Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | January 5, 2018

Cooking at Home for The Holidays



By Ernest Barteldes 


For some time now, Renata and I have been spending the Holidays at home. At first it was just Christmas after a couple of get-togethers often went south in a very bad way (although we do have a pre-Holiday meeting with a longtime friend every year), but lately we have also been staying in for New Year’s Eve as well. 

The reason for that is simpler: in earlier years we had a large crowd of friends and acquaintances who were willing to go to New Year’s Eve celebration towards the city. I recall enjoying events at places like Terrace on The Park in Queens, Arirang Hibachi Restaurant and Numberger Bierhaus on Staten Island.  In recent years, however, many of these friends have either paired up with people who have different tastes than we do or simply have moved out of town altogether, so it has become much more difficult for us to get a crowd together to some kind of party – what’s the fun of being at a crowded bar with a bunch of drunk strangers without your own crowd? If you are going to be just a couple in a crowd, it’s much easier to have your own ‘private party’ at home and sending out an open invitation to friends who would like to join us.  

Sure, some might say that we are being insular and all that, but why would anyone in their right mind pay at least $100 per person to go to a place where you’d spend considerably less on a regular day if you don’t have a crowd to enjoy it with you? It’s much better to cook something special, get some wine and champagne and stay in the comfort of your home with zero concerns – and still catch the countdown on TV as the midnight hour approaches.  

I always try to cook something out of the ordinary for the Holidays, and this year was no different. For Christmas, we started with a seafood medley  made with shrimp, calamari, bell peppers and other ingredients – something I found in a book called Seriously Simple Holidays (by Diane Rossen Worthington, Chronicle Books, 2007) that I happened to come across at a local bookstore a few years back. For the main course, I made glazed whiting fish with red pepper alioli (way simpler than it sounds) that I served with a side of baked potato wedges and wilted spinach. Renata contributed her layered dish of herring, potatoes, carrots, eggs, onions and mayo – the only time she ever ventures into the kitchen during the year. 

For New Year’s Eve I made a large batch of Bigos (Polish Hunter’s Stew),a simple dish I have mastered over the years, with a side of mashed potatoes and a rice salad. It is quite fun to make it because I prepare it a day early and let the flavors develop until the next day. It keeps nicely in the refrigerator, and you can reheat it for at least another three or four days.  

Whenever I cook for the Holidays, I always make a lot of food so we have plenty of leftovers for the next few days so we can enjoy our time together without having to cook much during the rest of the time. 

Glazed Whitefish with Red Pepper Aioli 



6 to 10 whitefish fillets 

1 cup roasted red pepper alioli 

1 tablespoon fresh chives (garnish) 



Preheat the oven to 450F. Spray the broiler pan with oil. Place the fillets on the pan and evenly spread the aioli to coat the fillets with a thin glaze. Roast for about 10 minutes until the fish is opaque. Preheat the broiler if necessary. Broil for about 2 minutes until browned. Serve with remaining aioli, braised spinach with crispy shallots and roasted potato wedges with leeks and thyme.    

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