Chef Barbara Lynch Cooks Up 'Mom-Inspired' Holiday Dishes

Download Audio

What's Barbara Lynch, one the country's most prolific and respected chefs, making for turkey day? Turkey, of course, along with a couple of dishes that will spice up traditional Thanksgiving fare. Here and Now’s Rachel Gotbaum caught up with Lynch in her demo kitchen in Boston to cook up a few of Lynch’s "mom-inspired" Thanksgiving favorites revamped for a 21st century palate.  You can find her recipes for spiced walnuts, creamy vanilla bread pudding, pearl onions au gratin and pommes puree below.

Step By Step Trussing Instructions For Turkey


1. Start with a piece of string or butcher’s twine that is about 3-4 times the length of the turkey. With the bird breast side up, place the center of the string over the neck.
2. Tuck the wings under the bird and bring the string under the bird and over the wing tips.
3. Now bring the string up over the legs and tightly tie a knot above the cavity.
4. Bring the legs together, cross the ankles, and tightly tie the ankles together.
5. Secure the knot and trim the string. The turkey is now trussed and ready to be seasoned and roasted!

Spiced Walnuts (pdf)


Cayenne and sugar spiced walnuts. (Nicholas Dynan)
Cayenne and sugar spiced walnuts. (Nicholas Dynan)

Makes about 1/2 cup

 These tasty, sweet and spicy nuts are a delightful addition to any green salad, so consider making a double batch.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon grapeseed or canola oil
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
Kosher salt

Heat the oven to 350°F.
Toss the walnuts with the oil, sugar, cayenne, and a good pinch of salt.
Spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan occasionally, until toasted and fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes. They’ll crisp a little more as they cool.

MAKE AHEAD: If you can keep yourself from eating these addictive nuts, you can make them a couple of days early.  Store them in an airtight container when they have completely cooled.

Creamy Vanilla Bread Pudding (pdf)

Bread Pudding topped with figs and caramel sauce.  (Nicholas Dynan)
Bread Pudding topped with figs and caramel sauce. (Nicholas Dynan)

[sidebar title="Barbara's Take" width="250" align="right"] When I make this rich and comforting dessert at my restaurant, I keep a second pan in reserve for snacking, since my chefs are always stealing little spoonfuls. It’s ridiculous how good the bread pudding is with two sauces and chantilly cream, but you don’t have to go all out. As my chef-thieves will attest, the bread pudding is delicious straight from the pan. This pudding is more about the creamy custard than it is about the bread. I like the double whammy of using both the vanilla bean and the vanilla extract. If you don’t have a vanilla bean, double the amount of extract and skip the vanilla-bean-steeping step.[/sidebar]

Serves 8 - 10

3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean (see headnote)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
5 slices white bread (I like Pepperidge Farm White Sandwich Bread), cubed
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Fresh Fig Sauce (optional; recipe below)
Creamy Caramel Sauce (recipe below)
Chantilly Cream (recipe below)

In a medium saucepan, heat the cream over low heat. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with the tip of a paring knife and scrape the seeds out into the cream. Add the bean to the pot, too. Stir in the salt and heat the cream until warm to the touch. Take the pot off the heat and let the vanilla bean steep for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Pile the bread cubes into a 9x13-inch baking dish, distributing them more or less evenly. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or using a hand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar on medium speed until the mixture is light yellow in color and falls from the beater in thick ribbons, about 5 minutes.

Add the vanilla extract. Remove the vanilla bean pod from the cream mixture and reheat the cream over medium heat. Do not let it boil, but do let it get quite hot. Remove the cream from the heat and slowly pour 1 cup of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.

Then pour the egg-cream mixture into the saucepan with the remaining cream and whisk it together. Strain the cream mixture through a fine-mesh strainer over the bread cubes in the baking dish. Give the pan a gentle shake to be sure all is distributed well and then let the bread absorb the custard for at least 30 minutes before baking.

If baking the bread pudding right away, heat the oven to 350°F, with a rack in the center. If not, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it. When ready to bake, set the bread pudding dish in a larger roasting pan.

Add hot water to the roasting pan until the water is halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake in the center of the oven until the custard is just firm, 50 minutes to 1 hour (begin checking earlier; give the pan a gentle shake and take it out of the oven when the custard is no longer jiggly). Let cool a bit. Serve warm, at room temperature, or even cold. Put a serving in a large dish and top with fig sauce, caramel sauce, if using, and a dollop of chantilly cream.

MAKE AHEAD: This tastes better the longer the bread soaks in the custard, so feel free to refrigerate it, unbaked, for as long as 24 hours. - You can also bake the bread pudding a day or two ahead; let it cool at room temperature before covering it with plastic wrap and refrigerating it. Take it out before serving and let it warm up a bit; you’ll taste the vanilla better if the pudding is not very cold.

