The holidays are here: Queue the decorations, the caroling playlists, the holiday lights, the green, red, silver, white, blue and gold color schemes, and all the other festive markers of December. The holiday season is a great opportunity for restaurants to make their guests feel more at home by getting into the yuletide spirit. This means it’s time to pull out the special holiday menu, or at least write in a few new seasonal plates or specials. Here are some inspirations for online culinary students to keep in mind as they plan for this holiday season.
Festive appetizers and desserts
The holidays are the perfect occasion to introduce in-season veggies such as butternut squash into your menu. For instance, consider adding butternut squash bruschetta with fig balsamic glaze and goat cheese. This scrumptious recipe, courtesy of Sumptuous Living, is simple, sweet, delicious and wholesome. Another appealing winter staple is a classic butternut squash soup, like this recipe from Ahead of Thyme. Season butternut squash, carrots, celery and onion with thyme, sage, garlic, rosemary and pepper before roasting, pureeing and stewing. Serve before the main course to warm up your patrons.
An even simpler but no less festive appetizer idea is baked brie drizzled with honey and served with crackers. Borrow from a classic Hanukkah dish – serve up sweet-potato latkes with creme fraiche. If you’re feeling adventurous, add wasabi like in this recipe from Food & Wine. To create something more decadent to share around the holiday dinner table, draw inspiration from a cheese puff tower, courtesy of the Food Network. Replace the cheese puffs with creme puffs for an after-dinner treat that’s presented in the shape of a towering Christmas tree.
Speaking of dessert, consider throwing a red velvet cake on your menu this year. Death by chocolate, chocolate cream pie, a molten lava cake sprinkled in powdered sugar, sticky toffee pudding and gingerbread rolls are all seasonal classics that nicely complement holiday-themed menu items. Go all the way, and pair with hot chocolate or eggnog.
Classic holiday roasts and casseroles
Nothing says the holidays like a traditional roast or casserole inspired by home cooking. This year, bring family and friends around the table with a variety of roast options. Consider brining a fresh ham for the pork lovers out there. For some inspiration, check out this simple but delicious chili-brined ham recipe from Food & Wine, which uses salt, sugar, peppercorns, chilies and cloves. Many a restaurant has profited from adding delicious items to their menu such as a classic holiday ham.
For something a little different but still traditional, why not entertain the idea of serving roast goose this year? Pulled straight from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a roast goose is a rare example of a holiday meal that feels nostalgic but tastes exotic. Unlike a turkey, chicken, beef tenderloin or ham (all of which are great options for a holiday menu), your patrons might never have attempted to prepare a home-roasted goose – but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t try it if you offered it as a holiday special. Finally, don’t forget to consider a Hanukkah classic: beef brisket served with potato latkes.
Last but not least, ’tis the season for casseroles! Satisfy your vegetarian customers with a baked wild mushroom risotto casserole. Get creative with a cheddar pecan green-bean casserole from Southern Living, made with buttermilk white sauce and simple blanched green beans, and topped with French-fried onions and pecans.
At the end of the end of the day, the purpose of your holiday menu should be to bring families and friends together around a wholesome meal inspired by the home-cooked tradition. Whether you stick to one of the classics above or look to other cultures for inspiration (e.g., the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes), craft a menu this holiday season that will make your patrons feel right at home in your restaurant.