A Very Vegas Holiday Cookbook: Local recipes to sweeten up your season


Gathering with loved ones for a holiday feast is our favorite part of the season, but deciding what to make can drag down the festivities. That’s why we’ve gathered ideas and recipes from some of the most brilliant folks who create some of the best dishes, drinks and desserts anyone’s ever tasted.

We’ve got celebrity chefs, local artisans and even a burlesque starlet contributing to this special holiday cookbook, so browse away and make your shopping list. It’s going to be the tastiest December ever!


Singer and burlesque performer Melody Sweets has been embodying her name of late, creating delicious and eye-catching cakes and posting them to her Instagram (@melodysweetsofficial). But this creation is more personal.

“My beautiful mother used to make these delicious white chocolate, peanut and pretzel candies every year for our family’s Christmas Eve party, but now that the holidays have become a tradition held at my house, I decided to turn her tasty little treats into Christmas trees that sit atop a decadent white chocolate crunch cake,” she says. “It’s a delicious balance of creamy, crunchy, salty and sweet [that’s] purr-fect for those holiday munchies. Sorry, not sorry, Mama Sweets.” –Geoff Carter


  • 5 oz white chocolate chips
  • 21/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 11/2 cups milk
  • 11/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter(room temp)
  • 3 large eggs (room temp)
  • 11/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 21/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bar white chocolate, shaved or grated
  • 1/2 cup Spanish redskinpeanuts
  • 1/2 cup crushed pretzels mixed with an additional
  • 1/2 cup crushed Spanish redskin peanuts

For the white chocolate buttercream

  • 12 oz unsalted butter(3 sticks)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 12 oz white chocolate
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (she uses Watkins clear vanilla extract to help keep the color as white as possible)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp heavy whipping cream

For the white chocolate ganache drip (optional)

  • 4 oz white chocolate
  • 3 tbsp heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 tsp white oil-based food coloring (optional)

For the Christmas tree decorations (optional)

  • 1 cup white chocolate chips thin pretzel sticks
  • 1/2 cup crushed pretzels
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped Spanish redskin peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp green oil-based food coloring (optional) Christmas sprinkles


1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until just simmering (Do not let it boil). Pour hot milk over chocolate, let it sit for 30 seconds, stir to combine and set aside to cool to room temperature.

2. Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease and flour three six-inch round cake pans, and line with parchment paper.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt and set aside.

4. Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together on medium-high until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Don’t skip this step! You want to create air, which helps with the structure of the crumb.

5. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time. After adding each egg, turn the speed to high for about 5-10 seconds to fully incorporate. Add vanilla.

6. Begin alternating adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Fully incorporate each addition, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

7. Bake for 35-37 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Let cakes cool for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

9. Once cooled, double wrap in plastic wrap and let sit in freezer while you get everything else ready.

To make the Christmas trees

1. Microwave chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds. Stir and continue to microwave at 15 second intervals until the chocolate has mostly melted. Stir and add green food coloring now, just a few drops.

2. Let the chocolate cool just to the touch and pour it into a piping bag or sealed sandwich bag. You can secure the top of the bag with a rubber band. Snip about a quarter-inch from the tip of the bag when ready to use.

3. Mix the crushed peanuts and pretzels in a bowl. Place pretzel sticks about 2.5 inches apart on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Pipe chocolate back and forth over the pretzel stick to create a Christmas tree. Quickly sprinkle the peanut and pretzel mix onto the piped chocolate. Add another thin layer of white chocolate on top to seal everything in and immediately decorate with Christmas sprinkles. Set in the refrigerator for about two hours to firm up, or in the freezer if you’d like them ready quicker.

To make the white chocolate buttercream

1. Melt the white chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds initially, and then in 15 second intervals until your chocolate is just melted. Stir.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add the sugar one cup at a time, scraping the sides as you go. Once incorporated, mix on high for another minute. Mix in vanilla and salt.

