Skilled cooks should pick a dish or two each year that will stretch their skills. The payoffs in terms of flavor and self-satisfaction are worth their weight in gold.
The highest-impact change you can make may be mastering a new recipe for turkey. But because smoking, spatchcocking and deep-frying all require at least one test run, here are some alternatives: a more sophisticated vegetable side, a fancier pie crust or a snappy modern touch like an herb salad.
It’s fun to mess around with mashed potatoes, if your family will allow it. Pipe them into puffs that can be baked at the last minute. Top them with whipped cream and broil to make pommes chantilly, or make patties and pan-fry for garlic-potato cakes, crisp rounds that taste like supersize Tater Tots. — JULIA MOSKIN
Rosemary-Roasted Winter Squash Casserole
Adapted from “Cold-Weather Cooking” by Sarah Leah Chase
Time: 3 hours
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
2 medium-size winter squash (such as butternut, delicata, Hubbard or a combination) peeled, seeded and cubed (about 8 cups cubes)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, more to taste
4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Place squash cubes in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour and cornstarch, then whisk in ginger, salt and pepper. Add half the dry ingredients to the squash and toss gently but thoroughly to combine. Add remaining dry ingredients and toss again until evenly coated. Add garlic, parsley, rosemary and 1/3 cup oil. Toss gently but thoroughly to coat.
3. Transfer squash to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender. Uncover and bake until very soft, another 45 to 60 minutes. (The casserole can be cooled and refrigerated at this point for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before resuming.)
4. To finish, brown the top: Turn oven to 350 degrees. (Alternatively, turn oven to 325 degrees with convection, or use the broiler.) Heat squash until sizzling on the bottom and crusty on the top, about 10 minutes. (If reheating from room temperature, it will take longer, 20 to 30 minutes.) Serve immediately.
Garlic-Parsley Potato Cakes
Adapted from “Recipes from Home” by David Page and Barbara Shinn
Time: 1 hour, plus 1 hour's chilling
Yield: 8 servings (can be doubled)
2 1/2 to 3 pounds medium-starch potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and quartered
12 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon olive oil, more for frying
1. Place potatoes, garlic and 1 teaspoon salt in a pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are just tender all the way through, about 10 minutes. Drain potatoes, return to the pot, and shake over medium heat for 1 minute to dry them out.
2. Add 3 tablespoons cornmeal and the parsley and mash everything together with a potato masher, leaving the mixture chunky.
3. Whisk together egg, egg yolk, milk and 1 tablespoon oil in a small bowl. Stir mixture into potatoes and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Let cool, then cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
4. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Form potato mixture into rounds about 3/4-inch thick. Put remaining cornmeal in a shallow dish.
5. Working in batches, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Coat potato cakes on each side in cornmeal, brown on both sides in the skillet and transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining potato cakes, adding more oil as needed between batches. (At this point, cakes can be set aside at room temperature for up to 4 hours.)
6. Bake until heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.