Fresh Fig Sauce (pdf)

Figs with cinnamon and wine sauce for the bread pudding. (Nicholas Dynan)
Figs with cinnamon and wine sauce for the bread pudding. (Nicholas Dynan)

Makes about 3 1/2 cups1 cup brandy
1 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 pint ripe fresh figs, preferably black mission, halved or quartered if large
In a medium saucepan, combine the brandy, 1 cup of water, and the cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until reduced by half. Add the figs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs soften and absorb the flavor of the liquid, about another 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Creamy Caramel Sauce (pdf)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
Combine the sugar with 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Dissolve the sugar over medium heat, stirring until the mixture is clear. Increase the heat to high and cook, swirling the pan to cook evenly but no longer stirring, until the caramel is a deep amber. (Check the color by carefully drizzling some onto a white plate.) Don’t worry if the sugar hardens while cooking, simply stir it and continue cooking until it smooths out. Take the pot off the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. The caramel will sputter, so be careful, because it’s very hot. Return the sauce to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool a bit before serving, but serve warm.

Chantilly Cream (PDF)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 cup cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch kosher salt
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the cream, sugar, extract, and salt. (Or combine the ingredients in a regular large bowl and use a hand mixer or a whisk and a lot of muscle.) Whisk the ingredients together, gently at first, and then increasing the speed, until you can lift out the stopped whisk, leaving behind peaks just shy of firm. Be careful not to overbeat, however, or you’ll get very sweet butter.

Pearl Onions Au Gratin (pdf)

Pearl onions with panko breadcrumbs, cream, butter, and bacon. (Nicholas Dynan)
Pearl onions with panko breadcrumbs, cream, butter, and bacon. (Nicholas Dynan)

Serves 8

This is a great dish to serve with a big roasted bird, such as spice-rubbed roast goose or a turkey.

2  pounds red or white pearl onions
3  thick strips bacon, finely diced
1  tablespoon unsalted butter
2  small shallots, finely chopped
2  garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2  cups heavy cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4   cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs) or coarse dry bread crumbs
2  tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oven to 350°F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Use a sharp knife to trim off the root ends, then pinch the onions to remove the skins.

In a medium deep skillet, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until the fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes.

Pour the bacon fat into a heatproof cup and reserve 11/2 teaspoons. Drain the bacon on paper towels.

Add the butter to the skillet along with the shallots and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and simmer until reduced by half, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pearl onions to a large shallow baking dish and cover with the cream mixture. In a small bowl, toss the panko with the bacon, parsley, and the reserved bacon fat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Spread the crumb mixture over the onions, bake until the crumbs are toasted and the cream is bubbling, about 30 minutes, and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: The onions can be blanched and peeled up to a day ahead of time. Refrigerate them, covered with plastic wrap, but bring them to room temperature before baking.  You can also crisp the bacon a day ahead, though it sure is tough not to eat it.

Pommes Puree (pdf)

Mixing salt into Pommes puree. (Nicholas Dynan)
Mixing salt into pommes puree. (Nicholas Dynan)

[sidebar title="Barbara's Take" width="250" align="right"] Pommes puree is a fancy version of mashed potatoes. The secret to the silky texture is forcing the mash through a fine-mesh strainer after you rice them. You won’t go to that trouble for an everyday meal, and the potatoes are still tasty without this step. But the texture of the strained potatoes is so exceedingly smooth and luscious that you have to try it for a special dinner. This recipe is easily multiplied.[/sidebar]

Makes about 4 cups; Serves 6

2 1/2  pounds Idaho potatoes (russets), whole and unpeeled
Kosher salt
16  tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into large pieces
1  cup heavy cream
Freshly ground white pepper

Put the potatoes in a medium pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and cook until very tender (a cake tester or toothpick will pull out easily), 30 to 40 minutes. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool just until you’re able to handle them. Peel the potatoes while still quite hot (the skin will come off easily), put them in a potato ricer, and rice them into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and cream together over low heat until the butter melts. Using a wooden spoon, stir this mixture into the potatoes. Continue mixing until all the lumps are gone, but don’t over-mix or the potatoes will become gluey. You can serve them as is, which is nice and homey. Or, for an incredibly smooth puree, pass the potatoes through a fine-mesh strainer.  Either way, taste and season with salt and a few grinds of white pepper before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: These are definitely best if served right away, but you can make them a few hours ahead and carefully reheat them over low heat.

All recipes are adapted from "Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition" by Barbara Lynch and published by Houghton Mifflin

This segment aired on November 23, 2010.


More from Here & Now

Listen Live