3. Make sure the chocolate has come to room temperature so you don’t melt the butter, and add the cooled white chocolate. Add 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream to a consistency of your liking.

4. Place buttercream in a large piping bag and when ready to use, cut the tip to create an opening about a half-inch wide. If you don’t have piping bags, place plastic wrap on top of your buttercream, touching so that no air gets to it, and set aside.

To make the white chocolate ganache drip

1. Place chocolate chips and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds initially, and then in 10 second increments, stirring in between, until chocolate is melted and combined. Add white food coloring for desired color and set aside to cool and thicken to a drip consistency. 

To assemble the cake

1. Even out the domed cake layers to create a flat, even top using a long, serrated knife.

2. Place the first layer on a cake stand or serving plate. Pipe or place a layer of buttercream around in a circle until the layer is completely covered, and spread evenly.

3. Sprinkle a quarter-cup of the crushed peanuts on top of the layer of buttercream.

4. Place the second layer of cake on top of the peanuts and add another layer of buttercream and peanuts.

5. Place the remaining layer of cake on top, bottom side up. Cover the cake with a thin layer of buttercream and chill for about 15 minutes. This helps “glue” crumbs down, and seal in the cake’s moisture.

6. Frost and smooth sides with remaining frosting, or create a textured effect on the sides. Smooth the top.

7. Use the pretzel-peanut mix to add around the bottom of the cake by gently pressing it along the side of the cake. Chill for about 20 minutes until frosting is cold and firm.

8. Lightly squeeze the piping bag full of ganache around the top of the chilled cake, allowing it to drip down. (If ganache is too cool, add to microwave in five second intervals until you reach the desired consistency.) If not using a piping bag, use a small spoon and place dollops of ganache around the top to let it drop down. Fill the top of the cake with more ganache and sprinkle remaining peanut-pretzel mix.

9. To add trees, use a toothpick to create holes in the top of the cake to place the Christmas tree trunk in. For added stability you could pipe some buttercream over the hole before inserting the tree trunk.

10. Sprinkle chocolate shavings around the bottom and to fill in the top. Dust with powdered sugar to create a snowy effect.


Gordan Ramsay's Beef Wellington <em>(Courtesy)</em>

Gordan Ramsay’s Beef Wellington (Courtesy)

“Beef Wellington is the ultimate indulgence and one of my all-time favorite main courses, especially for the holidays,” says world-famous chef, restaurateur and TV star Gordon Ramsay. “The crepe is one of the extra steps that many leave out of their Wellington recipe, but it provides another layer of flavor and protection for the puff pastry as the filet rests to a perfect medium rare before slicing.”

There’s a reason Ramsay keeps this iconic dish on many of his menus, including the one at his brand-new Strip spot, Ramsay’s Kitchen (see Page 42). It’s a special occasion any time it hits the table. –Brock Radke


  • 1 lb center-cut beef tenderloin, room temperature sea salt freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 slices prosciutto
  • 1 9.6 oz sheet puff pastry(thawed if frozen)
  • 2 egg yolks

For the mushroom duxelles

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 portobello mushrooms, finely diced (about 4 cups)
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves

For the chive crepes

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp chopped chives
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme flowers nonstick cooking spray

For the red wine sauce

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ lb beef trimmings
  • 4 shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 thyme sprig red wine vinegar
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 3 cups beef stock


1. To make the mushroom duxelles, place a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, add oil, and when hot, add mushrooms. Season well with salt and pepper, then add the thyme. Stirring frequently to be sure mushrooms don’t stick, cook until all moisture has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

2. To make the chive crepes: In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, flour, milk, chives, thyme and salt. Whisk until incorporated, and transfer to the refrigerator to rest for at least 30 minutes.

3. Apply a light coat of cooking spray to a 10-inch nonstick pan, and set over low heat. Add a quarter-cup crepe batter, and swirl the pan so that the batter spreads evenly along the bottom, forming a very thin pancake. Allow to cook for 25 to 30 seconds until set. Using an offset spatula to lift one side, flip crepe and cook on opposite side for just a few seconds, then transfer crepe to a plate. Move quickly; you don’t want any browning to occur. Continue cooking until batter is finished, making about five crepes. Place a parchment square between each crepe to keep them from sticking together, and set aside.

