Recipes & Tips

Winter Delights Four Course Menu Photo: Keller + Keller

Winter Delights Four Course Menu

Presented by Cooks Country TV

Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes

The choice of potato was critical for our Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes. We settled on starchy russets cut to an even, near-translucent thinness with an inexpensive mandoline slicer. If you don't have a mandoline, the slicing disk on a food processor would also work. We tripled the amount of cheese traditionally used to intensify flavor. Looking for better melting, we used a mixture of Monterey Jack, cheddar, and Parmesan. For extra insurance, we tossed the shredded cheeses with a bit of cornstarch to prevent clumps when melting. Many recipes called for both milk and cream, but the proteins in the milk caused the gratin to curdle in the oven. We decided to make our Cheesy au Gratin Potatoes with heavy cream, cutting the cream with some chicken broth.

NOTE:You do not need to grease the baking dish. You will need a 2- to 3-quart gratin dish.


  • 1 1/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and slice 1/8 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth


  1. Combine cheeses: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Toss cheeses and cornstarch in large bowl until evenly coated.
  2. Assemble gratin: Shingle half of potatoes in large gratin dish, sprinkle evenly with 1 cup cheese mixture, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Top with remaining potatoes, additional 3/4 teaspoon salt, and additional 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
  3. Bake: Combine cream and broth in large measuring cup and pour over the potatoes. Top with the remaining cheese mixture and bake until golden brown and fork inserted into center meets little resistance, 75 to 90 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Holiday Strip Roast

With a big, beefy top-loin roast (the same cut that New York strip steak comes from), evenly cooked meat is a must, but gray rings plagued many of our early efforts. To achieve a rosy hue throughout without searing on the stovetop, we start the roast in a low oven. When it's almost up to temperature, we broil it for a few minutes, creating a crisp, browned exterior and well-rendered fat cap. A piquant mixture of spices and herbs flavors the roast, and letting it sit overnight with the spice rub and plenty of kosher salt ensures perfectly seasoned meat.


  • 1 95 to 6 pound) boneless top loin roast, fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes


  1. Pat roast dry with paper towels. Using sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch crosshatch pattern through fat cap, 1/4 inch deep. Tie kitchen twine around roast at 2-inch intervals. Grind peppercorns, coriander seeds, and mustard seeds to texture of coarse sand in spice grinder. Combine spice mixture, oil, salt, rosemary, and pepper flakes in bowl until thick paste forms. Rub paste all over roast and into crosshatch. Wrap roast with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours.
  2. Set wire rack inside rimmed baking sheet. One hour before cooking, unwrap meat and place on prepared rack, fat side up. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Transfer roast to oven and cook until meat registers 115 degrees, about 90 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through cooking. Remove roast from oven and heat broiler.
  3. Return roast to oven and broil on middle oven rack until fat cap is deep brown and interior of roast registers 125 degrees, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to carving board, tent loosely with aluminium foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Remove twine and carve into thin slices. Serve.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Note: The final dough will be slightly softer than most cookie dough. For the best results, handle the dough as briefly and gently as possible when shaping the cookies. Overworking the dough will result in flatter cookies.


  • 2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl. Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
  3. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about two tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls. Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.
  4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Butterscotch-Mocha Hot Cocoa

We wanted a recipe for hot cocoa that was creamy, rich, and big on chocolate flavor. Nonfat dry milk lent our Butterscotch-Mocha Hot Cocoa Mix recipe a sweet dairy flavor, especially when we reconstituted the mix with hot milk instead of hot water. Confectioners' sugar worked best in our recipe because it dissolved quickly, and cornstarch helped thicken the hot cocoa.


  • 3 cups nonfat dry milk
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup instant coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. Combine ingredients in large bowl. Working in two batches, pulse ingredients in food processor until chocolate is finely ground. Store in airtight container for up to 3 months. To make hot cocoa, stir 1/3 cup of this mix into 1 cup of hot milk. Top with whipped cream or mini marshmallows.