes, made simply of nothing more than potato, egg and salt. The keys to super-crispy latkes, he says, are to keep the oil hot and to remove as much starch as possible from the potatoes before cooking. Shredding the potatoes, instead of finely grating, is the best way to minimize starch. "You are able to more effectively remove the starch and moisture this way," he explains. "Allowing for a latke that is born and dies in crispiness."

Yields 12-15 latkes

6 large russet potatoes, peeled and soaked in cold water

Canola oil for pan frying

6 large eggs, beaten

2 teaspoons Kosher salt (plus more for salting to taste)

2 cups creme fraiche

3 smoked trout fillets

3 large shallots, finely diced

2 ounce tin trout roe

Hershkovitz makes his own creme fraiche and smokes his own trout but notes that good store-bought versions of both ingredients are available.

1.Shred the potatoes. Soak the shredded potatoes, then rinse several times until the drained water runs clear — this is an indication that most or all of the extraneous starch is gone.

2.Drain the potatoes and wring them out in a towel. You want them to be VERY dry.

3.While drying the potatoes, cover the bottom of a large non-stick skillet with about 1/8 inch of canola oil. Over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it sizzles when flicked with a drop of water.

4.Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of salt.

5.When the oil is ready, scoop ¼ cup of the potato mixture, pack the mixture into the cup, then turn out (carefully) into the hot oil. Flatten the potato mound with a spatula. The latke should be about 3 inches in diameter.

6.Repeat as many times as your skillet will allow without crowding the latkes; make sure to leave space for flipping.

7.Fry on one side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip and fry until the same color on the other side. As you cook, adjust the temperature if the latkes are cooking too quickly or too slowly.

8.Remove latkes to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with salt to taste.

9.Repeat until all of the batter is used up, adding oil as needed to keep the level consistent. (Remember not to add oil to the pan when the latkes are in there. This will make the oil temperature drop, which will lead to oily latkes.)

10.Flake the smoked trout and fold into the creme fraiche.

11.Once the latkes are done frying, plate them as you would like and top each with a generous dollop of the smoked trout creme fraiche.

12.Garnish with diced shallots and trout roe.

Roasted Yams and Apples

Chef Sean Guy, Water for Chocolate

1841 E. Lombard St., Baltimore

410-675-7778; waterforchocolate.com

Chef Sean Guy's memories of his childhood holidays in Brooklyn are filled with the spices and scents of island cooking. In the kitchen, Guy's mother celebrated her Jamaican heritage, preparing a rustic side dish of spiced yams, apples and pineapples, tossed with butter and baked until tender. "This dish is a staple at Thanksgiving and Christmas," says Guy, who serves a version of it at his Southern-inspired restaurant Water for Chocolate.

At Water for Chocolate, Guy skips the toasted marshmallow topping that his mom loved, instead scattering pecans on top for texture. This holiday staple ties together Guy's Jamaican roots and love of Southern flavors and — with a sprinkle of sage and lemon zest also added after baking — adds a touch of sophistication to the mix.

Yields 6 servings

2 pounds sweet potatoes

2 medium red baking apples

1 stick butter

2 cups pineapple, diced

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2.Wash sweet potatoes and remove their tips.

3.Dice sweet potatoes and apples into ½-inch squares.

4.Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

5.In a mixing bowl, toss butter with sweet potatoes, apples, pineapple, maple syrup, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

6.Once the sweet potatoes and apples are evenly coated with butter and spices, place the mixture in a baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours or until skin falls away from potatoes.

7.Garnish with lemon zest and chopped sage.

8.Allow dish to rest for about 20 minutes before serving. If desired, scattered chopped pecans on top.

Maple Napoleon

Chef Dyan Ng, Wit + Wisdom

200 International Drive, Baltimore

410-576-5800; witandwisdombaltimore.com

When Chef Dyan Ng created her maple napoleon recipe, she was living in Las Vegas. Though the desert climate doesn't lend itself to cozy holiday sweaters or cocoa by the fire, as she experimented with the dessert, she got a jolt of autumn with each bite.

"Maple syrup is autumn," she says. "The taste is homey. We grow up eating it on our pancakes. It relates to family and home cooking." She still loves the dessert for its maple flavor, though it is not, she warns, light on fat. "I love the taste – and it doesn't hurt that it's half butter!" she says, noting that bakers should invest in high-quality, high-fat European butter for this dish.

Yields 2 servings

1 ½ cups maple syrup

2 cups milk

1/6 teaspoon salt


16 egg yolks

½ cup cornstarch

2 sticks butter, diced and at room temperature

For the puff pastry:

1 sheet store-bought puff pastry, thawed

1 cup powdered sugar

2 sheets parchment paper

For the garnish (optional):

1 tablespoon fresh lime zest

For the Maple Cream:

1.In a small pot, bring the maple syrup, milk and salt to a boil.

2.In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and cornstarch together.

3.Gently and slowly blend the hot maple syrup and milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

4.Whisk the mixtures together until fully blended.

5.Pour the mixture back into the small pot.

6.Cook mixture on medium heat for four minutes while whisking constantly.

7.Transfer mixture into a clean bowl to cool until it is warm to touch.

8.Slowly whisk in the diced butter until blended.

9.Place the mixture (now cream) into the refrigerator until the dish is ready to be plated.

For the Puff Pastry:

1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.Use a rolling pin to thin out the pastry sheet to approximately ½ centimeter.

3.Take ½ cup of the powdered sugar and rub it into the thinned pastry sheet.

4.Flip the puff pastry over and rub the other ½ cup of powdered sugar into that side of the thinned sheet

5.Place the sugared puff pastry sheet onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.

6.Place a second piece of parchment paper on top of the puff pastry sheet, and then place another baking tray over the sheet.

7.Place a cast-iron skillet on top of the baking trays in order to prevent the puff pastry from rising

8.Bake the puff pastry sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

9.Rotate pan and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until the puff pastry is dark golden brown.

10.Remove from the oven and cut the baked puff pastry sheet into ½ inch by 5 inch rectangles to yield 6 rectangles.

To plate the dish:

1.Transfer the maple cream into an icing bag with a round tip. If you don't have a round bag, you can simply put the cream into a plastic bag and cut open one of the corners.

2.Take one rectangle of puff pastry and top it with the maple cream.

3.Place another puff pastry rectangle on top of the maple cream and then top that piece with more maple cream.

4.Place a final puff pastry rectangle on top.

5.You can garnish this dish with fresh lime zest using any kind of grater.

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