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The Best Cookbooks for Your Holiday Table

Make this holiday meal one to remember.

holiday table
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  • Photo Credit: Unsplash

Whether you're cooking for two or twenty, it's your first time hosting the holidays or you're just looking to switch up your usual repertoire, holiday cooking can be a challenge. After all, there's a whole lot of pressure to make sure your dinner is delicious! 

If this makes you nervous, have no fear—the following cookbooks are full of delectable recipes perfect for the holidays, from foolproof fare to impressive entrées. Plus, keep scrolling for a free recipe for Braised Turkey Thighs with Apple and Potato Pancakes from Homegrown.

Homegrown

Homegrown

By Matt Jennings

Traditional New England ingredients get a new spin in this cookbook from Matt Jennings, a cook with four James Beard nominations and a spot on Food & Wine's  40 Big Food Thinkers 40 and Under list. Maple syrup-glazed duck, carbonara with razor clams and Boston cream whoopie pies are just a few of the tantalizing recipes that could grace your holiday table.

Related: The 5 Best Baking Books for the Holidays

Heart of the Artichoke

Heart of the Artichoke

By David Tanis

At Chez Panisse, where David Tanis has been head chef for decades, each night the dinner menu changes to a different singular, perfect dish. The celebrated chef has taken that philosophy and filled this book with soulful personal recipes like beans on toast and pasta for one, followed by menus designed to feed small groups, and finally festive meals for holiday feasts, making this a cookbook you'll reach for throughout the year.

The Frankies Spuntino

The Frankies Spuntino

By Frank Falcinelli, Frank Castronovo and Peter Meehan

No one feeds a crowd quite like Italians—and if you don't believe us, you should visit Frankies Spuntino, a Brooklyn restaurant owned by Frank Falcinelli and Frank Castronovo. In this comprehensive cooking manual, they've adapted their entire menu for home cooks, from Cremini Mushrooms to homemade Cavatelli with Hot Sausage and Browned Butter.

“The team behind the popular Brooklyn eatery divulges light Italian secrets in this beautiful tome worthy of any bookshelf.” —Entertainment Weekly

What's a Cook to Do?

What's a Cook to Do?

By James Peterson

Written by a 7-times James Beard Award-winning teacher, this indispensable guide to everything in the kitchen is invaluable to new cooks and seasoned chefs alike. No matter what you're making, this illustrated guide will answer all of your queries, from how to carve a turkey to baking the perfect pie. 

Related: The Best Cookbooks for Beginners, Experts and Everyone in Between

Braised Turkey Thighs with Apple and Potato Pancakes

turkey thighs and potato pancakes from homegrown, a holiday cookbook
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  • Photo Credit: Excerpted from Homegrown by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017. Photographs by Huge Galdones.

Braised Turkey Thighs with Potato-Apple Pancakes

 

I’m a dark-meat guy. It’s rich, nuanced, tender, and moist, and I’m always carving myself the leg and thigh off the Thanksgiving turkey while everyone else clamors for the breast meat. I also don’t think turkey should be limited to one holiday a year plus the sandwiches that follow—this simple braise is a great year-round dinner. Serve the turkey with potato-apple cakes that are inspired by classic potato latkes. Any leftovers are great for brunch; reheat the pancakes in a hot oven, then top with a soft-boiled egg. 

Serves 6 as a main course

For the Turkey Thighs

2 tablespoons canola oil

6 whole turkey thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 medium yellow or white onion, diced

10 whole black peppercorns

6 juniper berries

4 allspice berries

½ cinnamon stick

1 small bunch thyme

2 bay leaves

1 sprig rosemary

4 cups chicken or turkey stock

 

For the Potato-Apple Pancakes

4 russet potatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled

1 medium yellow onion, peeled

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cored

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground 

white pepper

½ cup canola oil, plus more as needed, for frying

½ cup chicken or duck fat, plus more as needed, for frying (clarified butter can be substituted)

All-purpose flour, if needed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

 

Special Equipment: Cheesecloth; kitchen twine

 

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Make the turkey thighs: In a large Dutch oven or heavy high-sided skillet, heat the canola oil over high heat. Season the turkey thighs on all sides with salt and black pepper. When the oil is hot, add the turkey thighs, skin-side down, and sear until golden brown on the skin side, about 6 minutes (reduce the heat if the skin begins to burn). Flip the thighs and cook until golden brown on the second side, 4 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a rimmed plate or baking sheet and set aside.

Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Place a square of cheesecloth on a work surface. Put the peppercorns, juniper berries, allspice berries, and cinnamon stick in the center of the cheesecloth, gather up the edges to form a sachet, and tie with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the sachet to the vegetables, along with the thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary.

Return the thighs to the Dutch oven, skin-side up, and add enough stock so that the thighs are halfway submerged. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven. Braise the turkey thighs until the meat is very tender and the connective tissue has dissolved but the meat is not falling from the bone, about 1 hour.

While the legs are braising, make the potato-apple pancakes: Grate the potatoes, onion, and apple on the large holes of a box grater. Take handfuls of the grated mixture and squeeze firmly over the sink to eliminate extra moisture (the enemy of crispy pancakes!). Place in a large bowl. Add the egg, flour, salt, and white pepper and mix well to combine.

Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet, line the wire rack with paper towels, and place nearby. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the canola oil with 2 tablespoons of the chicken fat over medium heat until it is hot and shimmering. Spoon heaping tablespoons of the pancake mixture into the oil, spacing them about 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly with a fork.

Fry the pancakes until golden on the bottom, about 3 minutes, then flip and fry on the second side until golden and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the pancakes to the paper towel–lined rack to drain and season with salt. Fry the remaining pancakes, adding more oil and chicken fat to the skillet as needed.

When the turkey thighs are tender, remove them from the oven, turn the oven off, and place the potato pancakes on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.

Carefully remove the thighs from the pot and transfer them to a large platter. Tent with aluminum foil and return to the oven to keep warm. Strain the braising liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium saucepan (or back into the Dutch oven), discarding the solids and the sachet.

Bring the braising liquid in the pan to a rapid boil over high heat. Boil until the liquid has reduced by half and is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it is still too thin, whisk in a tablespoon of flour and simmer until the sauce has thickened and no longer has a floury taste, 4 to 5 minutes. Whisk in the butter and remove from the heat.

Remove the turkey thighs from the oven and drizzle the sauce over the top. Serve with the potato-apple pancakes alongside.

Excerpted from Homegrown by Matt Jennings (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2017.

Featured image via Libby Penner / Unsplash