Cooking together: Collaborative holiday recipes

contributor

by Kaley Eaton
Contributing Reporter

Cooking together is one of those things with a warm, fuzzy connotation, by which hundreds of Food Network shows have profited. Unfortunately for some people (yours truly), this can be a nightmare. It entirely depends on who’s cooking. When I cooked in a restaurant, others interfering was a welcome boon. Dishes went out faster. We could get into an assembly-line rhythm. This was because people knew what they were doing.

But when family tries to help, somehow you have to bond and catch up simultaneously and when that gets involved, food gets neglected, fingers get cut, people start yelling and the real cooks get frustrated because no matter how much we love our family, the food must be the priority.

Call me a cynic but there’s plenty of time to catch up while you eat, not while you cook; eating should be a celebration of the complete art of the meal, where conversation can flow uninhibited and wine can be imbibed without the risk of dropping the chef’s knife.

Despite my admittedly unfriendly view of meal preparation, cooking together is inevitable this time of year, so I have decided to let battling in the kitchen become a tradition as well. At least when you expect yelling and slapping, you can do it safely, making sure that you take out your anger when no knives are involved. Make sure you are armed only with an oven mitt or a spoon, at the most daring.

Below are some of my favorite collaborative Thanksgiving and Christmas dishes, whose quarrels I have embraced into my creative process.

Cranberry Orange Relish

My brother and I have been making this together at Thanksgiving since infancy. My mother always videotaped us screaming and hitting each other as we battled over the food processor. We still fight like toddlers when we make it. The result is worth it, though: the sweet and sour nature compliments the richness of turkey beautifully. Our favorite was to put it on butter-flake rolls for leftover sandwiches, but you can also use it in the sandwiches in the recipe below.

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 navel oranges, cut into quarters

½ cup to 1 cup sugar, to taste

In a food processor, alternate adding the cranberries, 1/4 cup at a time, and the orange sections. Don’t process too much, as you’ll want a chunkier texture.

Add the sugar to taste, and serve!

Turkey and Arugula Sandwiches on Sweet Potato Biscuits

Every year, I have a huge Christmas party where I invite around 70 of my friends and require them to wear formal wear while they eat an extravagant feast of my creation. Needless to say, cooking for that many people can be a horrific stress trap. My best friend usually helps out and assembling these sandwiches is her job. Because I’m typically mid-hair and mid-makeup, with a hot curling iron in my hands and an unzipped formal dress clinging to me underneath my kitchen apron, I’m not typically in the best of moods when she gets to work. I’ve been known to get a bit bossy and well, physical, if she isn’t exact. For Christmas, I usually serve them with roasted duck and cherry preserves but they would also work beautifully for any Thanksgiving leftovers you have to serve to family in the following days.

Sweet potato biscuits

Recipe adapted from Paula Deen, Food Network

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 heaping tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter

2 to 4 tablespoons milk, depending on the moisture of the potatoes

Sandwiches

4 cups baby arugula

1 cup cherry preserves or cranberry orange relish (see above)

Leftover roasted turkey

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 15 minutes. Watch your oven: If the biscuits are browning too fast, lower the temperature.

Let cool, and split biscuits. Spread bottom half with preserves or relish, then top with about ¼ cup of arugula and turkey.

Good luck!