4. Season beef tenderloin liberally with salt and pepper on all sides. Use your hands to rub salt and pepper into meat while rolling and shaping beef into a cylinder. Place cast iron skillet over medium high heat, and add grapeseed oil. Once the pan is hot, sear the beef, cooking one minute per side. Remove beef to a sheet tray, and pour any juices from the pan over it. While hot, brush Dijon mustard all over, and then let it rest.

5. Moisten your cutting board with a damp towel. Layer three pieces of plastic wrap on the board. Take two to three pancakes (depending on the width of your beef tenderloin) and trim into squares the length of the meat, then line them up vertically on the plastic. Layer the prosciutto slices on top of the crepes, then spread the mushroom duxelles over the prosciutto. Season with salt and pepper. Pour resting juices from the beef over the mushrooms, then place beef at the bottom of the crepe.

6. Using the plastic wrap to lift as you pull the crepe over the beef, roll the beef up completely, smoothing plastic and twisting the ends to form a tight package. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

7. Start making the red wine sauce. Heat a large pan on medium heat, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and fry beef trimmings for 3-4 minutes until browned. After mixing in the sliced shallots, peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf, continue cooking for another five minutes, stirring frequently until the shallots turn golden brown.

8. Pour in the vinegar, and let it boil for a couple of minutes until nearly dry. Add wine and let boil until nearly entirely reduced; add beef stock, boil again, lower the heat, simmer for one hour and eliminate any skin from the surface, until you have the preferred texture. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve lined with muslin. Taste for seasoning, then set sauce aside.

9. Preheat oven to 450. Moisten cutting board again, then layer three more pieces of plastic wrap. Place puff pastry in center, then use a rolling pin or dowel to evenly roll it to 1/8-inch thick, trimming if necessary to fit your tenderloin. Unwrap beef, and place on the pastry a third of the way up. Lightly brush pastry with egg wash, and season with salt and pepper. Lift the plastic wrap up, and roll the pastry over the beef until the edges meet, then massage the pastry, smoothing it evenly across and sealing the seam.

10. Twist the plastic, taking excess pastry with it, until pastry melts together, and cut off the ends. Unwrap the Wellington, discard the plastic and smooth the ends, then apply more egg wash. Use the back of a knife to gently score the top of your Beef Wellington and create a decorative pattern. Season with more salt, place on a parchment-lined tray, and insert thyme sprig. Refrigerate for 5 minutes.

11. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove, and let rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.


Kim Foster's Simple Confit Byaldi <em>(Courtesy)</em>

Kim Foster’s Simple Confit Byaldi (Courtesy)

“This isn’t technically a holiday dish, exactly … but it is now,” Kim Foster says. The James Beard Award-winning food writer, whose book The Meth Lunches: Food + Longing in an American City will come out via St. Martin’s Press in fall 2023, has a preternatural understanding of the emotions of good food within us, and in that sense, her simple confit byaldi—aka ratatouille, as seen in the movie of the same name—is a legitimate gift.

“When my teenage daughter, Lucy, went vegan, I wanted to have a big showy vegan centerpiece dish, that wasn’t bullsh*t tofurkey or some kind of gross lab meat, to show her we respected her choices,” Foster says. “I didn’t want her grabbing a roll for her dinner and feeling like her food was an after-thought. I wanted it to be filling, bold and comforting—a showstopper.

“But then, the whole table went gaga for the dish. Everyone ate it. They scraped the bottom of the pan clean. They mopped up the sauces with bread. And it was my 7-year-old who pointed out that the colors are predominantly red and green and that this is a Christmas-looking dish. I mean, you could make this dish in a Christmas tree mold, and it would kill.”

