Chef Cullen Campbell of Okra and Crudo
Favorite holiday tradition? Decorating the tree with the family. It’s the perfect mix of nostalgia and making new memories with family and friends.
Cherished holiday memory? Growing up we always gathered for a big Christmas Eve dinner. Then the kids went to sleep so our parents could wake us up at midnight to open gifts. I always remember struggling to stay up to midnight on my own, but it never happened.
Favorite foods to prepare during the holiday season? Anything duck! Most of my family is from the South and were always big duck hunters, so it always popped up at our holiday dinners.
Any new holiday food traditions? Feast of the Seven Fishes, which is a Southern Italian Christmas Eve tradition of fasting from meat and instead counting down to Christmas with a smorgasbord of seafood dishes. Throw in some pastas, veggies and lots of wine, and you’ve got a true Italian-style feast.
Dishes at-home cooks should prepare this season? Casseroles! It sounds old fashioned, but they are easy to prep ahead of time, and then you just throw it in the oven and get to hang out with your guests while it cooks. Plus, you don’t have to make your grandma’s casserole; feel free to experiment and have some fun with a taco, spaghetti or enchilada casserole.
Tip for making holiday cooking easy for the at-home chef? Drink wine, and relax. You’re hosting family and friends, right? Don’t overthink it, and have fun.
Ideas for homemade food gifts? I like to give out some of my baking recipes and dry ingredients in a mason jar. Just add wet ingredients, and bake.
Favorite spots to visit in the Valley during the holiday season? El Chorro for the beef stroganoff. It’s such an underrated comfort classic.
Fast Holiday Faves
Cookie: Oatmeal butterscotch
Carol: “Christmas in Hollis” by Run DMC
Movie: “A Muppet Christmas Carol”
Gift to give: Coal
Gift to receive: Fernet Branca. You can’t go wrong with a tasty Italian liqueur.