The Holiday Recipes Food Editors Swear By

Abbie Kozolchyk

If November heralds the food media's Super Bowl, the postseason brings no rest for the weary. In rapid succession, Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza and the Gregorian and Lunar New Years demand fresh culinary inspiration—especially in a world that's still largely locked down and seeking solace in the kitchen. But even while creating and publishing endless new takes on holiday feasts, food writers and editors always come back to a few favorites, particularly if friends and family are going to be dropping by (or driving by, as the case may be this year). And those go-tos are reflected in the 13 recipes you'll find here: some sweet, some savory, all beloved.

Image by Matt Taylor-Gross, courtesy of Saveur

Cinammon-Apple Bostock

"I love bostock for a festive holiday breakfast because it's so polished and pretty—with its snowy dusting of powdered sugar and loads of crunchy sliced almonds—but it can be made almost entirely ahead of time. Assemble these babies a few days (or heck, a month) in advance, wrap them tightly in plastic, and freeze. In the morning, all you have to do is pop them in the oven. In 20 minutes, you have a whole tray of beautiful, freshly baked viennoiseries. Don't like apples? Swap out the apple butter for raspberry jam, citrus marmalade, or even a few slices of poached quince or pear." -Kat Craddock, Executive Editor of Saveur

Seafood Pasta

"My mom is Italian, so for us, Christmas Eve is often filled with seafood and pasta. My sister and I both love to cook, although she usually goes a little insane with the concept of the Feast of Seven Fishes. One year, she made seven courses with seven kinds of seafood, which left my parents and me exhausted and beyond full. I've convinced her that less is more, and we've settled on this simple seafood pasta, usually with clams, but sometimes mussels or crab meat can be found swimming in the butter, white wine and garlic-chili sauce." -Farideh Sadeghin Executive Culinary Director at MUNCHIES, Food by Vice


“Jewish cuisine is global, and I love looking for moments of connection and interplay between Jews and their neighbors. These cookies, which have roots in Denmark’s Sephardic Jewish community but grew to be loved by all Danes on Christmas and beyond, are a particularly delicious example.” -Leah Koenig, food writer and author of numerous cookbooks, most recently, The Jewish Cookbook

Mom's Shrimp Biryani

"Although my family will not be gathering this year because of the pandemic, during most holidays, my sisters' families and I travel to my parents' home outside Washington, D.C. Since we're usually coming in from different cities (with kids, pets and presents packed in), we arrive at staggered times—happy to see everyone, tired from the journey and famished for my mom's home cooking. One of the dishes that's always waiting for us is her shrimp biryani—a comforting, one-pot Indian rice dish. My mom makes it by cooking fragrant spices and herbs, layering it with long-grain basmati rice and juicy shrimp, and baking it until all the flavors come together. It's total comfort food—delicious, cozy, satisfying in every way—and ideal for arrival day: The dish can sit in a low oven all day and be ready when the next group arrives." -Sonal Dutt, Food & Lifestyle Director at People

Silver Palate Baked Ham with Glazed Apricots

"In grad school, I babysat for my dean’s adorable newborn and got the added benefit of her incredible cooking. She introduced me to the Silver Palate Cookbook and despite surviving on a starving student budget, I ran out to buy a myself a copy and picked up the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, too. Every recipe spells celebration and happiness. The baked ham with apricots (a slightly updated version shared by one of the cookbook's authors, Sheila Lunkins) is one I return to time and again. It's a regular at my New Year's Day open house: As friends drop in, slices of that ham—along with the elixir that results from simmering apricots and wine along with the meat juices—serve as a delicious way to welcome the coming year. This year, of course, there will be no drop-ins, but I’ll still make the ham for my daughter and me—and deliver a few New Year’s Day picnics to-go to some of our dearly missed local friends." -Cheryl Slocum, James Beard Award-winning journalist who writes and develops recipes for a variety of publications and food brands

Gabrielle Hamilton's Celery Toasts

“Every holiday—or even any opportunity to celebrate, really—includes a tray of these toasts. They require little more than creamy blue cheese, crisp celery, toasted bread and an obscene amount of butter, but they effortlessly wow guests. Paired with gin and tonics or champagne, they’re always the fastest to disappear off any cheeseboard spread. We don’t deviate much from the traditional holiday classics—my mom is an amazing cook and has perfected our Christmas menu—but this sophisticated snack instantly earned its spot as a new holiday staple.” -Alexa Weibel, Senior Staff Editor at New York Times Cooking

The Perfect Sugar Cookies

"Cookies are my love language. A baker by temperament (happiness is a kitchen scale!), I'm soothed by the process of mixing and rolling and cutting and baking and repeating. And the closer the results look to something that might come out of a factory, the better! But one cookie has always eluded me: the simple sugar cookie. Sure, I've had a success here or there, but more often than not, the dough is finicky, the flavor is meh, and the baked shapes go blobby. And you can imagine my thoughts about blobby cookies. But in the midst of this terrible, no good, very bad year, I had a cookie breakthrough: a sugar cookie recipe that actually works! It mixes up easily, rolls out like a dream and cuts cleanly. It's so easy to work with, in fact, that my six-year-old son, Gus, happily stamped out trees and stars and gingerbread people for approximately seven minutes, which is six minutes longer than I can usually get him to focus on anything that doesn't involve a screen. And the cookies actually taste good, too. They're buttery and a little tangy, thanks to the addition of cream cheese and a decent amount of lemon zest. My husband was a big fan, and Gus was too busy shoving them in his mouth to tell me what he thought of them. He just gave me a thumb's up and smiled. And if that isn't a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is." -Nina Elder, Executive Food Director at The Kitchn

