Insider Restaurant Tips
Insider Restaurant Tips: Houston's meat mecca chef shares his holiday favorites
Some people love the Thanksgiving Day meal so much they need a second round during the holidays.
“We usually repeat the meal for Christmas Day,” says restaurateur Johnny Carrabba, “the turkey and all the fixings. But we also have lots of pasta dishes as well.”
For me, I’m pretty much one and done when it comes to a turkey. Thanksgiving Day and maybe a turkey and mayo sandwich or two, but that’s it. Come Christmas I want something different. But what?
There are plenty of options, both fowl, porcine and beef.
Roasted goose was a star of the table as far back as the Middle Ages.
For fans of A Christmas Story the main dish might be the infamous Peking duck, either cooked at home (if you’re a talented chef) or eaten at a Chinese restaurant just like in the holiday classic film.
Then there’s goose, the traditional roasted fowl for an English winter celebration. Roasted goose was a star of the table as far back as the Middle Ages when Michaelmas was the big winter solstice holiday celebration. Through the ages goose migrated to the Christian celebration of Christmas and today remains a popular choice for the feast in England. I’ve known some restaurants and home chefs who do like to roast a goose for the holidays, but not a lot.
More popular and easier for home cooks are Cornish game hens. You can even buy them pre-stuffed at Hebert’s Specialty Meats and sometimes at Central Market. They make a lovely holiday plate and everyone gets their own individual bird.
Speaking of stuffing, a nice pork roast stuffed with seasonal goodies like apples, cranberries and walnuts also makes a fine alternative to birds and if you want fish you can’t go wrong with smoked or grilled salmon. If you want to get fancy bake it with lemon and asparagus in parchment paper and slit it open at the table so the steam and delicious aromas can dazzle your guests.
Where’s the beef? It can be anywhere you want come Christmas but one sure fire way to delight friends and family is an elegant beef Wellington. I love this dish and it makes for a special meal, plus, you can buy them pre-made at many online sites, but seriously? If you can sear a tenderloin, wrap it with some foie gras and sauteed mushrooms in a sheet of puff pastry and turn on an oven . . . well, you’ve pretty much got it.
But there are even easier steak dishes that will wow your guests. I reached out to one of the city’s best beef chefs for some ideas.
“There are some great items that could be cooked on Thanksgiving or any other holiday event other than the traditional turkey,” says Steve Haug, executive chef at meat mecca Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House. “I personally would suggest roasting a whole tenderloin or baking a prime rib.”
Based on Haug’s recipes below, these meats seem easy enough to conquer and they do make a beautiful holiday table.
Tenderloin, salt and pepper (Three ingredients, how easy is that?)
Salt and pepper mixture on all sides.
Turn the oven on broil, high heat.
Place the tenderloin on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
Broil for 10 minutes and remove from oven.
Flip the tenderloin over and broil for an additional 10 minutes.
Remove the tenderloin from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
Slice the tenderloin and serve it with your favorite sauce and vegetables.
Roasted Prime Rib
Rib eye loin; salt and pepper; 1/2 cup fresh, minced garlic.
Season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
Rub garlic over top and bottom of steak.
Place rib eye on a large baking sheet, fatty side up and bake in oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
Lower to 350 degrees and bake for one hour for a nice medium rare.
Remove rib eye and let stand for 20 minutes.
Slice and enjoy, serve with an au jus and/or horseradish cream sauce.
Whatever you serve as a main dish for Christmas don’t freak out about cooking and forget to enjoy the company. And maybe a fine bottle of wine.