Category Archives: Christmas

‘Tis the Season for Seasonal Salad: Spinach, Endive and Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Maple Vinaigrette

When it comes to food and the holidays, I have a weakness for tradition. And even though I am the kind of person who will eat anything and everything you put in front of me anytime of day (as long as there is some hope of it being delicious), for the holidays I like to stick with tradition. Because, after all, that’s what the holidays are all about; doing the same rituals year after year after year so that in an ever changing world we at least can rely on turkey on Thanksgiving, prime rib for Christmas and potato latkes for Hannukah. I find comfort in this. For Christmas dinner, which I have made every year for my entire family for the past five years, I always start with a seasonal salad. In my opinion, every elegant holiday meal should start with some hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and conversation, followed by a seasonal salad, a hearty main course and something special for dessert. This spinach and endive salad is the perfect salad for your holiday meal. It’s the ideal combination of this season’s flavors and is so easy it won’t take time away from the the rest of the meal you’ll be perfecting this holiday season.



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Filed under Appetizer, Christmas, Dinner, Fall, Gluten-free, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Salad, Thanksgiving, Vegetarian, Winter

Casually Elegant: Pork Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Heather and I made a version of these with our friend Douglas Ford, who used to be the sous-chef at Lucques, for my brother’s birthday party last year. And they tasted totally insane: tender, flavorful, rich without being heavy. They were a massive, massive hit.

So I decided to make a version of them for my family this Christmas — partly based on Douglas’s ribs, partly my own invention, and partly inspired by Daniel Boulud’s rib recipe on Epicurious. In a family first, we shook things up this year and went to a house in Palm Springs instead of back to the homestead in Boston. We each took turns cooking, and my assignment was dinner on the first night. Since I wasn’t sure how well-equipped the kitchen would be, I decided to cook this dish (which tastes better if you make it a day ahead) at home and drive it out to Palm Springs, sauce and all. My parents stopped by my apartment while I was reducing the sauce and were nearly knocked out by the smell. Seriously, this sauce is like crack.

These ribs, served with a parsnip puree and salad, made for  very merry Christmas indeed. Make these and wow your New Year’s Eve dinner guests!



Pork Ribs Braised in Red Wine

Serves 10

  • 3 large onions, halved, and finely sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 whole shallot
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 bottles dry red wine (use decent-to-good wine, it’ll make a difference)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, divided in 2 parts
  • 2 qts. stock (I used chicken and beef stock)
  • 2 racks of baby back pork ribs, halved to fit in a skillet
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt
  • pepper

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until they have released liquid, are translucent, and much-reduced. Add garlic and shallot to onions a few minutes in. Remove from heat and reserve.

In a stock pot, heat all but 1/2 or 1 bottle of wine until it just begins to boil. Then with a match, light wine on fire and let it flame until it burns out. Bring wine to a low boil and simmer.

In a skillet, heat oil until very hot. While oil is heating, salt and pepper the meat. Sear each section of ribs, meaty-side down first, until browned on top but not cooked through. Make sure to brown as much surface area as you can. After each batch, deglaze the pan first with a good splash of balsamic vinegar, then immediately with a good splash of wine. Pour wine and vinegar into the stock pot after each batch.

When all the ribs are seared, place them in the stock pot so they are completely submerged. Add onions, celery, and herbs and simmer on low heat for 2 1/2 hours, or until meat is tender and about to fall off the bone. The bones will feel loose to the touch and will be easy to remove with your fingers. (It’s prettier if you leave them in, though!) Remove ribs from sauce and refrigerate.

At this point, you can continue to simmer the sauce for 2-3 hours until it is reduced to 1 qt., then salt and pepper the sauce to taste and refrigerate overnight — or you can refrigerate the unreduced sauce and cook it down the next day. Either way, refrigerate the sauce overnight and skim the fat off the top if you like. (I didn’t skim the fat and the sauce was divine.)

Gently cut the ribs into single-serving portions and return to the stock pot to re-heat. Serve over parsnip puree, fried polenta, mashed potatoes, rice, or with crusty bread.


Filed under Christmas, Fall, Gluten-free, Main Course, Meat, Super Bowl, Winter

Family Favorite: Christmas Stollen

It is not Christmas in the Bulbrook house without stollen. My mom makes several loaves of this German Christmas bread every year, and we eat it at almost every occasion around the holidays–especially on Christmas Eve, with a glass of champagne, and on Christmas Day breakfast, slathered in butter and accompanied by a strong cup of coffee. This year, we’ve moved the celebration from Boston to Palm Springs, so I assumed the mantle of making the family’s Christmas stollen supply. (No pressure!)

