It’s not the type of meal that’s typically put together at the last minute. For those who often host large family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, the tablescapes, the seating arrangements, the menu, and the drink list are often planned well in advance. Yet even the most skilled entertainers sometimes need a little help. We’ve called in three culinary masters to present a holiday menu that can be tackled by even the most recipe wary: Eli Haddix, the service manager at Bonefish Grill; Doug Rennie, co-owner of Just Rennie’s Catering; and Scott Schymik, owner of Kirby’s Private Dining.
These talented local chefs developed their own flavorful recipes for Evansville Living readers that will both please the palate and make for good holiday cheer. Wine-lovers might consider the suggestions of Ron Hull, manager of The Winetree, 1951 Washington Ave., who carefully selected bottles to pair with each dish.
Appetizer: Seared tuna with wasabi-lime vinaigrette. Recipe by Eli Haddix.
• 6 to 8 ounce Sashimi grade tuna steak (fresh, not frozen)
• Ground coriander
• Cayenne pepper
• Kosher salt
• Cracked black pepper
• Olive oil
• Toasted sesame seed oil
• Vegetable oil
• Wasabi paste
• 2 limes
• Rice vinegar
• Rice noodles
Instructions: Begin by boiling 1.5-2 quarts of water. Cook rice noodles as directed on packaging. Once cooked, drain the noodles and run cold water over them to stop cooking process. Season tuna with equal parts paprika, cayenne, and coriander, along with a light dusting of kosher salt and fresh black pepper. Rub spices into tuna with extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.
For wasabi-lime vinaigrette, whisk together 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tube wasabi paste (about 1.5 ounce), juice from 2 limes, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. After fully mixing, set aside until ready to serve. Just before serving, whisk again to ensure fullest flavor.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a skillet until hot. Oil should just barely coat bottom of pan. Add tuna and don’t walk away! You’ll only need to sear each side 30 seconds to 1 minute at most to achieve the perfect rare sear. Slice tuna and serve it over a bed of rice noodles, drizzling vinaigrette over top.
Wine: 2012 Meiomi Pinot Noir. This rich, full-bodied Californian with a backbone of acidity will stand up to the paprika, vinegar, and limes and not get lost. $20.99.
Entrée: Chicken Napoleon with wilted baby spinach, pesto, buffalo mozzarella, provolone, and bourbon cream. Recipe by Doug Rennie.
• 1 cup chicken broth
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 1 tablespoon bourbon
• Salt, pepper to taste
• ½ teaspoon Kitchen Bouquet (a browning and seasoning sauce)
• Homemade roux to thicken to desired consistency
Instructions: Heat chicken broth and cream together until hot. Thicken with roux, made with equal parts butter and flour (search online for an easy roux how-to). Add Kitchen Bouquet and bourbon. Season with salt and pepper.
Marinate chicken in balsamic vinegar and olive oil for at least an hour. Grill chicken until done and then rest. Spread store-bought or homemade basil pesto and sun-dried tomato pesto on bottom layer of chicken.
Top with one slice of Buffalo mozzarella cheese. Wilt baby spinach by cooking for 2 to 3 minutes until just tender and add on top of cheese. Put second layer of chicken on top. Put in 350-degree oven until cheese starts to melt. Take out and top off with more baby spinach. Pour sauce over chicken or on bottom of plate. Serve with fresh grilled vegetables.
Wine: 2011 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Karia Chardonnay. This Napa Valley, Calif., will have enough structure to cut through the richness of the chicken broth and the heavy cream. $34.59.
Dessert: Poached pears with chocolate sauce and French vanilla ice cream. Recipe by Scott Schymik.
For the pears:
• 6 Bosc, Bartlett, or Anjou pears
• 3 quarts cranberry juice
• 2 cups red wine
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 teaspoon allspice berries
Instructions: Peel pears and trim off top and bottom, saving top stem for decoration. Using an apple corer, core the pears. Bring all other ingredients to a boil in small stock pot. Reduce boil to a simmer and place pears in poaching liquid for 20 minutes or until soft, but not falling apart. Remove pears from liquid and let dry and cool.
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli 70 percent bittersweet bars are a good choice)
Instructions: Bring cream to a simmer in pot over medium heat. Remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate. Whisk until smooth.
Plating: Dollop scoop of ice cream onto plate and flatten it out with spatula or other flat utensil. Place pear on ice cream with sprig of mint on top where hole is from coring. Place top stem on plate along with raspberries and drizzle with room-temperature chocolate sauce. Optional: sprinkle with crushed toffee pieces (as appears on photo)
Wine: 2005 Creekbend Vineyard Vidal Blanc Ice Wine. This Indiana wine, produced by Oliver Winery, isn’t too sweet and has enough acidity to complement the textures involved. $48.59.
We Suggest: Other options for appetizers include spinach dip in a bread boule, and stuffed baby Bella mushrooms. For entrée alternatives, consider sea bass with sherry and artichoke butter, or Dijon-encrusted New Zealand rack of lamb with rosemary sauce. Dessert alternatives might include peppermint crème bruleé, or toffee and white chocolate bread pudding with a whiskey sauce. Don’t forget side dishes. Potatoes au gratin or roasted Brussels sprouts would be flavorful and filling plate-fillers, and warm, freshly baked bread always is appreciated during the chilly Thanksgiving and Christmas season.