The holidays are always a busy time in the kitchen.
Most of the time, credit for those dazzling dishes belongs to Grandma. Or Mom. Or Auntie Rose.
Even though so many of the world’s great chefs are male—and more men are cooking for themselves and their families—some folks are still surprised when they hear a recipe came from Dad or Grandpa.
In honor of all the men in the kitchen this holiday season, we’ve pulled together a menu of recipes—with a nice dash of family lore—invented or perfected by men who know their way around an oven.
Mike McCandless’ New England Clam Chowder
Every Christmas Eve, Robert Clark would whip up a batch of this classic soup for his family, an homage to his own youth in Boston.
At some point in the 1980s, Mike McCandless took over for his father-in-law. He had two good reasons. Reason No. 1: Clark didn’t enjoy doing it.
And Reason No. 2?
“It wasn’t very good,” McCandless says.
Over the subsequent decades, McCandless, a passionate cook who blogs at DadsRecipeBox.com, made it better. Clark, who died in 2006, was delighted both that the tradition continued and that the new version is much more palatable.
McCandless’s twist to the chowder: “The bacon base, the herbal accents and just the right thickening for that great, not too thin or thick, texture.”
Makes 2 quarts (8 cups).
- 4 cans of clams (24 ounces)
- 4 bottles of clam juice (about 4 cups)
- 4 slices of bacon
- 1 large onion
- 1 stalk of celery
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 medium potatoes
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- salt and pepper
- Dice bacon strips into 1/4″ bits. Fry in a 4-quart pot over medium heat. Once they start sizzling, fry for 5-7 minutes, until they look browned and cooked through. If your bacon was especially fatty, spoon off some of the fat until you have about 2 tablespoons left.
- Dice onion and celery into 1/4″-1/2″ bits. Add to bacon. Cook for 5 minutes but don’t let the onions get too dark brown or burnt.
- Add flour and stir or whisk it in thoroughly. Let it cook for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
- Add juice from four cans of clams and water for a total of 5-6 cups. Stir to combine.
- Dice potatoes into 1/2″ pieces (peeling first is optional). Add to pot with thyme and bay leaf. Stir, bring to a simmer, cover pot, and cook for 10-12 minutes until potatoes are done.
- Add cream, clams, parsley, pepper, and salt, if needed.
Great-Grandpa David’s Cumin-infused Latkes
More than a century ago, Joseph Underwood’s great-grandfather David, a Jewish immigrant from Constantinople, married a nice Presbyterian woman from South Carolina. The couple tried to keep both faiths alive, and subsequent generations have made sure Grandpa David’s heritage is represented during the holidays by making batches of his potato pancakes, or latkes, as hot appetizers for Christmas dinner.
“This recipe has been passed around for so long that some of the kids just think it’s a normal thing that everybody eats at Christmas,” says Underwood, 55.
- 3 cups shredded potato
- 1 cup onions, diced as small as possible
- 2 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup potato starch
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup vegetable oil, as needed
- Wring grated potatoes with a cheesecloth or a dish towel to excise as much moisture as possible.
- Combine potato, onion, eggs, potato starch, salt, pepper and cumin in a large bowl.
- Fill a skillet with oil about 1/2-inch deep; heat over medium-high heat.
- Place “globs” of the potato mixture into the hot oil and press with a spatula to flatten somewhat.
- Cook in hot oil until browned and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes per side.
- Drain latkes on a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Serve with sour cream and/or apple sauce.
Uncle Dan’s Apple-Pear Pork Roast
Fran Drummond, 67, grew up visiting her Uncle Dan and his farm in upstate New York, where he had a small orchard and a pig farm. And that could be why Uncle Dan used to make such a fabulous pork roast with pears and apples.
“Originally, of course, he used produce and a pig from the farm, which I remember feeling badly about because the pigs were always so fun to be around when I was small,” she says.
Uncle Dan died in the ‘70s. The family continues to make Uncle Dan’s pork roast the center of Christmas dinner. Says Drummond, “It’s like Uncle Dan and the farm are still with us on Christmas.”
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 (4-pound) boneless center cut pork loins, trimmed and tied
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 medium onions, sliced roughly sliced
- 4 carrots, roughly sliced
- 4 stalks celery, thickly, sliced
- 6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
- 6 Rome apples, cut into eighths
- 6 pears, cut into fours
- 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups apple cider
- 6 tablespoons whole grain mustard
- Heat the vegetable oil over high heat; pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
- Season pork loin generously with salt and pepper.
- Sear the meat until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Then remove from heat and set aside.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, herb sprigs, and 4 tablespoons of the butter to the skillet. Brown veggies, then add apples and pears.
- Return loin to the skillet and put skillet in oven.
- Bake about 30 minutes. Internal meat temperature should reach 145 degrees F.
- Set aside pork, and arrange apples, pears and veggies on a platter.
- Toss the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
- Re-heat the skillet, add vinegar, scrape browned pieces from skillet.
