The panhandle plains of Texas are a scenic slice of the Lonestar State where you’ll find cowboys, steak houses, rodeos and a spectacular canyon.
By Suzanne Corbett

Few things evoke the memories of holiday celebrations like the taste of food and the scents trailing from a kitchen. Chefs from noted Southern resorts and hotels share their holiday memories and recipes. Enjoy these feasts during your stay at these fine hotels or with friends and family at home.

Above: Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville is decked out for the holidays each year.

Top (in Title): A double-thick kurabata pork chop with a side of sauteed mushrooms from the Opryland Resort. Gaylord Opryland Resort photos
Few things evoke the memories of holiday celebrations like the taste of food and the scents trailing from a kitchen. Chefs from noted Southern resorts and hotels share their holiday memories and recipes. Enjoy these feasts during your stay at these fine hotels or with friends and family at home.

Exploring France in Arkansas
Executive chef Andre Poirot’s fondest recollection is licking the butter cream bowl after he finished helping his mother prepare the classic French yuletide dessert, the Bûche de Noël.

“You’d spend the whole day preparing the Christmas log,” he recalls. “When you do the butter cream, you cook the sugar ’til it’s like caramel. You have to be careful so it doesn’t burn.”

Poirot slips his traditional cuisine into the AAA four Diamond Peabody Hotel’s Christmas brunch in Little Rock, Ark., a tieback to his home country and Little Rock’s French heritage.

“Every chef brings a bit of something to a place,” says Poirot, “I bring the French in me.”
With specialties like lobster sauce, turkey stuffed with chestnuts and his beloved Christmas log, Poirot shares his quintessential recipes with guests. He also ensures that kitchen aromas waft toward the tables by having his staff slice the turkey at a nearby carving station.

“In the kitchen here, we put the turkey to cook overnight at really low heat and when I come early that morning to prepare for the brunch, I smell the roast and (it) makes me hungry even if it’s 6 in the morning,” says Poirot. “Smell memory is really strong, and turkey in the oven is a memory from home.”
The Peabody Hotel is located at 3 Statehouse Plaza, and offers AAA members room discounts. Call (501) 906-4000. The brunch is served Christmas day from 11 a.m.–2 p.m., and usually sells out at least two weeks before Christmas. The cost is $34.95 for adults, $16.95 for children 6–11 years. For reservations, call (501) 399-8062.

A country Christmas in Nashville

Family recollections influence Executive Chef Michael Swann’s Country Christmas menu selection at Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. He recalls cooking with his sisters and opening the corners of brown paper lunch bags to wear on their heads. While the brown paper hats are gone, Swann’s roasted chicken roulades with cranberry cornbread stuffing are inspired from a poultry dish his sisters prepared with a simple country dressing.

“We put things into the stuffing that were seasonal. Late fall, it was cranberries; September the smell of apples was in the air; in the summer you would have put sweet cherries in there. Sometimes we even did it with blueberries,” he says.

Swann glazes the roulades with thyme butter, tops them with dried cranberries and serves the dinner family-style on a serving platter to capture the feeling of home.

A festive cheese ball starts the first course, an influence from Swann’s years in Midwestern and Canadian regions. He rounds out the last course with another favorite, the chocolate cherry bread pudding, harkening from his joy of eating Black Forest cake as a child. He transforms the traditional dessert by baking the chocolate cherry bread as a custard in the oven, with a touch of kirschwasser (German black cherry brandy). It’s served piping hot with warm vanilla sauce.

Dinner is accented with music by Nashville icon, Pam Tillis, who performs her hits such as “Shake the Sugar Tree” and “Maybe it Was Memphis.”

“She’s a great match for our cuisine, she’s all about family,” says Swann. “One time, she brought her father in via satellite.”

The Pam Tillis Christmas Dinner Party, part of Opryland’s Country Christmas event, will be Nov. 18–Dec. 25. Tickets are $58 for adults and $24 for children. The AAA three Diamond resort is located at 2800 Opryland Drive, and offers members a discount. For reservations or more information, call (888) 888-6779 or click on

A Creole Christmas

In the kitchens of the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans, the holiday meal is based on a tradition more than 100 years old, and is still honored by families today. The Revillion dinner dates back to the 1800s when Creole families would gather after midnight Mass at St. Louis Cathedral. The celebration was marked by a long feast that went all day and into the night. Wild duck, quail and geese were often part of the meal, cooked slowly during the course of this culinary celebration.

For those who want to leave the cooking to someone else, the Windsor Court’s Revillion dinner captures the spirit of Creole traditions and heritage. The chef features a mosaic of game dishes layered with flavors: pan roasted red fish, roasted loin of elk and a pheasant sausage. Pickled girolles and spiced quince were some of the ingredients used during the 19th century that are still embraced in the Revillion menu preparation.

Revillion dinners at the AAA four Diamond Windsor Court Hotel usually begin the day after Thanksgiving, but details–including pricing and menu–were not available at press time. The hotel, located at 300 Gravier St., offers members a room discount. For reservations, call (866) 375-9356 or visit

Katherine Jacob is a new contributor from Toronto, Ontario.

Nov/Dec 2007

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Savor These Holiday Recipes

Michael Swann, executive chef for Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, shares these recipes from his Country Christmas menu for your own holiday celebrations. Or you can get out of the kitchen and sample them at the Opryland Resort during a holiday getaway.

Cheese ball

1 lb cream cheese
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
3/4 teaspoon roasted garlic
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 1/2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 1/2 tablespoons Golden Raisins

Whip cream cheese until soft. Add remaining ingredients and whip until combined and mold as desired.

Cranberry Cornbread Stuffed Chicken
Yields 6 portions

1/2 c. cranberries, fresh or frozen
(thawed if frozen)
2 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
2 c. crumbled cornbread (homemade)
1 lg. Red Delicious apple, peeled, cored
and sliced (about 1 c.)
2 med. size celery stalks, diced (1/2 c.)
1 med. size onion, finely chopped (1/2 c.)
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 teaspoon leaf thyme, crumbled
1 teaspoon leaf marjoram, crumbled
1/4 tsp. salt
a pinch of pepper
6 each, 4 oz chicken breasts

Combine cranberries, water and sugar in medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower heat; simmer 10 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Add cornbread, apples, celery, onion and seasonings to cranberry mixture; toss gently to mix. Then gently pound out chicken breast and on one end top with 1/2 cup of cornbread stuffing. Roll Chicken together and place in a greased baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until chicken’s internal temperature reads 165 degrees.

Thyme Butter and Dried Cranberries Yields 1 1/2 cups

2 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. heavy cream
1 bunch fresh thyme
1/4 c. fresh butter
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Place chicken stock in a sauce pot and reduce by a third. Add the heavy cream and fresh thyme and reduce by 1/2. Take pot off heat and slowly whip in the butter to form an emulsified sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle sauce over stuffed chicken and garnish with cranberries.

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