Holiday Recipes With A Healthy Makeover

It happens to the best of us every year. From Thanksgiving till New Year's, we navigate through endless nutritional land mines: cookie swaps and bottomless candy bowls; office potlucks with the requisite starchy crock-pot comfort foods; cocktail parties with eggnog and phyllo-wrapped hors d'oeuvres.

No wonder pants buttons (and health clubs) are bursting at the seams come January.

But the traditional holiday meal doesn't have to be another calorie bomb. We consulted with five local chefs, each of whom submitted lightened-up versions of classic entrees, side dishes and desserts. (And for those who can't imagine the holidays without indulgence, we've included the original recipes as well.)

Carrie Landry, owner and executive chef of Zest in Tolland, came up with two holiday roast recipes; the second, a beef tenderloin with a red-wine reduction sauce, is the healthier choice.

RICH PRIME RIB WITH GRAVY AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING

Roast

Bone-in prime rib, 4-5 pounds

1 tablespoon rosemary, crushed

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Yorkshire Pudding

1/2 cup beef drippings

6 eggs

2 cups whole milk

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

Gravy

1 cup beef broth

1 cup red wine

3/4 cup flour

1/2 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make a paste with rosemary, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to bind the paste.

Place the beef in a roasting pan and rub paste onto meat. Roast in oven for about 1 1/2 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers an internal temperature of 120 degrees.

Remove the meat from the roasting pan and set aside to rest. Skim off the fat to use for Yorkshire pudding; save the pan drippings for gravy.

Puddings: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin tin with a teaspoon of the drippings fat. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy, then whisk in the milk and remaining fat. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt together. Whisk the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake the puddings for about 50 minutes, undisturbed.

Gravy: Place the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Mix the flour and cold water in a mug with a fork; use fork to skim out any lumps. Deglaze the pan with 1/2 cup of the wine, scraping up browned bits from the bottom. Add remaining wine and broth and bring to a boil. Add flour and water mixture in small amounts, stirring as you go, and wait until gravy boils to see how thick it becomes. Add more as needed. Taste for seasoning and adjust, if necessary.

Carve beef against the grain, into thin slices, and serve with gravy.

ROAST TENDERLOIN OF BEEF WITH A RED WINE REDUCTION AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING

4-pound tenderloin of beef, trimmed

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

1 tablespoon rosemary

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Sauce

1/2 cup finely diced shallots

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups good quality beef broth

1 bottle of red wine

Yorkshire Pudding

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup 2-percent low-fat milk

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 egg white

1 tablespoon pan drippings (reserved from roast)

Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, make a paste with rosemary, garlic, shallots, salt, pepper and enough olive oil to bind the paste (about 1/4 cup). Rub on the roast, then place roast on an ungreased shallow roasting pan in the oven.

Start to check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer after 25 minutes. When the center of the roast registers 120 degrees for rare (125 to 130 degrees for medium rare), remove from oven. Let rest at least 10 minutes before carving.

Sauce: In a medium-size saucepan, add oil and shallots. Cook until translucent. Add red wine and beef broth, bring to a low boil and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until reduced and thickened.

Puddings: Combine first 6 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, whisk until smooth and set aside.

Divide 1 tablespoon reserved pan drippings evenly among 10 cups of a 12-cup muffin pan, and coat sides of cups with cooking spray. Place pan in a 400-degree oven for 3 minutes. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake an additional 25 minutes or until golden. Serve immediately.

Scott Miller, executive chef at Max's Oyster Bar in West Hartford, shared recipes for Brussels sprouts with macadamia nuts and a healthier version with pistachios.

"Anyone who knows me, knows that I generally pair Brussels sprouts with bacon," he says.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PANCETTA AND MACADAMIA NUTS

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons bacon fat

3 shallots

2 ounces rendered pancetta, small dice

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Trim Brussels sprouts, slice thin.

Heat bacon fat in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté a minute or two. Add rendered pancetta. Stir in the Brussels sprouts, making sure to coat with shallots, pancetta and bacon fat. Continue cooking until Brussels sprouts are tender and browned.

Season with kosher salt and black pepper, top with macadamia nuts. Serves 6 as a side dish

BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH PISTACHIOS

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3 shallots

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, divided

1 teaspoon local honey

Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup chopped pistachios

Trim Brussels sprouts and cut an X in the bottom, at the stem. This will ensure even cooking. Put in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low. Let sprouts simmer for 6 minutes or until tender. Be careful not to overcook. Drain.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté a minute or two. Add 2 tablespoon cider vinegar and continue cooking until shallots brown. Stir in the Brussels sprouts, making sure to coat with shallots and olive oil. Drizzle local honey on top of sprouts, then add remaining olive oil and cider vinegar. Continue cooking until Brussels sprouts are tender and browned.

Season with kosher salt and black pepper, top with pistachios. Serves 6 as a side dish.

Chris Prosperi, chef/owner of Metro Bis in Simsbury, submitted two versions of mashed potatoes: A classic, with heavy cream and butter, and a lighter version with red potatoes and olive oil. "The staff liked the olive oil potatoes better than the classic," he writes.