- Lower heat, add cider. Whisk in mustard and 2 tablespoons of butter.
- Season to taste.
- Slice roast, arrange on serving platter, drizzle sauce on dish.
Pop-pop Prokop’s Stuffing
Rick Pipito’s grandfather, John Prokop, loved to entertain and cook. One way he kept everyone coming back was by withholding the secret to his delicious stuffing.
About 10 years ago, when Pop-Pop lay dying from cancer, he finally “whispered the recipe to his youngest son, my uncle,” says Pipito, 40, of Featherville, Pa. “And my uncle passed it to me when I decided to first host Thanksgiving.”
The secret: seeded rye. part of the recipe? Notes Pipito, “The rye seeds give it a little extra flavor.”
- 1 loaf each of wheat, white, pumpernickel and seeded rye bread (tear each loaf into pieces, leave to dry out for at least a day)
- 2 32 ounce cans of chicken broth
- 2 sticks unsalted butter
- 2 lbs Jimmy Dean Sausage (without casing)
- Fresh sage, chopped
- 2 cups carrots diced
- 2 cups celery diced
- 1 cup onions diced
- In a tall pot, melt 1 stick of butter and begin to brown sausage. Use a flat spoon or utensil to break up the sausage so it cooks evenly.
- Toss in carrots, celery, onions and sage. Add a generous amount of chicken broth to help cook and soften the vegetables.
- When veggies begin to soften, start to add bread. Use the white and wheat loaves first. Add bread evenly to soak up the chicken broth.
- Continue to add a little bread and broth at a time in balance. You want the bread to be soft and wet, but not saturated and spongy. (Depending on the pot size, you may only have room for half of the rye and pumpernickel loaves.)
- Add rest of butter, continue to stir, so bottom of pot doesn’t burn.
- When stuffing is at the right consistency, season to taste with salt, pepper and sage.
- Bake in oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until golden on top.
Greg’s Orange and Pecan with Cinnamon Biscotti
After Greg Fontenot, 58, of The Woodlands, Texas, read an article about the benefits of cinnamon for lowering blood sugar, he began trying to figure out how to include it in new dessert ideas for his 88-year-old mother, who is a diabetic.
“This is my mother’s absolute favorite recipe in the world,” says Fontenot, a prolific contributor to several recipe sites and a 2014 winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off for a grilled potato and roasted salsa verde pizza.
Fontenot also has his mother to thank for his passion for cooking. In seventh grade, she went back to work. In order to eat at a reasonable hour, he needed to make the meal. “I’d have dinner completely on the table by the time she came home,” he says. “Now I have about 200 cookbooks.”
Fontenot warns this biscotti recipe takes two days, so plan accordingly.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 tablespoon grated orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans
- Use hand mixer to beat room temperature butter until smooth, then add sugar and mix well.
- Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
- When smooth, add juice, zest, and vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, sift flour, salt baking powder and cinnamon together. Add dry ingredients with pecans, incorporate into dough.
- Dough should be crumbly. If not, add additional flour.
- Form dough into three 3-by-10-inch logs, place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and chill overnight.
- Heat oven to 350 and bake until browned, 30 minutes.
- After cooling, cut logs into ½-inch slices.
- Toast slices on an un-greased cookie sheet, 10-12 minutes, turning once until lightly browned.
Dad Moonen’s Killer Pea Soup
For those who have a ham on Christmas, split pea soup is a popular next-day by-product. Rick Moonen, the “Top Chef” celebrity known for his recently shuttered fish restaurant, RM Seafood, in Las Vegas, uses the hambone just as his Dutch-born father would.
Like many, the making of the dish was as important as the end result.
“My greatest memory was helping him and getting to stay up late to have a cup with him,” recalls Moonen, 62. “I made this soup for him when he was in the hospital and home towards his last days on our Earth.”
Makes 12 servings
- 1 meaty hambone from a roasted smoked ham
- 1 pound leftover ham, diced into large pieces
- 1 pound dried green split peas
- 3 tablespoons lard
- 2 cups onions, diced
- 2 cups carrots, diced
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 cups diced parsnip
- 2 cups diced yellow turnip
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 2 chicken base cubes (Knorr)
- 2-3 quarts water
- 1 pound frozen peas
- In a large, heavy-bottom stockpot over medium heat, melt lard.
- Add onion, carrot, celery, parsnip and turnip, stirring to coat with fat.
- Cover pot, cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid.
- Increase heat, stir in garlic for 1 minute.
- Add split peas, ham bone, ham meat, chicken base, bay leaf and thyme.
- Cover mixture with water by 2 inches. Bring to simmer, stir occasionally.
- Simmer slowly for 1 hour until peas start to fall apart.
- Season to taste with salt.
- If soup is too thick, add more boiling water.
- Once peas disintegrate, remove from heat.
- Fish out bay leaf and ham bone, removing remaining meat off the bone for soup.
- Stir soup, throw in frozen peas to cool off soup and serve.