Tired of turkey? Try the steaks this Christmas, says chef Jonathan Bardzik

Pan-fried upside-down steak from Jonathan Bardzik — Photo: Todd Franson

Ask Jonathan Bardzik if the centerpiece of a Christmas meal should be a ham, a turkey, or a goose, and you’ll get an untraditional answer.

“I prefer beef,” he says. “I really like to make beef for Christmas.”

In his early twenties, Bardzik made his way into the kitchen and took charge of preparing Christmas Day dinner at his mother’s house. “She served the exact same meal every year,” says the naturally gifted storyteller. “Turkey and mashed potatoes, some winter vegetables.”

Bardzik saw an opportunity to turn things around.

“We started doing something different every year. I made Cornish game hens. I made a goose. I made a Beef Wellington, standing rib roast. I made pork round roast with the little caps on all the bones that looked like the old Tom and Jerry cartoons.”

To help usher in the holiday season, we asked Bardzik, whose informative and entertaining cooking show Seasons to taste debuted on streamer Revry earlier this year, to whip up a special holiday meal, which pays homage to the season, but is also scalable – something that could feed dozens as well as more intimate parties of four, two or even one.

Jonathan Bardzik
White Cosmo by Jonathan Bardzik – Photo: Todd Franson

The Bardzik-imagined meal showcases a perfectly cooked, reverse-seared steak. The meat is flanked by a carrot recipe that even those who generally despise cooked carrots often scramble for a second serving, crisp and tender broccoli, an elegant and sweet salad entrée and a superb dessert of poached pears to bring to the House. down.

“It’s a meal that’s going to be good to eat,” he says. “It’s going to feel like an indulgence. It’s gonna be special. It’s also the meal you’ll still feel like you can get up and go to train on the 26th.”

Specifically, the meal won’t have you working in the kitchen for hours.

“If readers wanted to do this whole menu and maybe include one or two of the drinks I included, I’d probably give myself four to five hours of time to put it together,” he says. “And it doesn’t have to be consecutive. There’s a lot here that can be made ahead of time, components that can be crafted, so when you walk in to cook the meal itself, you’re only spending a few hours in the kitchen. So you can schedule those four or five hours over two days.

Jonathan Bardzik
Jonathan Bardzik prepares poached pears with pistachio cardamom — Photo: Todd Franson

“There is something special about cooking from scratch,” he continues. “I think it has to be done in balance with the time you have. At the end of the day, if finding shortcuts to that meal helps you get it on the table and feel like you’re having a special party without being totally exhausted and stressed by the time you get to the table, you should do this.”

Bardzik is a believer in using the best possible ingredients.

“Good ingredients not only increase the likelihood that you’ll serve a good meal, they also take a lot of work. When you start with good ingredients, you don’t have to overdo it, which makes cooking so much easier. These are all fairly simple and straightforward dishes. None of them are complicated in terms of technique. None of them have long ingredient lists. So starting with things that already have flavor saves work and means you’re already starting with the flavor you want to eat when you serve the dish.

As for which holiday food should be retired forever, Bardzik has a general and immediate answer.

“I think we should stop eating lazy sweets,” he says. “That is, sweets that are just sugar and not high-quality foods. This happened to me years ago. I was at Christmas Eve dinner and had a cousin who brought cookies which were just – they were correct sugar. There were no good spices for them. There wasn’t a great texture for them.

“I think we’re so stuck this season just stocking up on sweet desserts. For me, the dessert should receive as much care and attention as the rest of the meal. I want something that’s a little more nuanced, that’s a little more special, that’s more memorable than just a sweet pastry with Following sugar on it. I’m going to eat a dessert, I want it to offer as much as everything I eat during the holidays. So let’s take out those lazy candies.


The starter

Pomegranate-Honey Glazed Beets and Fresh Greens with Cream of Fennel and Lemon Vinaigrette

The main meal

Pan-Seared Reverse Steak with Horseradish Butter and Blue Cheese

Fingerling potatoes and turnips roasted with rosemary and duck fat

Apricot Glazed Carrots

Broccoli with Creamy Gremolata Sauce


Pears poached with cardamom and pistachios

[Get all the recipes here!]

The drinks

white cosmos

Cardamom Ginger Liqueur Litchi Vodka Martini

Black Tea Lime Rum Punch

Cinnamon Chili Hot Chocolate with Honey Whipped Cream (Zero Proof)

[Get the drinks recipes here!]

Washington, D.C.-based storyteller, cook and author, Jonathan Bardzik seeks to create joy and share connection, which he has brought to over 900 audiences ranging from local farmers markets to corporate teams and the stage. TedX. The food he cooks to bring people together is inspired by the fresh ingredients he grew up with in his parents’ garden and finds today at local farmers’ markets.

The new series of 8 episodes of Jonathan Jonathan’s Kitchen: seasons to taste is available on demand on Revry wherever you stream TV. Visit www.revry.tv.

Jonathan’s three cookbooks, including his most recent, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Joy and Connection —- are available on her website, where you will regularly find new recipes on her storytelling and cooking blog. Visit www.JonathanBardzik.com.

Follow Jonathan’s daily cooking adventures on Instagram at @JonathanBardzik.

Read our May 2021 cover interview with Jonathan here.

Dino S. Williams