The holidays are here, and that means it’s cooking, and especially baking, season. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, parties and special occasions are stacked up, while dark days and cold weather make it appealing to have something in the oven. The holidays are also a chance—at least in non-pandemic times—to show off a little bit, make something that will not just taste great but impress your family and friends. (Even if secretly, it’s not that hard to make.)
What is your most special something special? The thing that you bring out to really signal that this is An Occasion … or that you are a damn good cook. The thing that your guests won’t have had before or that’s a little beyond what you would usually do, but that you can pull off reliably enough that you don’t risk total disaster.
Here are some of mine, but please share yours!
Last Christmas, my husband ordered some fancy restaurant onion dip, but I couldn’t eat it because it had gluten in it. This Alton Brown onion dip recipe proved better than the restaurant kind—or so I was told—and honestly it was so easy that I almost didn’t put it on this list. But it was so good that it earned its place.
Soy sauce eggs are an excellent party snack. This is another easy recipe—easier than deviled eggs, and prettier, too, unless you’re the kind of person who can perfectly pipe your deviled egg filling. I am not that person. But although soy sauce egg recipes went viral a few years ago, they’ll still be new to a lot of people.
The Serious Eats green bean casserole is so good that, when we didn’t have a big enough Thanksgiving for it to be worth making last year, we just made it as a main dish for dinner one night not long after. Just about any from-scratch green bean casserole is better than the kind with the canned cream of mushroom soup, but this one is next-level.
This chocolate roll has proven itself for me over many years. It seems elegant and finicky and the act of rolling the cake can be scary, but it’s still not as difficult as it is impressive. I use amaretto in the whipped cream rather than Grand Marnier.
This carrot cake is easily as good as any carrot cake I’ve ever had from a bakery or restaurant. Really the ideal version of the genre as far as I’m concerned.
These chocolate cookies have proven a little more difficult than the other recipes here—for one thing, if you undercook them even a little they will stick to the sheet—but they are delicious and have that more-than-just-home-baking feel. I use pecans.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s egg nog is amazing and so much easier than many egg nog recipes that call for separating eggs and beating the whites. Every year I tell myself I’m going to try Morgenthaler’s Clyde Common tequila-sherry egg nog, and every year I can’t pull myself away from pitcher after pitcher of the original recipe.