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Just in time for the holidays, here are recipes for three Nasello family Christmas favorites

Columnist Sarah Nasello shares recipes for Horseradish-encrusted roasted beef tenderloin, Christmas brunch strata and Pookie’s Christmas ice cream cake.

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Horseradish-encrusted roasted beef tenderloin will bring the wow-factor to your table this holiday season.
Sarah Nasello / The Forum
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FARGO — The three recipes featured today are time-honored classics that have been in regular rotation on my Christmas brunch and dinner menus for a decade, or several, and they are also among our readers’ favorites. Despite their dazzling wow-factor, each dish is easy to prepare with steps that can be done several hours or even days in advance so that you can enjoy the festivities, too.

If you are still planning your holiday menus and need some inspiration, here are my Nasello family Christmas favorites:

Horseradish-encrusted roasted beef tenderloin

This recipe was an instant hit with our readers when we first featured it in December 2013, and it remains one of the top holiday recipes on my blog each holiday season. This horseradish-encrusted beef tenderloin is a guaranteed showstopper, yet it requires very little effort for such an impressive main course.

The secret, of course, is the magnificence of the beef itself. Tenderloin is the Cadillac of beef cuts, succulent, elegant and nearly fork-tender. This recipe calls for a whole tenderloin, which is seared before being coated with Dijon mustard and a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, prepared horseradish, garlic and fresh herbs. The result is a roast that is as delicious as it looks, and no one will know how simple it was to make.

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Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

1 whole (4 to 4.5 pounds) beef tenderloin, trimmed
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 cups Japanese breadcrumbs (Panko)
3/4 cup prepared horseradish
½ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, stems removed, or 2 tablespoons dried thyme flakes
3 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 cup Dijon mustard

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set a meat thermometer out for later use.

Unwrap the tenderloin, place it in a roasting pan and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to “take the chill off.” This step ensures even and quick cooking.

Sprinkle the top of the tenderloin with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat until hot, about a minute. Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides to brown the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes total.

Return the tenderloin to the roasting pan and let it rest for about 10 minutes. (At this point, you can continue to the next step or cover the roast in aluminum foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Let the roast come to room temperature before adding the Dijon and breadcrumb coating.)

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Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, use a fork to combine the breadcrumbs, horseradish, parsley, thyme, garlic, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Pour the mixture onto a foil-lined baking sheet and set aside.

After the meat has rested, pat it dry with paper towels. Use a basting brush to generously coat the entire tenderloin with the Dijon mustard. Next, roll the beef in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing gently as needed so the crumbs adhere evenly, making sure to cover the entire tenderloin.

Return the tenderloin to the roasting pan and drizzle the top with the remaining ½ cup of olive oil. Place the pan in the center of the oven and cook the roast until it is golden brown with an internal temperature of at least 130 degrees (for medium-rare), about 40 to 45 minutes. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest point of beef to ensure an accurate temperature reading.

Remove the roast from the oven and transfer the tenderloin to a cutting board. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and let the roast rest for 10 minutes to prevent the juices from running out when carved. The meat will continue to cook as it rests which will increase the internal temperature (145 degrees after resting for medium-rare).

To carve the tenderloin, start at one end and cut into half-inch slices. Transfer to a serving platter and enjoy.

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Sarah's Christmas brunch strata showcases holiday colors in a savory blend of bacon, sausage, spinach, cherry tomatoes, onion and mushrooms..
David Samson / The Forum

Christmas brunch strata

This recipe made its debut in December 2018 , and it will be the star of the Nasello Christmas brunch table once again this year. This egg bake gets its festive appearance from a bounty of fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes, and its terrific flavor from not one, but two breakfast meats – bacon and sausage. The dish can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance so that all you need to do on Christmas morning is pop it in the oven and start unwrapping presents.

Serves: 6 to 8

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Ingredients:

6 bacon slices, diced into 1-inch pieces
½ pound ground pork sausage
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 cup baby button mushrooms, quartered
1 pint cherry tomatoes, whole
4 cups fresh spinach
8 large eggs
2 ½ cups whole milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon hot sauce (like Tabasco or Sriracha)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
5 to 6 cups good crusty bread, cubed (about 1 ½ inches in size)

Directions:

Grease a large baking dish (9 x 13”) with butter or cooking spray and line a plate with paper towel; set aside.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and ground sausage. Cook until bacon is crisp, and the sausage turns golden brown, stirring often, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the meat the prepared plate.

