Must-Have Dishes for Warm Memories Over the Holiday Season

Whether you're planning a big meal this month with family or friends, or looking forward to hosting the holidays at home, this article is for you. (And no shade to our readers booking a table this holiday season, but we couldn't help jump at a chance to dial one of our culinary experts for a holiday meals story.)

For a better understanding of the elements that go into a successful holiday meal, The Related Life reached out to Brian Yurko, Executive Chef overseeing queensyard in Hudson Yards and Blue Bird London in Columbus Circle. These bustling restaurants elevate hearty and iconic British staples to a fine dining experience. Their menus change with the seasons, and in the winter it's all about stick-to-your-ribs dishes that warm from within.

"The types of dishes we are seeing a lot of requests for come and go with the seasons," says Chef Yurko. Now, it's more red meats (poultry and otherwise), and fewer fish options.

Yurko adds, "Going into winter, people are looking for more hearty dishes, rather than lighter foods. Pasta, larger steaks, things to fill you up and make you feel warm and cozy."

When curating your own menu for a holiday meal, don't overlook the wine, which can help tie a menu theme together, Yurko says. But even though winter draws us to stews or short ribs and steaks, a major must-have is a really good salad.

"Salad always gets overlooked because people think it’s boring. Start with a good crunchy base (romaine, iceberg – it’s not about the lettuce at the end of the day). Sturdy lettuce is a much better choice for a dinner party; it will stay crisp and hold up to being dressed longer (dinner with friends is never a short affair). Add other veggies that are either looking really good at the store, or things you are using in your side dishes, such as roasted squash, shaved brussel sprouts, diced pears or apples," he explains. "Throw something crunchy in there, like croutons or toasted chunks of sourdough. If you are going gluten-free, you can opt for toasted nuts like pecans or walnuts instead. Dried fruit is a great addition as well for texture and a hint of sweetness, I love adding Craisins to salads. Last thing is a great dressing – totally up to you, a simple vinaigrette (3:1 oil to vinegar is the standard) or something store bought is fine too. I personally love poppy seed dressings. Season liberally with salt and fresh black pepper and toss at the last possible moment for optimal crunch."

But of course, you can't forget dessert.

"Every holiday meal should end with a great dessert. I’ve always thought of dessert as one of the bookends of a meal – the other side being really good bread and butter – bread at one end, dessert at the other end, holding the meal together," Yurko notes. "Cakes and pies are always crowd pleasers, but usually the most time-consuming to put together. Always serve with ice cream – I love Van Leeuwen, Morgenstern’s, or Odd Fellows if you want something outside the box...the chorizo caramel is to die for with some chocolate cake, or miso cherry with a slice of new York style cheesecake."

Any tips on holiday entertaining?

"Holiday entertaining, for me, is all about the overall atmosphere for you and the guests," the Executive Chef advises. "Take time ahead of the party and make sure everything is ready. Batch a cocktail and throw it in the fridge. Get as much cooking done ahead of time as you can, or my favorite, have a potluck and ask everything to bring something. Throw on an excellent record and take your time with the evening. If you have to rush your party, you shouldn’t be throwing it in the first place."


The Related Life is written and produced by the Related Life Editorial Team. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest events, news and announcements in your area, and tag us for a chance to be featured @therelatedlife and #therelatedlife.