Chef Marcus Samuelsson on cooking for the holidays and keeping it light and bright


Chef Marcus Samuelsson is, as he calls himself, a "food nerd at heart," so there's pretty much no one better to talk to about your holiday cooking plans. As a self-proclaimed novice, I was pretty excited to seek his advice for the season.

Holidays, he tells us, are all about stamina. (There are, after all, several ambitious meals in a row!) "It's about not eating too much that first holiday, and it's also about eating light and bright."

That's why he loves serving his Tea Brined Chicken with Roasted Vegetables for holiday parties. He's partnering with Pure Leaf Tea House Collection, and encouraging people to try cooking with tea. "It's one of my favorite recipes, and by adding in cous cous or quinoa, something that is there to fill it out, you'll get great depths of flavor but it isn't going to be too heavy."

Marcus Samuelsson's tea-brined chicken
Marcus Samuelsson's tea-brined chicken

That's the key: something delicious with a light touch. He also loves citrus for the holidays -- think blood orange and cherry tomatoes (yum!) -- because the acid helps to give your dish lightness. It brightens the meal and is something delightfully unexpected.

"As a chef, you're always curious about new flavors," Samuelsson told us, "and Pure Leaf really takes chances with its flavor profile and i think that's very exciting. It's honoring craftsmanship but it's also about staying ahead, and looking for not only trends but something that will push the envelope."

The holidays are a time of celebration for you and yours, so while the meal itself is important, it's imperative that you don't let yourself completely stress out. Chef Samuelsson's advice for that? Plan ahead!

"Approach the whole meal with planning -- there are definitely sides you can make ahead of time, or at least prep. If you're cooking a turkey, start brining the turkey the day before you cook." And if you're a new cook, with a not-so-huge family, maybe don't even get a full bird.

"Only buy thighs. Because if you only cook thighs you're guaranteed to have a juicy bird. If you cook a lot, you'll know how to get cooked through thighs and not dry out the breast, but if you're not that use to it just go with the thighs! You can brine them, put herbs on them, roast them and get them super crispy -- and they're super delicious."

Finally, his number one piece of advice for a novice in the kitchen (ahem, me!) -- never cook a new recipe and new ingredients at the same time.

"If you try a new recipe, don't use all new ingredients. You have to go with one or the other, you can't go with both. If working with a new recipe, use ingredients that you know, and an old recipe lets you elaborate and work with ingredients you might not know."

More from Lifestyle:
33 best gifts for wine lovers
15 warm getaway destinations with inexpensive airfare
Pasta recipes for a delicious night in