3 Chefs, 3 Menus, 3 Holidays: Beat the Stress with Their Recipes and Recommendations


‘Tis the season to cook, bake, and mix some celebratory drinks. Although this year might not involve the holiday potlucks and parties that we know and love, there’s still a lot to enjoy about the season. For one thing, FOOD! There’s still plenty to cook and create in the kitchen. We asked three chefs to give us their best holiday menu recommendations and recipes for the season. Hopefully it inspires you to try out new things. In a year that breaks with tradition, it’s the perfect time to make the best of things, hop on a video call with your friends and family and whip up something special, even if the quantities are wee bit smaller in 2020. 

A Happy Hanukkah Holiday Menu

Chef Barry Shapiro has been a chef for over 18 years and is currently based at Salt Creek Grille in Princeton, New Jersey. Not only does cooking at this ski-like American comfort food lodge keep him busy, but he’s also working on introducing his own line of spices and sauces that will be on sale in 2021.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

For holiday cooks, Barry likes to keep things simple and serve family-style. He suggests this year that home chefs dare to step away from their traditional dishes and go with whatever strikes them in the moment using ingredients they have on hand, rather than stressing with a big grocery shopping list.  

With that in mind, Chef Barry suggests a simple Hanukkah dinner menu bursting with flavor that should satisfy everyone during the Festival of Lights. 

Chef Barry’s Hanukkah Menu

  • Appetizer crackers and cheese
  • Chicken Soup
  • Brisket
  • Skinless Salmon filet topped with everything bagel seasoning
  • Green Beans in browned butter brown sugar sauce
  • Creamy Cucumber and dill salad
  • Broccoli and Cauliflower casserole
  • Potato latke

Holiday Quick Cook Sides

Green beans – use a few pounds of fresh (cook as you like) or frozen green beans. Combine with one stick of butter and one cup of brown sugar. Melt the butter and brown sugar in a pan and add green beans. Mix so the beans are thoroughly coated in the sauce.

Matzo meal latkes – this is another no brainer. Buy matzo meal and follow the directions on the box for latkes. Requires a lot of oil for frying and I prefer using canola oil.

Appetizer served with assorted crackers

Servings 4 people
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Cooling time 15 mins


  • 1 8 oz can Pillsbury crescent dough
  • 1/2 cup raspberry, apricot or strawberry preserves`
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds toast in oven
  • 1 12-13 oz round Brie


  • Heat oven to 375°F. Unroll dough and roll into 12×8-inch rectangle. Trim dough to 10×8- inch rectangle; reserve dough scraps.
  • Spread 1/4 cup of the preserves in 6-inch circle on center of dough rectangle; sprinkle with almonds. Place cheese on center of dough; spread with remaining 1/4 cup preserves. Press dough evenly around cheese and press to seal completely.
  • Turn pastry-wrapped cheese upside down onto ungreased cookie sheet. Brush top of pastry with water. 
  • Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Serve warm with crackers. Store any remaining Brie in refrigerator.
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro and Sharon Shapiro
Cost: $8
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American

Everything Salmon with Creamy Cucumber & Dill Salad over Potato Latke

This classic dish is an all-in-one meal, great for Hanukkah or other special occasions.
Servings 4 people
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 30 mins


  • 4 8 oz salmon filets
  • 3 potatoes
  • 1 sm yellow onion
  • 1 packet Matzoh mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 seedless cucumber
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 4 tbsp everything bagel seasoning
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Peel and grate the potatoes while keeping in cold water. Grate and keep separate half of the onion.
  • Peel and split cucumber in half lengthwise. Cut in half moons. Add to bowl with lemon juice, sour cream, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit in the refrigerator.
  • Dry potatoes and add in bowl. Combine with onion, matzoh mix, eggs and salt/pepper. Form cakes and lightly fry in pan. Remove from heat and keep on sheet tray in warm oven.
  • Using same fry pan cover the flesh side of the salmon with everything bagel seasoning and place seasoned side down in pan until slightly browned. Flip and place pan in oven to finish for 8-9 minutes.
  • Place one potato cake on the center of the plate. Take one salmon filet and place on top of the potato cake and spoon the cucumber salad over the salmon allowing it to also fall to side.
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro
Cost: $35
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Keyword: fish, potatoes


Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs


  • 8 lbs brisket
  • onions, celery, carrots
  • 2-3 packs McCormick brown gravy mix
  • red wine
  • ketchup
  • salt, pepper, granulated garlic, granulated onion,


