If there’s one way to catch your guests’ attention, it’s with a stunning main course—which means starting with the best star player you can find. (Hint: Order ahead.) Below, Seattle chefs share their holiday habits, and which purveyors they trust. This year, spend your time and effort on the table’s masterpiece, and purchase perfect pairings (or keep sides as simple as possible) for the rest of the table.
THE TENDERLOIN ROAST
Chef Holly Smith, of the recently revamped Cafe Juanita, usually goes all out for Christmas, serving seared, roasted beef tenderloin medallions with seared foie gras. When she wants a simpler approach, she serves it with horseradish crema, a potato gratin made with Fontina Valle d’Aosta and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses, escarole, and a sauce made with reduced chicken stock, sherry vinegar and butter.
For the mere mortals who can’t make a restaurant-worthy feast appear out of thin air like Smith can? Just make the beef (and pick up the sides, see page 92). Line a roasting pan with thyme sprigs, then oil a 4-pound beef tenderloin roast generously. Season it with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, sear it on the stovetop in a hot pan until evenly browned, transfer it to the bed of thyme, top with plenty of torn thyme sprigs, and roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes (or until the inside reaches 120 degrees F). Serve with a horseradish crema made with freshly whipped cream, sea salt and grated fresh horseradish.
Where to buy it: Sweet Grass Farm Beef (sgfbeef.com), on Lopez Island, raises the grass-fed beef (completely free of hormones and antibiotics) that Holly Smith loves, but it must be ordered in large quantities. For smaller portions, Smith likes Skagit River Ranch’s grass-fed Wagyu tenderloin (skagitriverranch.com, available at Seattle’s Ballard and University District year-round farmers’ markets).
THE STANDING RIB ROAST
John Sundstrom of Lark Restaurant depends on a simple but reliable recipe for a standing rib roast. For a smaller crowd, he rubs a bone-in half roast (about 6 pounds) with plenty of salt and pepper, roasts it bone-side down for about 1 ½ hours (or until the inside reaches 130 degrees F), and lets it rest, loosely covered with foil, for a good 45 minutes before serving it with mashed potatoes.
Where to buy it: Rain Shadow Meats (Capitol Hill, 1531 Melrose Ave.; 206.467.6328 or Pioneer Square, 404 Occidental Ave. S; 206.467.4854; rainshadowmeats.com) carries a reliably good selection of sustainably grown local beef, such as Oregon’s Painted Hills Natural Beef (paintedhillsnaturalbeef.com), and handles special orders well. Experts there can help you decide how big your rib roast should be, depending on your crowd—and can even debone it for you if you want a shorter cooking time or don’t have a huge oven.
At home, chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi of Revel, Joule and Trove restaurants usually take the turkey in a new direction. This year, they’ll go with a Moroccan tagine: Start by separating the turkey into pieces. Sear the meat first on the stovetop, then braise it with ras el hanout, marjoram, lemon, olives, chiles and tomatoes, like you might for a chicken tagine, adding the tender breast pieces about halfway through the cooking time.
Where to buy it: Raised on grains milled on the farm, Skagit River Ranch’s flavorful organic turkeys (skagitriverranch.com) are usually responsible for the long lines at Seattle’s Ballard and University District year-round farmers’ markets the weekend before each holiday—and for good reason. The ranch also has a wide variety of sizes, which means whether you’re cider brining them (our favorite method) or roasting them plain, you’ll find a good local bird that fits your table just right.
THE SEAFOOD FEAST
Every year during the holidays, Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg (of Delancey, Essex and Dino’s Tomato Pie) cover the table with trash bags and newspaper, stand a roll of paper towels at one end, pour Champagne, set out a loaf of crusty bread and a big green salad, and dump a pile of cracked crab in the middle of the table. “Everyone eats with their hands, and it’s a wonderful, semi-gross, totally epic throw-down,” says Wizenberg. “It’s probably my favorite meal, anywhere, anytime.”
Where to buy it: Central Market (Shoreline, 15505 Westminster Way N; 206.363.9226; central-market.com), where Pettit and Wizenberg go if they can’t take advantage of the winter crabbing season, always has live crab in stock. And the Mutual Fish Company (2335 Rainier Ave. S; 206.322.4368; mutualfish.com), in Rainier Valley, has been one of Seattle’s most trustworthy seafood sources since 1947. Bonus points: If you’re outside Seattle, you can call in an order to Mutual Fish for cooked crab, and they’ll ship it to your door overnight.
THE EASIEST OPTION HAM
Ham has been a Christmas dinner staple since Scrooge was a boy, and for good reason: It’s often more economical than other choices, and it takes very little effort. No chef skills required: Place a roughly 10-pound boneless ham (they’re fully cooked) in a roasting pan, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 2 hours, removing the foil for the last 30 minutes. It’s delicious with Boat Street pickles.
Where to buy it: Olsen Farms’ barley-raised pigs, from Colville, Washington, make hams completely incomparable to anything that arrived wrapped in foil in your childhood. Erase any memory that entails too salty or sticky sweet ham, and prepare to understand why ham became a holiday tradition in the first place. To order, call 509.685.1548. Hams can be picked up at Seattle’s Ballard or University District farmers’ market.
THE ULTIMATE CHEAT
THE READY-TO-COOK SHOWSTOPPER
For the (we think) bargain price of $90, one can pre-order Il Corvo’s porchetta roast—a slab of Carlton Farms pork belly smeared with fennel, sea salt, fresh garlic and rosemary, and then wrapped around pork tenderloin and tied into a neat bundle you roast and slice at home. Impressive? Check. Unique? Check. Delicious? Double check. Hours spent slaving? Not so much. Preorder now for pickup December 21–24; ilcorvopasta.com or 206.538.0999.
Go back to the main Ultimate Holiday Take-Out Feast article.