I’ve been working off my mom’s xeroxed, faxed, and scanned recipe from an old Sunset Magazine with her notes (and it looks like someone else’s?) in the margins. Here’s my take on this quick version of what is traditionally a yeast bread. Make this 2-3 days ahead so it has time to mellow in your fridge and let the flavors develop. The loaf above is the gluten-free version.

The best part is the vanilla sugar on top. (You can put some in the crease in the center, too.) To make it, just stick a vanilla bean in an airtight container of sugar for a couple of days at room temperature. It’s so good, you’ll find yourself dusting all of your holiday baking with it…


xx Anna

Christmas Stollen

Yield: 3 medium loaves

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or replace with gluten-free flour and add 1 1/2 tsp. xantham gum and 1/2 tsp. guar gum)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup cottage cheese, blended or strained until smooth
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla (I used bourbon vanilla)
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tbsp. rum (or water)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (or currants)
  • 1/4 cup silvered almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped golden raisins
  • 3 tbsp. melted butter
  • 4 tbsp. vanilla sugar

Pre-heat oven to 350F. Mix the dry ingredients together very well, and cut butter in with a pastry knife or food processor until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients, raisins, and nuts, except for melted butter and vanilla sugar. Mix wet and dry ingredients until dough is just moistened through and can be formed into a ball. Knead dough a few times on a floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 3 even parts, then flatten each part into an oval. Moisten the top with a little butter, then fold dough so the top section is a little smaller than the bottom. Bake on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the center resists light pressure. Set on a rack to cool, brush with the rest of the melted butter, and dust with vanilla sugar. Store in air-tight wrapping for 2-3 days in the fridge or freezer to mellow for 2-3 days to mellow. Re-heat wrapped in foil in a warm oven, then slice and serve with or without butter.


Filed under Bread, Christmas, Dessert, Gluten-free, Winter

Christmas Confections: Chocolate Truffles

There’s nothing I love more than the holiday season. It’s the time of year where all of my favorite things to do all year round are actually encouraged; cooking, eating, drinking wine, celebrating and general indulgence. And honestly, what’s more indulgent than a chocolate truffle? This year, I embarked on making them at home with hope that they’d come out pretty enough to give as gifts. They came out looking beautiful and charmingly homemade. They’re surprisingly easy to make. All you need is some good quality chocolate and a bit of will-power. The hardest part is not eating too much of the chocolate while you’re making them. (What is it about warm, melted, gooey, fragrant chocolate that is so darn irresistable?) I sprinkled the top of them with fleur de sel or crushed peppermint candy to give festive holiday touch! Have fun!



Holiday Chocolate Truffles

Serves 15

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 1/4 cup fine baking sugar
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1/3 cup whipping cream
  • 1/48teaspoon fleur de sel
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Additional fleur de sel
  • 1 peppermint candy cane finely crushed

Pour 4 ounces  of chocolate morsels in metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. The top bowl should not be touching the water and the water should not get hotter than a low simmer. Stir the morsels until chocolate is smooth. Remove the melted chocolate from heat.

Combine sugar and 1 tablespoons water in small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, occasionally brushing sides of pan with wet pastry brush. Increase heat; boil until syrup is deep amber color, brushing down sides, about 4 minutes. Add whipping cream to syrup (mixture will bubble). Stir over very low heat until caramel is smooth. Mix caramel and 1/8 teaspoon fleur de sel into melted chocolate. Chill until truffle filling is firm, 3 hours or overnight.

Place cocoa powder in bowl. Using approximately 1 tablespoon chilled truffle filling for each truffle, roll into balls, then roll in cocoa powder and place on baking sheet. Cover; chill overnight.

Line 13x9x2-inch baking sheet with foil. Place remaining 8 ounces chocolate in medium metal bowl over saucepan of  simmering water ( metal bowl should not be touching the water); stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat. Working as quickly as you can, dip 1 truffle in melted chocolate. Using a fork, lift out truffle and tap fork against side of bowl to allow excess coating to drip off. Transfer truffle to prepared sheet. Repeat with remaining truffles. Sprinkle truffles lightly with additional fleur de sel or crushed peppermint candy cane. Let stand for at least 1 hour to let coating set.


Filed under Christmas, Dessert, Gluten-free, Heather Platt