Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (2024)

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (1)

The interior designer shares simple recipes that will have guests raving. Food styling and recipes by Lisa Sari Schoen

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Alessandra Branca's Holiday Menu

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (2)

Italian-born designer Alessandra Branca finds this dinner menu perfect for any wintry gathering, especially with its delectable pairing of pomegranate sauce-flavored veal and sweet potatoes. Finish off the meal with a dessert-like coffee you'll crave even after the decorations are put away.

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Crostini Three Ways

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (3)

Crostini With Chopped Tomatoes

Serves 6

1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 tablespoon pine nuts

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 basil leaves, thinly sliced

1 sprig Italian parsley

salt and pepper

small French baguette, sliced on the bias, ¼" thick

Brush slices of bread with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toast slices of baguette at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Combine all ingredients except toast, and let sit for 20 minutes. Top toast with mixture.

Crostini With Wild Mushrooms

Serves 6

2 cups wild mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons shallots, finely chopped

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon fresh thyme

½ teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

slivers of Parmesan cheese as garnish

small French baguette, sliced on the bias, ¼" thick

Heat a sauté pan until just smoking. Add oil and mushrooms. After 2 minutes, stir mushrooms and add shallots. Continue to cook mushrooms until moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat. Add vinegar, thyme, and chopped parsley. Let cool. Top toast with mushrooms and garnish with cheese.

Crostini With Smoked Salmon

Serves 6

6 slices smoked salmon

¼ cup crème fraiche

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 sprig dill

capers for garnish

freshly ground black pepper

small French baguette, sliced on the bias, ¼" thick

In bowl, combine crème fraiche, dill, lemon juice, and pepper. Whisk until combined. Spread mixture on toast. Top with slice of salmon. Garnish with lemon zest, capers, and more cracked pepper.

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Mushroom Risotto With White Truffles

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (4)

Serves 12

Branca says, "Risotto is a great, foolproof one-pot meal. It takes a lot of stirring, but it's done in twenty minutes. The amazing thing about truffles is that you can taste and smell them as you're eating them. They're intoxicating."

1 pound mixed wild and portobello mushrooms, sliced thinly

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 pound Arborio rice

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cups dry white wine

1 quart vegetable broth

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

fresh white truffles (as desired)

Heat a 12" skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and mushrooms to pan. Cook 3 to 4 minutes without moving pan. Stir and cook until moisture has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper. Remove mushrooms from pan and set aside.

Add remaining oil to pan. Sauté shallots for 1 minute. Add rice. Stir for 2 minutes until opaque. Add wine and stir until evaporated. Add enough broth to cover rice, and stir until liquid evaporates. Continue adding broth gradually and stir continuously. Cook until rice is al dente.

Add mushrooms and stir until fully combined. Stir in butter and remove from heat. Add cheese and stir until creamy. Shave fresh truffles over dish.

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The Main Course: Veal Saltimbocca with Pomegranate Sauce, Broccoli Rabe and Sweet Potato Mash

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (5)

Veal Saltimbocca With Pomegranate Sauce

Serves 8

Branca says, "You rarely get to use pomegranates, a typical Italian holiday fruit. They add such zip to the meat and color to the dish."

8 veal cutlets (about 2 ounces each), pounded to 1/8" thick

8 fresh sage leaves

8 slices prosciutto di parma

flour for dusting

salt and pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup dry white wine

lemon wedge for garnish

Place veal between wax paper and pound to about 1/8" thick. Season with salt and pepper. Press sage leaf in center of each cutlet. Wrap one piece prosciutto around each cutlet, much like you'd wrap bacon around a filet. Using meat hammer, mallet-pound cutlet to adhere to prosciutto. Dust cutlets in flour and shake off excess.

In saucepan, melt butter on medium heat. When butter starts to foam, add cutlets to pan. Cook 2 minutes and turn. Cook another 2 minutes and remove from pan.

Deglaze pan with wine, and release bits from bottom of pan with wooden spoon. Add meat back to pan and reheat until hot throughout, approximately 2-3 minutes.

Remove meat from pan. Pour Pomegranate Sauce over meat. Squeeze lemon on top and serve.

Pomegranate Sauce

Serves 8

1 cup pomegranate seeds with juice

1 cup water

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

In a saucepan, combine seeds and water. Bring to a boil, add vinegar and sugar, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and return to pan. Keep cooking until the liquid has been reduced by half. Add vinegar and sugar. Garnish with seeds.

Broccoli Rabe

Serves 6

1 bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed

2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Bring salted water to a boil in large stockpot. Add broccoli rabe. Cook 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from water and place in ice bath to stop cooking.

When ready to serve, heat a sauté pan with sliced garlic and olive oil. Let garlic slowly turn crisp, and remove when golden brown. Add broccoli rabe and sauté until hot.
Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic back to pan. Serve.

Sweet Potato Mash

Serves 6

"The sweet potato puree is fun because I mix both potatoes and sweet potatoes, and people never expect them together," Branca says. "I leave little chunks of each for a more earthy, homemade feel."

2 Idaho potatoes

2 sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ tablespoon dark brown sugar

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 4500. Wash and dry potatoes. Bake in oven for 50 minutes or until soft. Split potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop filling into bowl. Add butter, sugar, salt, and pepper. Using potato masher, combine ingredients.

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Espresso Pot de Creme

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (6)

Espresso Pot de Creme

Serves 6

Branca serves this recipe in demitasse cups for extra flair. She says, "I love espresso pot de creme because it combines dessert and coffee all at once and gives me a great excuse to serve something in an unexpected way."

2 cups whole milk

3 tablespoons instant espresso

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided

½ cup heavy cream

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

ground espresso for garnish

whipped cream for garnish

Whisk together milk, espresso, cornstarch, ¼ cup sugar, and a small pinch of salt in a heavy, medium-sized saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Transfer to a metal bowl set in an ice bath. Cool in the bowl, stirring often for about 10 minutes.
Pour into cups or ramekins to chill, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

For whipped cream: Beat cream, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with an electric mixer just until soft peaks form. Spoon whipped cream onto pudding. Dust cream lightly with espresso powder, and top with additional whipped cream.

Well-Prepared: Alessandra Branca's Holiday Recipes (2024)
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