Chef Nyesha's Holiday Recipe Favorites

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I adore the scent of the holidays, sweet and savory flavors mixing together on one plate. One of my favorite bites at Thanksgiving is roast turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and a little turkey thyme gravy. Save this cranberry sauce for roast turkey sandwiches the next day!

 Candied Ginger Cranberry Sauce 

The warm baking spices in this recipe add a fragrant, layered flavor experience. Blood oranges have a very unique, sweet, and robust flavor that pairs so nicely with the spiced undertones of the candied ginger.

Yield: 4 cups (1 quart)

Active time: 15 mins 

Total time: 30 mins



  • 1 blood orange, zested
  • 2 cups blood orange juice (about 6 oranges)
  • 12 ounces (about 3 cups) fresh cranberries, thawed if frozen
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ c agave 
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt 
  • 1/4c med diced crystallized ginger 
  • 1/4tsp cinnamon, ground  


  1. Place the blood orange zest and juice, water, agave, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the saucepan, reduce the heat to low to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and sauce thickens, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Auntie Linda's Baked Mac n Cheese 

Aunt Linda was the one who cooked Thanksgiving dinner for our whole family. My sister and I always looked forward to her baked mac and cheese. It is perfectly saucy with a contrasting golden brown, crunchy cheese topping.

Yield: 10 serving 

Prep time: 15 mins 

Total time: 45 mins



  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish 
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and small dice
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 3 cups whole milk, warmed 
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt 
  • ⅛ tsp white or black pepper
  • Pinch of dried or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups grated sharp cheddar (about 10 ounces)
  • Grated Parmesan, for topping 



  1. Heat the oven 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Butter a 4-quart casserole dish and set aside. 
  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the macaroni and cook until just al dente, according to the package directions. Drain but do not rinse and set aside.
  3. Melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and translucent. Add the remaining butter and flour and stir to coat the onions.  Cook, whisking constantly, until the flour turns golden brown and smells nutty in the air, about 2 to 4 minutes. 
  4. Add the milk, and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3 cups of the cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir to combine. 
  5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is the consistency of pancake batter. Add the cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Taste and season as desired.
  6. Transfer the macaroni mixture to the buttered baking dish and sprinkle the top evenly with the Parmesan and remaining cheddar cheese. Bake uncovered until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbly, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.


Chive Mashed Potatoes  

I learned how to make these French style mashed potatoes while working for the legendary french chef Joel Robuchon. The key to these magical mashed potatoes is high quality butter, a heavy bottomed pot and a great whisk. Over the years I have eaten less and less butter so this recipe is a dialed back version of his class French style mashed potatoes.

TIP:  If you don’t have a food mill, spread the drained potatoes in a rimmed baking sheet and place in a 325°F oven for about 5 to 10 minutes to evaporate the moisture (which makes for gummy mashed potatoes).  Then add them to the saucepan and use a hand held masher to break them up.

Yield: 5 cups

Prep time: 15 mins

Cook time: 40 mins


  • 1  lb Yukon Potatoes, peeled 
  • 4 tablespoons ( ½ stick) unsalted French butter, cold and cut into small pieces
  • ¼ c whole milk
  • 1  tsp kosher salt 
  • 2  tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives 


  1. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with at least 1-inch of cold salted water. 
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until potatoes a small knife pierced through a potato easily slips out; about 15 to 20 minutes. 
  3. Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a food mill on the finest setting.  Place the mill over a large saucepan and grind the potatoes directly into the pan.
  4. Place the saucepan over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the potato mixture is warmed through. Add the butter several pieces at a time, stirring constantly, until all the pieces are melted and combined.  Add the milk and salt and stir to combine. Taste and season as desired.
  5. Transfer the mashed potatoes to a bowl, sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.





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