You’ll need a mandolin to get those beautiful thinly sliced veggies, but don’t worry, you can make this dish in advance to save time during busy holiday gatherings. –GC


  • 4 green zucchinis, sliced into 1/16-inch slices
  • 4 light green (Mexican) zucchini, 1/16-inch slices
  • 4 yellow zucchinis, 1/16-inch slices
  • 10 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 jar Rao’s tomato & basil sauce (or your favorite homemade or jarred sauce)
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of your favorite vinegar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced thyme (and your other favorite herbs)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, half


1. Preheat your oven to 350. Open your jar of sauce, and pour a nice layer across a 9-inch round skillet, so the bottom is covered. (Don’t over-sauce; it can bubble up and cover the vegetables.)

2. Take your slices of zucchini and tomatoes, and, working your way around the pan in a spiral, outside to inside, position the slices up vertically against one another. They should be able to mostly stand up in the sauce. I pack the slices in thick and upright, but for an even easier version, lay the slices partially over one another, so they’re laying down and less fussy. Alternate slices by color, leaning on each other, so you have a lovely pattern—green, yellow, light green, red, etc. Do this until you are in a deeply meditative state and the pan is filled.

3. In a jar, mix a glug of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the vinaigrette over the vegetables.

4. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for an hour. (If you’re making it ahead of time, you can store in the fridge overnight.)

5. Uncover the foil on the dish, and position the pan under the broiler. (If the dish is made ahead and cold, warm up in the oven until it’s hot, then turn on the broiler.) Brown the very top edges of the vegetables, so they’re slightly crisp and the sauce is bubbling. Taste. Add salt and pepper, if necessary. Squirt half a lemon all over the vegetables. Smile. Breathe. Serve immediately. Wait for applause.


Starboard Tack's Merry Cree-stmas Cocktail <em>(Courtesy)</em>

Starboard Tack’s Merry Cree-stmas Cocktail (Courtesy)

’Twas the week before Cree-stmas, and all through the bar, owner Bryant Jane and bar manager Christopher “Cree” Whitney were stirring a slow cooker full of chai-spiced cocktail. Served hot, this rum-based beverage warms hands and hearts. –Shannon Miller


  • 8 bags of Harney & Sons masalachai (or your favorite brand)
  • 2 quarts hot water
  • 2 cups Kasama rum (or yourfavorite dark rum)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large pinch of Kosher salt
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 cardamom pods whipped cream and nutmeg


1. Brew the chai tea in the hot water.

2. In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients, and cook on low for four hours. Skim off any solids.

3. Serve in chai or coffee cups. Top with whipped cream and grated nutmeg.


Sonia El-Nawal's Latkes <em>(Christopher DeVargas / Staff)</em>

Sonia El-Nawal’s Latkes (Christopher DeVargas / Staff)

Hanukkah begins on December 18 this year. Always present at the table during the eight-day celebration are latkes, pan-fried potato pancakes typically served with applesauce and sour cream.

It’s a dish you’ll find year-round at Bodega Bagel, owner and chef Sonia El-Nawal explains, because it’s such a universal comfort food.

“The recipe is so good. I feel like it’s more than just Jewish. It’s a great hidden gem that doesn’t get to be seen very much,” El-Nawal says.

Latkes can be served as a side dish or kicked up as a savory main by adding trout roe, smoked salmon or gravlax. Its versatility is endless, and with this easy recipe, you’ll be making it long after the holidays are over. –Genevie Durano


  • 3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 oz all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 small white onion vegetable oil chives, chopped applesauce and sour cream


1. Grate the potatoes and onion (peeling the potatoes is the chef’s preference) and add to a mixing bowl. Add in the eggs and then the flour. Lightly mix until combined, but don’t overdo it.

2. Add vegetable oil to a Teflon pan, and bring to medium heat. Drop a hefty dollop of the mixture into the pan, lightly press to flatten and cook until golden. Then flip, and do the same on the other side.

3. Once cooked through on both sides, remove from the pan, pat off excess oil, plate and garnish with salt and chives. Serve with sour cream and applesauce or your favorite toppings and sides.