Coquito and Tres Leches

"Because of the pandemic, 2020 was the first year in three decades that I didn’t spend some part of the holidays in Puerto Rico with my in-laws, who live in San Juan. Even though I’ll be celebrating at home in New York instead, I plan on making coquito, the traditional holiday coconut milk and rum drink that is ubiquitous on the island during the season. The drink is often compared to egg nog, but I think it’s even better—lighter on the palate and easier to drink. I also enjoy making my in-laws' version of the tres leches cake, which pays homage to coquito with a generous soaking of rum and coconut milk. I also shave a little cinnamon and nutmeg on top to capture the same flavors. Whenever I taste the combination of coconut and rum, I can’t help but be in my sunny, happy place—even if I’m wintering in New York." -Kathleen Squires, food writer and Wall Street Journal columnist

Pigs in a Blanket

"Sometime in my mid-20s, I decided I didn’t want to go to any more overpriced bars or lame parties on New Year’s Eve. There was only one solution: I’d have to host. And so for a decade, I’ve spent New Year’s Eve flushed on champagne, with a room full of my dearest friends and lots of snacks. This year, it’ll be just me, my husband, and our dog and cat, but we’ll still (and always) have snacks. Pigs in a blanket is a humble app, but people light up when they see them. This iteration is my favorite: The pastry is irresistibly flaky, with a bit of tanginess from the sour cream. I will make this and eat some onion dip, sip champagne and go to bed at a reasonable hour, ready to awake in a better year." -Cecily McAndrews, food writer and Callisto Media cookbook editor

Okonomi-Latkes and Rainbow Cookies

Image courtesy of Shalom Japan via Instagram

"When the holidays roll around, I am tugged in two different directions, cooking-wise—fried and savory, and baked and sweet. The former comes from my family's traditions. I celebrate Chanukah, and in my Ashkenazi household, that means latkes with sour cream, apple sauce, cinnamon sugar—and these days, smoked salmon and maybe even some salmon roe. This year, I added a new type of latke to the mix—okonomi-latkes, a hybrid of Jewish potato pancakes and Japanese okonomiyaki, savory pancakes made with shredded cabbage and bean sprouts. The dish was created by my friends Aaron Israel and Sawako Okochi, the owners of Shalom Japan, a Japanese-Jewish restaurant in Brooklyn. (Full disclosure—we're writing a cookbook together.) Beyond being perfect for the holiday, okonomi-latkes are a great cold weather dish, and a fine way to use hardy winter produce. I'm sure I'll be making them again this season. Now, for the baked and sweet, I am a big fan of Christmas baking, even though I don't celebrate Christmas myself. One cookie that to me screams 'holidays' is the rainbow cookie, a.k.a. the seven-layer cookie. It's colorful and marzipan-y with jam layers and chocolate icing. I've tried the recipes from Smitten Kitchen and Leite's Culinaria, and both work great. It's a project, for sure, but not a difficult one—just time-consuming. And the many, many cookies you end up with as a result make it more than worth the effort." -Gabriella Gershenson, James Beard-nominated food journalist and Wall Street Journal contributor


"In high school, I became great friends with the Swiss exchange student who lived down the street—and my parents embraced him as their fifth son. We stayed penpals, and during my junior year of college, Georg wrote to ask if he could visit over Christmas and surprise my parents. I planned to pick him up at JFK on Dec 23rd, and despite a harrowing snowstorm, I managed to meet him at Customs. When I walked back into our den, my mom was visibly relieved to see me—and instantly tearful to see him. Once she recovered, he opened his army jacket and pulled out several pieces of wonderfully smelly cheese that he’d stashed—all to accompany a gift-wrapped fondue pot. Naturally, we had fondue that Christmas Eve—and every one since. As our family has grown through marriages and children, we've added new versions—at least four pots are now served at once—but this is one of my favorites. You can adapt the recipe easily, whether you want to leave out the mushrooms or—if you've got vegetarians to feed—the ham. And yes, Georg remains a dear friend. Having become a doctor who specializes in immunology, he's got a new addendum to his holiday greeting: 'Get the vaccine!'" -Janet McCracken, food editor and Cookbook Lead at WW


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Abbie Kozolchyk is an award-winning journalist who covers travel, wellness, beauty, food, design—basically, anything that falls under the lifestyle umbrella. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Allure, The Robb Report, Saveur and many other publications. She has also authored a book for National Geographic and contributed to several Travelers' Tales Best Women's Travel Writing anthologies.

Los Angeles, CA

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