THE BEST MASHED POTATOES

4-5 large Idaho potatoes (3 pounds)

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut into quarters. Put the potatoes in a 3-quart pot and cover with cold water by about 1 inch. Cover the pot and bring to a full boil over high heat, about five minutes.

As soon as the pot reaches the boil, lower heat to medium and reduce to a slow boil. Cook the potatoes for 35 to 40 minutes until fork-tender.

In the meantime, pour heavy cream into a small 1- or 2-quart saucepan. Add butter and cook on low heat until the cream warms and the butter melts completely.

Strain into a colander in the sink, then put the quartered potatoes in the pot or bowl.

Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of salt. Using a masher and go once, gently, around the bowl or pot to break up the potatoes.

As the potatoes crumble, they should look as flaky and fluffy as new snow.

Pour in roughly 1/2 cup of the butter and cream mixture. Go around the bowl again to incorporate the cream mixture into the potatoes. Add a second 1/2 cup of the cream mixture. Once this second ladle of cream is absorbed, add another 1/2 cup and finally a fourth.

Push the masher slowly to the bottom of the bowl or pot and drag it slowly toward you to incorporate the cream. After you pour in the fourth 1/2 cup of the cream mixture, take a large spoon and slowly turn the mashed potatoes over once or twice to make sure the mixture has been fully absorbed.

Taste and sprinkle in more salt if necessary.

OLIVE OIL MASHED POTATOES

4 pounds red potatoes

1 tablespoon coarse ground sea salt

1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper

1/2 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil

Wash unpeeled potatoes well and place in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 30-35 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.

Strain into a large colander in the sink. Let sit and steam for 2 minutes. Transfer back to pot and mash with a large fork or potato masher.

Season with sea salt and pepper. Drizzle half the olive oil on the potatoes and fold in. Repeat with the rest of the oil and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Makes about 8 cups.

Jordan Stein, executive chef at Pond House Café in West Hartford and owner of Husk: New American Tacos in Collinsville, provided two versions of a sweet-potato hash recipe, one with bacon fat and another substituting olive oil and aromatic fresh herbs.

SWEET POTATO HASH WITH BACON

1/4 pound smoky bacon, diced

1 green bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 onion, small dice

4 cups sweet potatoes, small dice

Salt and pepper, as needed

In a large sauté pan, render the bacon on low heat until crispy. Remove bacon, but leave the fat. Add sweet potatoes and onions to the sauté pan. Continue cooking on low heat, stirring gently until the onions are caramelized and there is a nice brown on the potatoes, approximately 7-9 minutes.

Add bell peppers and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Put into serving tray and serve warm.

This can be done the day before. To reheat, put on a sheet pan in a 350-degree oven for approximately 8-10 minutes.

Serves 6 to 8.

SWEET POTATO HASH, SANS BACON

Use the same recipe as above but delete the bacon and bacon fat. Use 1/4 cup olive oil to sauté ingredients. Use the same process as above.

Stein suggests using fresh herbs to season, such as rosemary, thyme or sage. Add the herbs to the mix at the same time as the salt and pepper. Use 1 full teaspoon of chopped fresh herbs so that you don't overpower the other ingredients.

Billy Grant, owner of Grant's and Bricco in West Hartford and Bricco Trattoria in Glastonbury, submitted a recipe for pumpkin ricotta flan with cranberry caramel. He acknowledged that the recipe is difficult to replicate with lighter ingredients, so he also sent a recipe from EatingWell magazine for a frozen pumpkin-mousse pie made with low-fat vanilla ice cream.

PUMPKIN RICOTTA FLAN

(makes 18 four-ounce ramekins)

Cranberry Caramel

2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1/2 cup water

2 cups of sugar

Filling

1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese

12 ounce pumpkin puree

1 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

7 ounces sugar

9 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1-3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

Boil cranberries, water and sugar to a thick consistency and push through a fine strainer. Spray 18 4-ounce ramekins with Pam. While caramel is still warm, pour 2 teaspoons into each ramekin.

Mix ingredients for filling in blender till smooth, and then pass through a fine strainer. Pour custard into each ramekin, pourin over a spoon so not to disturb caramel. Bake in a water bath at 300 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour, until the center is set.

FROZEN PUMPKIN MOUSSE PIE

Crust

30 small gingersnap cookies, (about 7 1/2 ounces)

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon canola oil

Filling

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 pints (4 cups) frozen low-fat vanilla ice cream, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan with cooking spray.

Crust: Combine gingersnaps and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until blended. Press evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.

Bake the crust until set, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Filling: Combine pumpkin, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl and mix well. Add ice cream and stir until blended. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pie crust. Freeze until firm, at least 2 hours. Let the pie soften slightly in the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 10.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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    It happens to the best of us every year. From Thanksgiving till New Year's, we navigate through endless nutritional land mines: cookie swaps and bottomless candy bowls; office potlucks with the requisite starchy crock-pot comfort foods; cocktail parties with eggnog and phyllo-wrapped hors...

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