Tony Abou-Ganim's Hot Buttered Rum <em>(Tim Turner / Courtesy)</em>

Tony Abou-Ganim’s Hot Buttered Rum (Tim Turner / Courtesy)

Hot Buttered Rum dates back to the days of George Washington, when, according to the American Heritage Cookbook, the drink found its way into politics. Candidates would provide generous quantities to constituents in order to influence the vote.

Legendary Las Vegas bartender Tony Abou-Ganim says the drink is ideal for lower-stakes large gatherings and holiday celebrations, especially since the batter can be made in quantity ahead of time. “The Modern Mixologist” first created this recipe at Bellagio in 1998, where it became a staple of the season. –BR


  • Mount Gay Eclipse rum(or your favorite aged rum)
  • 1 lb light brown sugar
  • ½ lb unsalted butter(softened)
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


1. In a mixing bowl, beat together softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract and spices until well-combined. Refrigerate in an airtight reusable container for up to a month, or place in your freezer until ready to use.

2. To make the drink, in a pre-heated coffee mug, combine two heaping tablespoons of the batter with 1½ ounces of rum, and top with boiling water. Stir well to mix, and serve with a spoon.


Andrea Mclean's Vanilla Custard Pie <em>(Brian Ramos / Courtesy)</em>

Andrea Mclean’s Vanilla Custard Pie (Brian Ramos / Courtesy)

Pastry chef Andrea Mclean, who has worked her magic at Bouchon and Joël Robuchon, began making pies during the pandemic. She now has a bustling business in PopNpies, which you’ll find as a pop-up at Vegas Test Kitchen. (You can also order through her Instagram @PopNpies.)

Her simple vanilla custard recipe is inspired by a beloved childhood memory. “McDonald’s had this holiday hand pie that they put out every season. It’s something my brother and I loved,” she says. “It represented the holidays for us. It has vanilla custard with these fun colorful sprinkles. I wanted to make my own version of it in a pie form.” –GD


In a large sauce pan, mix

  • 18 oz heavy cream
  • 13 oz milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

To go into a stand mixer bowl, ready

  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 large whole eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

You’ll also need one fully baked 9-inch pie shell and these ingredients for the crumble sprinkle

  • 11/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/5 cup brown sugar
  • 11/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 oz butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup rainbow nonpareils sprinkles

1. Heat the large saucepan with cream, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla on high until it begins to boil. Turn off heat.

2. While the pot is coming to boil, place the eggs into the stand mixer bowl with a mix of the sugar and cornstarch mix. Use a whisk attachment on high until light and fluffy.

3. Add the fluffy egg mix to the hot liquid in the pot, and whisk together. Turn the pot back on high, and whisk slowly until it starts to bubble. Once you see that first bubble, turn heat down to medium-low, and continue to whisk until the mix starts to become thick and has a slight shine. It should look like pudding at that point. Stop, and pull off the stove.

4. Strain mix through a large mesh strainer while still hot into a clean stand mixer bowl. Turn on low speed with a paddle attachment to cool the mix down. Once the mix is cooled to room temperature, fill your pie shell, and refrigerate.

5. To make the crumble sprinkle, in a stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment, mix sugars, salt and butter on low until you can no longer see butter chunks. Slowly incorporate flour in 2-3 parts, and continue mixing on low until it becomes a crumble consistency.

6. Add in sprinkles last, and let mix for a few seconds until incorporated. Refrigerate crumble for about 30 minutes.

7. Sprinkle the chilled crumble on a sheet pan, and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until light golden brown. Once cooled, use as a topping for your vanilla custard pie. Decorate with more sprinkles if desired, and enjoy!


Hailing from some of the best steakhouses in the city, Patrick Munster has his meat and potatoes down. The executive chef stepped into a new role at Main St. Provisions a few months back and has already started to make an impact.

