30 Years of Holiday Recipes: Former Editors Share the Dishes They Make Year After Year
To celebrate our anniversary in delicious fashion, we asked members of the extended Martha Stewart Living family to share the festive recipes they cherish.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Martha Stewart Living, we asked some of the fabulous editors who have worked on the magazine to share the holiday recipes they recall fondly. For some, these are the recipes that they loved when they tasted them during the recipe development and testing process (our rigorous triple testing remains central to the brand to this day—every recipe that appears in the magazine is developed by a food editor, then tested three times and sampled by the other food editors to ensure it works for ease of making, consistent results, and supreme taste). For others, they might be recipes that were so visually striking that they fell for them through the eyes first, when they saw the dish put together during a photo shoot (a later taste-test then confirmed their thoughts, of course).
However their love for these recipes came to be, the dishes, which range from appetizers to desserts, are all ideal for the holiday table. There are stellar celebratory entrées, like the classic holiday rib roast, and warming, seasonal dishes like the Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna that can pass for a main or a side. Looking for appetizer ideas? You'll be pleased to know we have a standout bite that's so good it was picked by two editors: Bette's Chicken Liver Pâté looks unassuming, but our experts say it's a star. Former editorial director of food and entertaining Jennifer Aaronson, who's now culinary director of Martha and Marley Spoon, knows the recipe well. It came from her mom, Bette. Aaronson reworked it a little for the magazine and continues to make it at home for the holidays. For Heidi Johannsen Stewart, former food editor and co-founder of Bellocq Tea, Bette's pâté is also a go-to. And it's a recipe you won't want to wait to try.
The editors' personal favorite recipes might surprise you. Who knew we were team pears for the holiday season? There are two pear recipes, but no apple desserts, in this collection. While some of the recipes are our takes on classics, they aren't always the flashiest dish on the table. The Gingerbread Snacking Cake beloved by Susan Spungen, cookbook author, food stylist, and founding food editor of Martha Stewart Living, is simple but irresistible. Whichever dishes you choose to try, know this: All of these picks are time-honored and stand up to picky eaters and varied family palates, year over year. These are some of the recipes that define the holidays for our extended family.
Standing Rib Roast
Lucinda Scala Quinn, former executive editorial director of food and entertaining for Martha Stewart Living, founder of MadHungry, and a cookbook author, picks an absolute classic as her favorite holiday recipe. It's ideal if you want to go "full on for Christmas dinner." Serve this sublime meat and potatoes combo with Yorkshire Pudding for "the complete experience."
"I make this pretty much every Christmas," says Aaronson. "I always have to make another dessert because my family doesn't think this one sounds or seems crave-worthy enough, but then every year it's the same thing: Wow, this is so delicious—the pavlova gets devoured and the other dessert is left behind." Aaronson explains what makes this pavlova such a winner: "It's the brown sugar in the meringue that really makes it special. It adds a great caramel note and yummy chew. Add in whipped cream and red wine poached pears and you have a perfect combination."
Leek and Gruyère Bread Pudding
"Rather decadent, but rich, fragrant and it can be made ahead, which is a gift for the host, especially during the holidays," says Johansen Stewart. Another reason this recipe is her pick? "It could also work as a main, with a green salad for a lunch, or brunch."
Gingerbread Snacking Cake
Spungen says this easy, super seasonal treat is an unassuming star of the holiday table. "This simple moist gingerbread is great on its own, or can be topped with warm sautéed apples or pears," she adds.
Bette's Chicken-Liver Pâté with Sautéed Maple Syrup Apples
"This one is named after my mom because it's a modern twist on her original recipe," explains Aaronson. "I replaced her garlic powder and dried thyme with fresh—you're welcome, Mom!" Aaronson also added sweet-tart caramelized apple slices: "I knew the earthy richness of the pâté would be the perfect complement to the apple." Much as she likes the pâté, Aaronson says she only makes the decadent appetizer during the holidays "when we are supposed to indulge." Stewart Johansen also picks this recipe, declaring it "perfect, everyone loves it."
Chicory Salad with Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash
Braised Fennel with Chestnuts and Shallots
Of all the marvelous vegetable side dishes she has created, Spungen chose this recipe as a favorite for the holidays. She says it's hard to imagine a better side dish for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. "The vegetables are soft, unctuous, and caramelized." It also "looks absolutely gorgeous plated and can be easily made ahead."
An easy but elegant dessert recipe is one that stands out for food stylist, writer, and former food editor Anna Kovel. Not only is the make-ahead dessert a boon for the busy holiday cook, but Kovel also says that it brings back fond memories: "When I was first cooking professionally, I lived in Boston and I would sometimes go to the North End, the old Italian neighborhood, to shop at Polcari's, a family-run shop." During her shopping she "would always pick up a few small torroni (torroncini) for myself as a treat—I find them irresistible." This semifreddo has the same flavors and your holiday dinner crowd will find it hard to resist.
Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna
A recipe that Pike returns to every year around the holidays is this elegant yet humble vegetarian lasagna. He says it shines whether it's served as an entrée or a side.
Salt-baked Pears with Caramel Sauce
Our last pick comes from Scala Quinn: "As a general non-dessert maker, I love it because the Bosc pear skin creates a barrier to hold in the liquid while the pears cook and the flesh ends up sort of custardy. Plus, it's dramatic," she laughs.