Tis’ the season for eating! Celebrity chef Jeff Mauro shares helpful cooking tips and delicious recipe ideas in an exclusive interview with Us Weekly.
The Kitchen host believes the holidays are the perfect time to add a little extra love to your traditional meals.“When people show up for a holiday meal, they expect classic dishes on the table. I do deliver on that — or else there may be a raised voice or two — but I make changes that give the dish a slight twist,” he explained to Us. “For instance, serve the smoothest and richest mashed potatoes by adding cream cheese. It isn’t a huge change, but it will give the dish something extra, and something slightly unexpected than the norm.”
The season 7 winner of Food Network Star recognizes that entertaining can sometimes be overwhelming for those who are new to cooking. Mauro suggests preparing a side dish — which he says is a great way to gain confidence in the kitchen. “There are so many options and no matter the skill level, you can find something that suits you. An idea to start with, would be hash … which really just requires chopping and throwing everything together in a pan. I have a recipe for Sweet Potato Skillet Hash that easily comes together when using a food processor like the Black+Decker MultiPrep Slice ‘N Dice. Aside from chopping, the toughest part of this dish is not eating it as it cooks.” (Recipe below)
Adding to the fun, the Sandwich King host believes there’s room for everyone to have fun when prepping for the holidays, including your little ones. “I love to cook with my son and there are tons of jobs that little ones can assist with. Measuring (with a double check by an adult), mixing, shaping of dough and probably one of the most important jobs, tasting!”
If you’re strapped for time, the Chicago native says it’s ok to purchase prepared dishes. “Since desserts can be tough to tackle, find a really great bakery and purchase the cookies and cakes you plan to serve. They will be delicious and will save a ton of time when preparing the rest of the meal.”
For those entertaining on a budget, the professional foodie suggests skipping the formal, sit-down dinner. “Apps are usually everyone’s favorite part of the meal anyway, so plan on serving a variety of nibbles that can be set up and replenished. The other option is to create a buffet – you can create three to four dishes that when grouped together, look impressive.”
And to get the party started, the executive chef of Pork & Mindy’s in Chicago likes to serve his guests a simple, but delicious adult beverage. “I love a quick, two- ingredient Champagne cocktail to offer guests right when they walk in. A nice dry champagne with an ounce of elderflower liqueur.” He added it “really wets the whistle.”
As for Mauro’s holiday, the star tells Us for Christmas Eve, “It’s all about the Seven Fishes and seafood, but I’m hosting Christmas day this year and decided to do a down-home all-American Christmas! Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Creamy Mac & Cheese, Giant Bone-In Ribeyes, my mom’s Mashed Potatoes and lots and lots of pie and ice cream. Everybody. Will. Gain. Weight,” he said half-jokingly.
See Jeff Mauro’s festive recipe ideas below:
Grandma Kay’s Sausage Bread:
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
1 lb. sweet Italian sausages, removed from casing
4 oz. pepperoni, cut into squares
4 oz. genoa salami, thinly sliced and cut into squares
8 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 loaves frozen or fresh pizza dough, such as Rhodes, defrosted
Preheat the oven to 340 degrees. Add the olive oil to a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat and cook the sausages until brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool the sausage, transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon and mix with the pepperoni and salami. Mix in the mozzarella with your hands.
Roll out the dough into two long ovals. Slice the end pieces off the dough to save for later to make mini sausage breads. Brush the top and bottom of the dough with olive oil and divide the sausage mixture between the two loaves. Fold the dough over like a calzone and poke holes along the sides to release the steam with a fork. Bake until light brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Yield: Two 12-inch loaves.
Pressure Cooker Sunday Gravy
1 lb. pork shoulder steak, seasoned with salt and pepper
4 links of hot Italian sausage, sliced into bite- sized portions
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cans (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil, torn
Set Black & Decker Pressure cooker to “brown.” Brown each side of the meatballs, set aside. Brown Italian sausage slices on both sides, 5-6 minutes a side, set aside. Season pork steak and brown on both sides, about 5-6 minutes a side. Set aside.