“I went in there guns blazing and got the menu rearranged pretty quickly,” says Munster, who previously worked in the kitchens of One Steakhouse at Virgin and SW at Wynn. “Now, we’re up and running, and just seeing the reactions to the new menu is great.”

Family-style sharing and multi-course dining are becoming the norm at Main St. Provisions, and the restaurant’s cocktail program, headed by a team of passionate mixologists, has kept the communal spirit flowing. “It’s a breath of fresh air for me,” Munster says of the Arts District hot spot. “[I spent] 18 years in the casinos, so it’s a different world.”

This holiday, the chef recommends a universal side dish the entire table will appreciate. “It’s incredibly simple, it’s readily available ingredients and who the hell doesn’t like good mashed potatoes?” he says. “It’s just screaming that wintertime, home-cooked meal. It goes with so many different foods, from grilled foods to braised foods to steaks to pork chops. Whatever you can think of, good mashed potatoes can go with it.” –Amber Sampson


  • 4 lbs peeled Russet potatoes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 pound butter
  • 2 tbsp salt


1. Cut the potatoes into equal-size pieces, and boil until very tender. Strain the water off the potatoes, and let them sit in the strainer for a few minutes to cool slightly. While waiting, heat the cream and butter in a large stockpot.

2. Using a potato ricer, puree the potatoes over the warm cream and butter. Mix in the salt.

3. Top the potatoes with chives, bacon, cheese, caramelized onions and caviar—or whatever you like.


Milpa's Chicken Tamales <em>(Wade Vandervort / Staff)</em>

Milpa’s Chicken Tamales (Wade Vandervort / Staff)

For many Latinos across the Valley, the holidays evoke memories of relatives getting together for a tamale-assembling party.

“Tamales bring us together as a culture,” says Milpa chef and owner DJ Flores. “My mom only makes tamales during the holidays, and they became a way to connect with her and my family growing up.”

The southwest restaurant prides itself on its heirloom masa or nixtamalized corn, ground and crafted in-house. Masa pockets filled with savory chicken and salsa and steamed in corn husks keep the tradition going strong.

Remember to submerge your corn husks in hot water for 20 minutes to make them easier to work with. And to switch to vegan tamales, just replace the chicken with thinly cut cauliflower. –SM


  • 2 lbs dry masa
  • 5 oz vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp baking powder salt and pepper to taste
  • 1½ lbs shredded chicken
  • 2 cups salsa verde dried corn husks


1. In a stand mixer, add shortening and whip for 10 minutes. Add masa to the mixer on low speed, and mix until incorporated.

2. Add chicken stock until the masa mixture looks loose. Add baking soda and salt, and mix until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for another 5 minutes.

3. Place 2 oz of masa dough onto an unfolded corn husk, and spread evenly. Place 3 ounces of shredded chicken directly in the middle of the masa, then add salsa verde.

4. Take one side of the corn husk with the masa filling, and wrap around to close firmly. Fold the top of the husk, and set aside. Repeat to make as many tamales as desired.

5. Place a rack in the bottom of a small pot, and add water to create a steam bath. Place tamales in the pot, and cover with lid or foil.

6. Steam tamales for 1 to 1½ hours. Remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Desert Bread’s Sourdough Mesquite Cinnamon Rolls (Steve Marcus / Staff)

Holiday mornings are for staying in pajamas and savoring breakfast, and these lush, oversized cinnamon rolls from the Sunset Park-area bakery are the delicious epitome of taking it slow. Although the sourdough starter that adds deep flavors can take a week to make from scratch, preparation is quick, and baking can be done ahead of time.

“Once you have your sourdough starter, these rolls require three-to-four days to prep,” Desert Bread’s Brett Boyer says. “However, the hands-on time will take less than a half hour.”

With buttermilk frosting, these mildly sweet, cinnamon-filled treasures are a true crowd-pleaser. –SM

A note from the bakers

The addition of a small amount of commercial yeast in a pre-ferment allows even the most inexperienced baker to make these consistently. You’ll need a sourdough starter. You can make your own or find a friend who’s willing to share. If you aren’t going to bake with it right away, store it in the fridge and feed it once a week to maintain it. Pull it out, and feed it at least two days in a row before using.

