Celebrity Chefs Share Their Best Recipes to Serve (or Gift!) to Your Holiday Guests

From popcorn to cupcakes, these chefs have got you covered.

Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

With the busy schedules that come with celebrating the holiday season, sometimes the last thing you want to think about is what to serve guests and what to gift them.

Thanks to Mario Batali, Guy Fieri, Anthony Bourdain and Sprinkles Cupcakes’ Candace Nelson, holiday entertaining just got a little easier. These four recipes can be made into big batches to serve or hand out — and we’ve even made the container decision for you.

Guy Fieri’s Bacon Jalapeño Popcorn

Makes 18 cups

Replace those character-covered popcorn tins with something a little fancier like a hammered borealis canister. To keep guests satisfied until meal time, set out gold-edged bowls filled to the brim with the spicy treat.

½ lb. applewood-smoked bacon, cut into ¼-in. pieces
3 jalapeño chilies, seeded, cut crosswise into thin rings
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup popcorn kernels
¾ oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about ¼ cup)
1 tsp. kosher salt

1. Cook bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned and fat has rendered, about 8 minutes. Add jalapeños, and cook, stirring occasionally, until charred, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon and jalapeños to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

2. Add oil to stockpot, and increase heat to high. Add popcorn kernels, and toss to coat. Spread kernels evenly on bottom of pot, and cover with lid. When kernels begin to pop, uncover the pot very slightly. Shake pot back and forth directly over heat. Cook, shaking constantly, until kernels stop popping, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Pour popcorn into a large bowl. Add bacon, jalapeños, Parmesan and salt; toss well to mix. Serve warm.

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Mario Batali’s Pecan Pralines

Makes 24 pralines

Guests will be thrilled to learn they are taking home some of these chocolate, nutty pralines at the end of the night. Present them on the dessert table in footed glass vessels or tuck them into a glass shadow box that can later be reused to display keepsakes.

3 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. corn syrup
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 cups pecan halves
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or wax paper. Combine brown sugar, cream, corn syrup and butter in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a candy thermometer inserted in mixture reads 240°. Remove from heat, and cool to 150°, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Add pecans and vanilla, and stir until candy becomes opaque, about one minute. Drop mixture by tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Let stand until cool and firm, 25 to 30 minutes.

Active time: 10 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Anthony Bourdain’s Bar Nuts

Makes 8 cups

Elevate your party nuts by serving them in geometric bowls. When guests are heading out for the night, hand them a muslin drawstring bag filled with the savory treat to cherish as a midnight snack.

4 large egg whites
5 lbs. mixed nuts (about 15 cups)
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1½ tbsp. cayenne pepper
1½ tbsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 325?. Line two 13×9-inch rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.

2. Whisk egg whites in a large bowl until foamy and nearly stiff. Toss together nuts, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cayenne, salt and cinnamon in a second large bowl until evenly coated. Add egg whites, and gently fold until nuts are coated in egg white. Divide mixture evenly between prepared baking sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven until dry and crisp, about 30 minutes, switching pans top rack to bottom rack and stirring nuts after 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely before serving, about 20 minutes.

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes

WATCH THIS: Anthony Bourdain Sounds Off on Everything

Hector Manuel Sanchez

Candace Nelson’s Chai Latte Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Easily deliver these cupcakes to a party (or a treat for a friend) by stowing them away in a tailor-made carrier that can be reused time and time again. Let the cakes do the talking and display them a simple white stand when it comes to party time.

1½ cups (about 63/8 oz.) all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
¾ tsp. ground allspice, divided
¾ tsp. ground ginger, divided
¾ tsp. ground cardamom, divided
¼ tsp., plus 1 pinch of ground cloves, divided
½ tsp. fine sea salt, divided
2 pinches of black pepper, divided
2/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. whole milk, divided
¾ tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 cup granulated sugar
1½ cups (12 oz.) unsalted butter, slightly softened, divided
2 large eggs
3 cups powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Place baking cups in a 12-cup muffin pan.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, ½ teaspoon each of the cinnamon, allspice, ginger and cardamom, ¼ teaspoon each of the cloves and salt, and 1 pinch of pepper in a medium bowl. Stir together 2/3 cup of the milk and ½ teaspoon of the vanilla in a small bowl.

3. Combine granulated sugar and ½ cup of the butter in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until just incorporated after each addition. Beat until creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add half of the flour mixture, all of the milk mixture, and remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended after each addition.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven until tops are just dry to the touch and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

5. While cupcakes cool, sift together powdered sugar and remaining ¼ teaspoon each of the cinnamon, allspice, ginger, cardamom and salt and 1 pinch each of the cloves and pepper in a medium bowl.

6. Beat remaining 1 cup butter with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add powdered sugar mixture and remaining 1 tablespoon milk and ¼ teaspoon vanilla; beat until blended, being careful not to incorporate too much air into the frosting.

7. Spread cooled cupcakes with frosting.

Active time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

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