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The Meritage Collection

During the holiday season is when home cooks and bakers dust off their family recipes and kick things into high gear. Our chefs’ tips will help to make your season stress-free and help to make your turkey juicy, holiday cookies soft and family members smile.

Check out our favorite time-saving tricks, helpful hints and tips to make this season’s bakes the best ever:

CANDIED SPICED PECANS

Chef JJ Burton | Banquet Chef | Paséa Hotel and Spa

If you’re looking for the perfect crunchy snack, then there is nothing better than Candied Spiced Pecans. For me the trick is fry not to bake. The high temp of the fryer oil help crystalizes the sugars while also keeping the nuts from clumping together. Start with a 3 to 1 ratio of sugar to water to get a thicker coating of sugar on your nuts (adding a dash of vanilla is great here too). Boil for 10 minutes, strain and move to a fryer or shallow pan fry around 350 degrees. Always be careful when putting anything in hot oil. Fry them just until the bubbles in the fryer start to disappear. Get some cinnamon sugar or pumpkin spice ready, when you pull pecans out of the fryer give them a quick toss with your spice mix like French fries. Lay them on a nonstick pan and let cool. When they are cool let the snacking begin!

BRINING RECIPE

Chef Carlo Narabal | Chef de Cuisine | Paséa Hotel and Spa

Common thing I hear during the holidays is Turkey, Pork Loin, or Chicken tend to be dry. These are all lean meat and lack the fat to retain the juiciness and because you have to cook them to a high internal temperature, they tend to dry out. Brining is a way to fix this. Brining is a form of curing to tenderize the meat and retain juices using a high water and salt ratio in addition to herbs and aromatics. The recipe below can be used for Turkey, Chicken, or Pork Loin.

  • 6 Cups Water
  • 2 Cups Ice
  • 2 Cups Sugar (feel free to try Brown Sugar, Honey, or Maple Syrup)
  • 2 Cups Kosher Salt
  • 10 Cloves Garlic
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 2 each Star Anise (toasted)
  • 2 each clove (toasted)
  • 1 each Cinnamon stick (toasted)
  • 1 tbsp Black Peppercorn (toasted)
  • 2 each Lemon (halved)
  • 2 each Orange (halved)

Steps:

  • Place all ingredients in a pot except for the ice.
  • Squeeze juices from citrus in the brine.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil or until sugar and salt have dissolved.
  • Transfer brine into the container you plan to brine your protein in and add the ice to cool down.
  • Make sure that the Brine is completely cool. Then add your meat.
    • For Turkey 12-20 lbs. 8-12 hours.
    • For Pork Loin 3-4 hours
    • For Chicken 2-4 hours.


BAKING AND HOLIDAY TIPS

Chef Vincent Savignano | Executive Chef | Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa

  • Take any cold ingredients such as like butter and eggs out of the fridge so they come to room temperature
  • Fold in dry ingredients with a spatula by hand rather than an electric mixer so you do not overmix
  • Measuring in crucial, do not use the force or go by eye
  • Make sure all of your equipment is spotless. Any trace of water or food particles may alter your recipe
  • Whip some egg whites and a bit of water and brush over your pie crust before baking to get that crispy
  • Try some ginger ale in your next cranberry sauce: fresh cranberry, orange zest, ginger ale, brown sugar
  • Start roasting your turkey with bone broth in the pan to baste throughout the cooking process.
    • Make a roux with butter and flour in the morning equal parts and set aside.
    • Strain the Turkey broth from the pan when the turkey is done into a saucepan, bring to a boil and add the roux in small increments with a whisk until desired consistency.
    • Tip: hot broth, cold roux or hot roux, cold broth. This allows the proper cooking technique to cook out the flour and avoid lumps.
  • Ham Glaze: Add these ingredients together and brush over your ham in the last 30 minutes of cooking:
    • 1cup Bourbon
    • 2 cup Brown Sugar
    • 2Tbsp Dijon Mustard
    • 2Tbsp Orange Marmalade
    • Pinch of Cumin
    • Pinch of Coriander
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