A note from the Weekly

We know some of these holiday recipes are a little more intense than others, but we’re excited to try our hand at this dish. Since precise measurements are so important in baking, we’re going to use the exact recipe from Desert Breads, which uses grams instead of typical home kitchen measurements. For solid conversion info, head to thecalculatorsite.com.


For the poolish

  • 100 grams bread flour
  • 100 grams water
  • 5 grams instant yeast

For the leaven

  • 110 grams bread flour
  • 110 grams water
  • 22 grams sourdough starter

For the brioche dough

  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 13 grams salt
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 250 grams eggs (about 5 eggs)
  • 120 grams whole milk
  • 242 grams leaven (see above)
  • 205 grams poolish (see above)
  • 225 grams butter cubed (about a half pound)

For the mesquite cinnamon filling

  • 225 grams butter melted (half pound)
  • 400 grams brown sugar (about 2 cups)
  • 2 tbsp mesquite flour (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

For the buttermilk glaze

  • 330 grams powdered sugar
  • 100 grams buttermilk (be sure to shake before measuring)
  • pinch of salt


1. To make a sourdough starter, mix 50 grams organic all-purpose flour with 50 grams water. Let mixture rest covered overnight. The next day discard 50 grams of the mixture and replace with 25 grams organic all-purpose flour and 25 grams water, mix well and store overnight. Repeat daily for at least a week. You’ll begin to see the starter rising after you’ve fed it and falling once it has consumed all the available nutrients.

2. To make the poolish, combine the water, flour and yeast in a small bowl, and stir well to combine. Cover with an airtight lid, and store in the fridge overnight.

3. To make the leaven, stir the flour, water and sourdough starter in a bowl. Cover with an airtight lid, and store at room temperature for about 12 hours.

4. Pull the butter for the brioche dough out of the fridge, so it will be at room temperature. On day two, you should see bubbles in the poolish and leaven. They should also have grown in volume. If you don’t see any activity, you can leave the poolish and leaven on the counter for a few hours before beginning to mix the brioche.

6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the milk, eggs, leaven, poolish, sugar, salt and bread flour. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes using the dough hook attachment. Let the dough rest in the bowl uncovered for 30 minutes.

7. After resting, add the butter a tablespoon at a time at medium high speed. After all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to high speed for 6 minutes. The batter should be silky smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a bowl greased with oil. The bowl should be large enough for the dough to double in size. Wrap the top with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 3 hours.

8. If after 3 hours the brioche dough hasn’t doubled in size, leave it on the counter for a bit longer. Once the dough has grown to the desired size, put covered bowl into the fridge and let it rest until the next day.

9. Prepare a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray, and line with parchment paper. Make the mesquite cinnamon filling by mixing the brown sugar, mesquite flour and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour the melted butter over, and stir to combine. Roll the brioche dough into a rectangle 23 by 15 inches. Work quickly; brioche is easier to handle while still cold. Spread the filling mixture evenly over the brioche using a small offset spatula, leaving a half-inch border on all sides. Roll the dough away from you until it forms a log 23 inches in length.

11. Gently stretch the log from the center outward to make it 33 inches long. Using a serrated knife, cut the log into 12 equal spiral rounds. Place these into the 9-by-13 lined pan in a 3-by-4 pattern with the spiral side up. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at a warm room temperature for 3 hours.

12. Preheat oven to 450. Place a sheet tray larger than the pan on the bottom rack to catch any sugar spills that might occur. Place the pan of cinnamon rolls on the top rack of the oven. Reduce temperature to 400, and bake for 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Don’t be afraid of color; they will be burnished when finished, and the center two rolls will spring back to the touch. Let cool completely before frosting.

13. To frost, combine the powdered sugar, buttermilk and salt and stir until no lumps remain. Pour over the cooled rolls, and serve.

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