  • Cut up 2-3 carrots, celery stalks and 1 large onion and place in the bottom of a roasting pan.
  • I cut most of the fat off because we prefer lean beef. I score it witha knife and season it with the above, both sides. I mix the 2 packsof gravy mix in a large measuring cup (8 cups) and add water andwine till it makes about 6 cups.
  • Squirt in ketchup (let’s say 1/4 cup but you can add more). Pour this mix over meat, cover and cook in a 350 oven for about 4-5 hours. Meat should be fork tender and at a temp of 180. (Ovens vary so checking on the tenderness of the meat is important. Meat should be like butter and not chewy)
  • Always cut against the grain. (The brisket is done when the temperature reaches 180 degrees to 185 degrees F internally or when a fork slides easily in and out of the meat. Remove and allow the brisket to rest for about 10 minutes.)
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro and Sharon Shapiro
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Meat

Broccoli and Cauliflower Casserole

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 35 mins


  • 1-2 16 oz bags mixed broccoli and cauliflower
  • 1-2 10 1/2 oz cans  cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 large cans French’s fried onions
  • 1 cup milk until right consistency
  • 1-2 bags shredded Cheddar cheese


  • Steam the vegetables and place in a Pyrex dish.
  • Put the soup in a bowl and add 1 cup of milk. Stir and add more milk if it is too thick. You should be able to pour it but it shouldn’t be runny.
  • Pour over vegetables and mix the cheddar cheese and 2 cans of onions and top with the remaining cheese and onions. Bake at 350until cheese melts and onions get crunchy.
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro and Sharon Shapiro
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: broccoli, cauliflower

Chicken Soup

For years I used to try and make the perfect matzo ball for my soup and decided one year to try the boxed mix (Manischewitz, without soup) and voila, it’s a standard. No fuss, no muss. If you follow the directions, you will have the perfect matzo ball.


  • Chicken thighs, wings or legs
  • Onion, carrots and celery
  • Salt, pepper, parsley
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • Herb ox granulated bouillon


  • Cover the chicken with water, add cut up onions, carrots and celery until it boils. Add fresh parsley if you want. Strain out any foam from the chicken. Lower heat and cook for a few hours. 
  • Chicken should be falling off the bones. I add a couple of TBL of chicken bouillon to give it richness and this is a taste thing too. (I remove the chicken but you can eat it)
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro and Sharon Shapiro
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Jewish American
Keyword: chicken

Potato Latke

You can make them ahead and warmin the oven, but I like them freshly made so they are hot andcrunchy.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins


  • grater


  • 2-4 large baking potatoes peeled and grated
  • 1 large onion grated into potatoes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup mix flour and matzo meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Squeeze out the potatoes and grated onion in a clean dish towel. Add this to your bowl and add the eggs, matzo meal, baking powder and salt and pepper.
  • I use canola oil in a large frying pan and form the mixture into pancakes when the oil is hot. They should be crispy and golden.
Author: Chef Barry Shapiro and Sharon Shapiro
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish American
Keyword: holiday, potatoes

Merry Christmas Menu

Chef Buddy Fortier has been working in the hospitality industry for the better part of twenty-five years. For the last nine years he’s worked as a professional Chef, having graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Culinary Arts from The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA. “The beginning of my culinary journey and most of my work experience has taken place in that wonderful, gritty city. However, I now find myself in beautiful Upstate New York, working as a chef in a retirement community just outside of Albany.”

Chef Buddy Fortier

Buddy says he often gets asked what his favorite type of cuisine or dish to cook is and the answer is a challenge. “Honestly it has always been a difficult question to answer. I’ve worked in many different settings and restaurants where the focus has always varied, so picking one is just impossible! I just love it all. But if I had to narrow it down I will say that Mexican and Asian are the two that I feel are my strongest and most influential cuisines. However, I also have soft spot for American pub grub or tavern food.”

The holidays are a special time for Chef Buddy and one of the big reasons for that is the food! “Being a chef, you never really know when or if you’re going to have the major holidays off to spend time with family so I like to take advantage of the time off and enjoy it. I like to keep things as simple as possible so that everyone can enjoy the meal.” He put together a menu with this in mind that can be made by anyone no matter your culinary skill level.

