A glorious home-cooked feast is as greatly appreciated as any gift under the tree. After all, planning a special dinner takes thought and care. A well-chosen main dish shows that you’ve been attentive to the tastes of your guests. It intrigues and delights as it anchors the occasion and gets woven into the fabric of family memories. Why not bundle it up as lovingly as you would a hand-knit sweater? On these pages: delicious twists on classic celebratory foods cloaked in gorgeous packages to spark anticipation and surprise.
A roasted whole bird is always impressive, but when you tuck shredded turkey into a b’steeya -- a savory-sweet Moroccan pie -- the table takes on a particularly exciting quality. The whole dish is wrapped in phyllo dough, then four more sheets of phyllo are crumpled on top, lightly brushed with melted butter, and baked until golden brown. The finishing touch: a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and ground cinnamon.
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Chicken or pigeon traditionally fills a b’steeya. But guests digging into this pie will discover especially flavorful turkey. It’s cooked with a mix of spices, including ginger, saffron, and turmeric, then combined with layers of sweetened almonds and eggs whisked with cilantro and parsley.
Serve the b'steeya with a side of baby carrots glazed with honey and orange-blossom water; they’re a lovely complement, both in taste and in color.
This main dish is lovingly enrobed with pie dough that’s golden, flaky, and decorated with strips that mimic ribbons. The very act of pressing and crimping the top and bottom sheets of dough, with the meat in between, feels like sealing up a package. We even dressed it up for Christmas dinner (while providing clues to the treat inside) by decking out the serving platter with baby apples, crab apples, fresh bay leaves, and sage sprigs.
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Tender, juicy pork loin is a crowd-pleaser on any table. So what a happy revelation to find it inside this pie-dough shell. The pork is coated with a mixture of mustard, horseradish, and fresh sage, then filled with a chopped-apple stuffing.
Side dishes of raisin-and-pistachio-studded red cabbage and a ginger-rutabaga puree complete the meal. It’s comfort-food-meets-special-occasion fare, all on one plate.
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Guests get a peek of the fish that’s for dinner, but what will catch their eyes most is the exquisite pair of layers encasing it. The arctic char is first wrapped in gleaming strips of leek, which have been blanched so they’re perfectly tender. They not only lend a delicate flavor to the fish but also act as a barrier to the outermost layer -- a mix of salt, pink peppercorns, and orange zest bound with egg whites. Together, the two layers infuse the fish with hints of citrus and pepper, as well as just the right jolt of saltiness.
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Mesmerize guests as you break through the salt crust, then slice through the leeks to reveal tender thyme-stuffed arctic char. We serve it with a citrus hollandaise sauce, which picks up the zest in the salt crust.
Steamed and lightly smashed baby potatoes that have been tossed with melted butter and fines herbes (such as chives and parsley) -- soak up the sauce and balance the citrus.
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Pale and interesting, crunchy endive and daikon radish are complemented by a splash of Champagne vinaigrette. This crisp salad is the perfect counterpoint to the rich hollandaise sauce.
Some insist that sides make the meal, and this main dish brings a favorite to the forefront. Russet potatoes are sliced ultra-thin with a mandoline then twice-baked: first on their own, brushed with butter so the slices fuse together; then once again along with the meat, until they’re crisp and golden at the edges but still tender in the center. We garnished the platter with a side of mixed sauteed mushrooms for a savory match to the meat -- and a hint at what’s inside the vegetable bundles on each plate.
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Meat and potatoes never looked so elegant, and once you start carving the roast, guests discover there’s still more beneath that pretty scalloping. The tenderloin is coated with pate, then lined with buttery potatoes instead of pastry. For a burst of color (not to mention flavor) on each dish, we added a pair of rainbow Swiss chard bundles stuffed with a creamy cremini-mushroom filling. Three or four served with the sauteed mushrooms make a nice vegetarian entree -- so everyone’s in on the fun and feasting.