Keep the fat in the pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the chopped mushrooms. Continue cooking over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and spinach and cook until the spinach wilts, about 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove the pan from the burner and let cool for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, milk, mustard, hot sauce, salt and pepper. Use a whisk or electric mixer to beat until well combined. Add the cheese, bread cubes, bacon, sausage and vegetables, and use a large spoon or rubber spatula to gently toss until fully incorporated. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight, for best results.

When ready to bake, remove the strata from the refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until the strata puffs up, the center is firm, and the top is evenly golden brown, about 60 to 70 minutes. Oven temperatures vary, so if the top appears to be browning too quickly, cover it lightly with foil and continue baking until the strata is firm and cooked through.

Remove the dish from the oven and let the strata rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving. The strata will firm up as it rests. Cut into pieces, serve and enjoy. Leftovers may be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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Festive and fun to make with kids, Pookie's Christmas Ice Cream Cake features layers of pink and green ice cream coated with freshly whipped cream atop a chewy brownie base.
Dave Wallis / The Forum

Pookie’s Christmas ice cream cake

This recipe was first featured in December 2013 . It is a favorite from my childhood days, when my younger sister, Pookie, found the recipe in a popular women’s magazine and begged my mother to make it. They made it together for over two decades before my son, Giovanni, and I took over the tradition, and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Pookie’s Christmas ice cream cake.

This beautiful dessert can be made several days in advance and features layers of pink and green ice cream atop a chewy brownie base, coated with a thick layer of freshly whipped cream. This is a wonderful dessert to make with kids, with easy steps for children of all ages to master.

Ingredients:

1.5 quarts green ice cream (mint chocolate chip or pistachio ice cream)
1.5 quarts pink ice cream (cherry, strawberry, pink peppermint, etc.)
1 package Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge Brownie Mix
2 cups freshly whipped cream
Mint leaves for decoration, optional
Chocolate shavings for decoration, optional

Directions:

Place a large stainless-steel bowl in the freezer for 30 minutes. Once cold, remove the bowl from the freezer and line it with plastic wrap, leaving about 8 to 10 inches overhanging.

Starting with the green ice cream, scoop it out and use a large spatula or your hands (with gloves) to press the ice cream into the surface of the entire bowl, covering it and patting up against the sides and bottom so that the bowl is fully coated with an even layer of ice cream. This usually takes one full carton of ice cream.

Next, scoop and pat the pink ice cream into the layer of green ice cream, until the entire bowl is full. Smooth the surface with a knife or spatula, then cover tightly with the overhanging plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 24 hours, for best result, or up to one week.

Make the brownie mix according to the directions on the package, using a 9-inch round pan. Allow to fully cool. Remove the brownie from the pan and place on a serving dish or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to one month.

To assemble the cake:

Whip one pint of heavy whipping cream with 1 ½ tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until the cream forms stiff peaks, about 1 ½ minutes.

Place the baked brownie on a serving dish. Remove the ice cream bowl from the freezer and unwrap the plastic from the top. Turn the bowl upside down on top of the brownie. Place a warm cloth on top of the mixing bowl and pat a few times to release the ice cream. Remove the bowl and discard the plastic wrap.

Spread the whipped cream evenly around the cake, covering both the brownie and ice cream from top to bottom. Once the entire cake is frosted, re-freeze until ready to serve. You can decorate the cake with mint leaves, sprinkles, chocolate shavings, etc.

Sarah’s tips:

  • Allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before forming the mold.
  • Grease the cake pan with butter and lightly dust with flour before adding the brownie mix. For easy removal, place a liner of parchment paper over the flour coating and remove once the baked brownie has cooled.

Enter Sarah’s 10th Anniversary Giveaway Update:

I am hosting a holiday giveaway on my blog at SarahBakesND.com every week between now and Christmas, featuring some of my favorite foodie gifts. Congratulations to Jill Graveline, this week’s lucky winner of a bottle of liquid gold, aka, Mistra Estates Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Enter today at SarahBakesND.com for a chance to win Sarah’s next giveaway, featuring a beautiful, homemade Scandinavian Almond Cake. Good luck!

More recipes from Sarah Nasello

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.
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