Chef Buddy’s Christmas Menu

Chef Buddy Fortier
  • Appetizer- Bacon wrapped dates with gorgonzola cheese.
  • Main Course- Whole roasted chicken with fingerling potatoes and parsnips
  • Side dishes: 
  • Sausage and cheddar cornbread stuffing 
  • Cardamom and orange glazed carrots
  • Brussels sprout almandine
  • Roasted garlic mashed potatoes

Cardamom and Orange Glazed Carrots

A quick and easy way to fancy up carrots for a special side dish.
Servings 12 servings
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr


  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh ginger minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 4 pods cardamom
  • 3 lbs carrots sliced on a bias about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  • In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the ginger, garlic and cardamom and cook over moderate heat until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the carrots and sugar and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrot and orange juices and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook the carrots over low heat until tender, about 12 minutes.
  • Uncover and cook over moderate heat until the carrots are glazed, about 5 minutes longer.
  • Discard the ginger and cardamom pods, transfer to a bowl and serve.
Author: Chef Buddy Fortier
Cost: $8-10
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: carrots

Happy Kwanzaa Menu

Chef Leilani Baugh is the executive chef and owner of Roux, Vine Catering and her Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen, named after the street she grew up on. A native  and current resident of Oakland, California, Leilani found her calling to the culinary world in her youth.  Raised by her two grandmothers, she learned at an early age that food and hospitality were the way to people’s hearts.  With one grandmother a Chinese immigrant and the other a Southern housekeeper, she embraced both worlds by ultimately fusing the two. 

Chef Leilani Baugh, Photo credit: Jen Marvin

Specializing in Southern comfort food and Cajun/Creole cuisine, Chef Leilani says the holidays are one of her favorite times of the year to cook. “By November 1st, I have planned out our menu for the restaurant, the catering company and home.  I prepare by creating the menu, making the shopping list, ordering anything exotic that needs to get here in time (like truffles, etc.) and then I plot out the four days of cooking for catering and the two days of cooking for home.  And simultaneously I’m trying to figure out how to get my Christmas tree up.”

Having a multicultural background, Leilani says it took some time for her to learn about Kwanzaa. “Although I am a mixture of Black and Chinese, my family on my father’s side did not celebrate Kwanzaa. I first learned about Kwanzaa in high school at Berkeley High. My African American Studies teacher introduced us to the holiday and its meaning.  It was a very interesting time for me.  

Chef Leilani Baugh, Photo credit: Jen Marvin

Chef Leilani’s Kwanzaa Menu

When putting together a Kwanzaa celebration menu, Leilani suggests focusing on foods that your family loves. “ As a cook now, I love celebrating the rich meaning behind Kwanzaa through food. The thing about Kwanzaa is that there is not really a traditional menu. Most families have their own traditions for Kwanzaa cooking.  It is really about the gathering and the celebration of the meanings behind the days. I stick to Afro Caribbean /Cajun foods; it makes for a tasty meal.” With that in mind, here’s Chef Leilani’s Kwanzaa menu recommendations.

  • Appetizer – Savory Plantain Fritters 
  • Main course – Whole fried red snapper 
  • Side dish – Jollof rice 
  • Side dish or appetizer – Braised mustard greens with chicken andouille sausage 
  • Dessert – Candied Yams 
Chef Leilani Baugh, Photo credit: Jen Marvin

Savory Plantain Fritters

These savory fritters are the perfect starter to any meal.
Servings 12 pieces
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 4 mins


  • Cast iron skillet


  • 2 large ripe plantains
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • vegetable oil for frying


  • Smash plantains in a bowl.
  • Add all ingredients together and form small balls of the mixture.
  • In cast iron skillet or other pan, drop tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil (350°F) and fry until golden brown.
  • Serve with your favorite remoulade sauce.
Author: Chef Leilani Baugh | Owner Roux & Vine Catering and Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen
Cost: $8
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Caribbean
Keyword: cajun, creole, plaintain

Braised Mustard Greens with Chicken Andouille Sausage

Mustard greens are softened and then seasoned before adding chicken sausage that makes it a meal on its own or a hearty side.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 15 mins


  • 1 lb mustard greens destemmed and chiffonade
  • 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin if you have it
  • 1 lb chicken andouille sausage sliced on a slant
  • 3 tsp Roux and Vine All Purpose Seasoning (or other cajun style seasoning)
  • 1 sm white onion or sweet Vidalia onion
  • Pinch white sugar
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock


  • Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil in a and add mustard greens and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and set to the side.
  • Heat olive oil in a skillet and add sausage to brown. Add onion and cook until tender. Add greens, sugar, seasonings and vinegar.
  • Sauté greens until slightly wilted and add stock. Cook down on medium heat until greens become tender (about 15 minutes). Serve hot.
Author: Chef Leilani Baugh | Owner Roux & Vine Catering and Magnolia Street Wine Lounge & Kitchen
Cost: $15
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Southern
Keyword: greens, sausage

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