In rendered fat, season with salt and pepper then sauté the onions and Italian seasoning until translucent, about five minutes. Add in tomato paste and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in crushed tomatoes, the meatballs, sausage and pork. Lock the lid of the pressure cooker and set to “meat.”
Cook through the cycle (approx. 20 minutes) with a natural pressure release. Once pressure is fully released, remove lid. Remove pork steak and shred into the meat. Set Pressure Cooker to browning, and simmer five more minutes. Season to taste and add in basil to finish. Transfer to a bowl and serve with your favorite pasta.
2 lbs. ground meat (1 lb. beef, 1/2 lb. pork & 1/2 lb. veal)
2 eggs, beaten
1 slices of white bread soaked in 2 tbsp. milk
1 cup grated Romano
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Mix all ingredients in a bowl until combined (do not overwork!). Roll into 1/2 ounce sized meatballs, which will yield approx. 30 to 40.
Bonus leftovers idea: Using the leftover meatballs and gravy – if there is any – pick up some fresh sub rolls and you have an instant and delicious meatball sandwich! Use a George Foreman Grill & Broil to toast the bread, and then use the broiler function to melt the cheese on top. It’s an amazing next day creation and you don’t even have to turn on the oven. Don’t forget to impress with an amazing cheese pull once the sandwiches are served!
Sweet Potato Skillet Hash
Courtesy of Jeff Mauro
Serves 2 Hungry People
1 yellow onion, diced using the BLACK+DECKER MultiPrep Slice ‘N Dice Dicing Disc
2 red bell peppers, julienned using the BLACK+DECKER MultiPrep Slice ‘N Dice Dual-Sided Julienne Disc
2 large sweet potatoes, halved and diced using the BLACK+DECKER MultiPrep Slice ‘N Dice Dicing Disc
4 oz. Mexican chorizo
1 teaspoon chili power
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced
1-2 tablespoons of Sambal Oelek
Begin by dicing the onions and potatoes, and julienning peppers using the BLACK+DECKER Mutli Prep Slice ‘N Dice, setting the onion and peppers in one bowl and the potatoes in another and set both to the side.
In a large skillet, cook the Mexican chorizo over medium high until browned and cooked through, about 12 min. Remove from pan and drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of fat.
Using the same skillet with reserved fat from the chorizo, add onions, peppers, cumin and chili powder. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium/high and add in sweet potatoes, season again and sauté, only stirring or tossing every couple minutes, until dark brown color develops, about 8-10 minutes, adding the drained chorizo back into the pan two minutes prior to serving to reheat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, garnishing with several small dollops of Sambal Oelek and sprinkling with fresh chives.
Deconstructed Cannoli Chips and Dip
Courtesy of Jeff Mauro
Canola oil, for frying
1 package (about 36) square wonton wrappers, cut diagonally in half
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons orange liqueur
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 orange, zested
Fill a Dutch oven one-third full with oil and heat to 350 degrees
Fry the wontons in one layer, not overcrowding the pot. Flip the wontons once or twice until golden brown, four to five minutes. Remove the wontons with tongs or a slotted spoon and drain on a large wire rack set over a shallow pan. Repeat until all the wontons are fried.
Mix the ricotta, sugar and liqueur until well-combined in a large bowl. Whip the cream in a separate bowl until soft peaks form, using a hand mixer. Fold the whipped cream and 1/2 cup of the chocolate chips gently into the ricotta mixture.
Add the ricotta-cream mixture to a medium dip bowl or 8-by-8-inch baking dish and spread evenly. Starting from the left side of bowl, make a row, from top to bottom, of pistachios, followed by a row of the remaining 1/2 cup chocolate chips, then the cherries. Grate fresh orange zest over the bowl and plate the wonton chips on the side. Dust the chips with sugar and serve.
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!