Crafting winter holiday specials that stand out

Creating a distinctive take on holiday favorites could be just the ticket to get diners excited about your offerings this winter.

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December 7, 2017 4 min read

For Boulder culinary arts students and chefs across the country, the holiday season is the perfect time to prepare familiar, comforting dishes. On the other hand, with a little creativity, you can put an exciting spin on some of those beloved dinners. Creating a distinctive take on holiday favorites could be just the ticket to get diners excited about your offerings this winter.

Spice up a traditional turkey

“Turkey has brought families around the table for countless holiday dinners.”

Turkey has brought families around the table for countless holiday dinners. If you want to do something a little different with your poultry this year, the answer may be curing the bird overnight with a delicious mix of spices. Bon Appetit suggested putting a Cajun spin on your feast by preparing a mixture of cayenne, garlic powder, sweet paprika, salt, black pepper, onion powder, oregano and thyme.

Season both the interior and exterior of the turkey with salt and pepper before massaging the spice mix into the skin. Then, place the bird on a rack inside a large roasting pan with the breast down. Move the pan into the refrigerator.

The next day, let the turkey rest at room temperature before proceeding. Chop celery, onion and green pepper, mixing the vegetables together and using them to fill the cavity. Place the rest of the vegetable mixture on the bottom of the pan and brush olive oil onto the bird.

Roast for an hour at 375 degrees Fahrenheit, occasionally basting. Flip the turkey and cook another 1.5 hours or until the thickest area of the thigh reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Move to a platter and wait 20 minutes before carving to serve.

Find tasty uses for seasonal produce

The holidays are a great opportunity to take advantage of winter produce, as in the butternut squash risotto recipe from Southern Living. Start by cutting a large squash into half-inch cubes. Place eight cups of vegetable or chicken broth in a saucepan on medium heat, bringing to a boil before covering and reducing heat.

In a Dutch oven, melt butter on medium heat and saute onion for five minutes before adding the squash. Cook for four minutes and then throw in two cups of short-grain rice. Wait two more minutes before pouring in half a cup of a dry, white wine.

Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Then, drop the heat to low and transfer in half a cup of the warm broth. Stir until the rice absorbs the liquid and repeat until you use up the broth.

Add grated Parmesan cheese, whipping cream, salt and pepper. Move the risotto into a bowl and serve.

Perfect a glazed ham

If you get the ingredients and technique just right, an old-school classic can be just as impressive as an innovative dish. That’s why you should try The Spruce’s recipe for baked ham, featuring a maple and brown sugar glaze.

Use foil to line the bottom of a roasting pan and put a rack in place. Set the ham on the rack with its fat side up. Score the fat, forming a diamond pattern and then inserting cloves where the shapes intersect.

Bake at 325 degrees for 18 minutes per pound of meat. Check for the internal temperature to register at least 145 degrees.

While the ham is cooking, prepare the glaze by combining maple syrup, brown sugar, apple juice, Dijon mustard, cinnamon and ginger. Set on medium-high heat and boil for about two minutes.

When the ham is about 20 minutes from finishing, spoon half the glaze on top. Then, 10 minutes later, spread on the rest of the glaze. When the ham is done cooking, cover with foil and let rest for 15 minutes before carving.

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