Paula: Hey, what are you firing up for New Year’s Eve? I’m still hammering out the details, but two things are certain: we’ll gather around a crackling campfire and this hot, cheesy, artichoke and greens dip. Wait, the dip demands a third attendee: Triscuits. A sturdy cracker is the essential, underrated ingredient to any festive occasion.

Scott: Thanks for asking. To ring in the New Year, I am making preparations to capture the Guinness Book’s World Record for longest sigh of relief. I’ve been practicing my inhaling and exhaling all morning. While I can’t find a record on file for the longest sigh, in 2015, Suresh Gaur shouted the word “Goal!” in one continuous breath for 54.97 seconds, so I think that’s the time to beat. Plunging into this hot, cheesy dip will be an excellent recovery meal after my big win.

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For countless Mexican American families and Texans, the holidays mean tamales. (Fun fact: the season starring fresh masa technically runs from the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12th through Three Kings’ Day on January 6th.) Since we’re not traveling for the holidays this year, I decided to join in the fun, put my family on the assembly line, and steam a couple batches of our own. 

To procure the fresh masa, I stood in a long (socially distanced) line at El Milagro in Austin. After chatting with the gentleman in front of me, who was buying masa for his wife’s sweet tamales (made with raisins and coconut) I purchased 5 pounds of coarsely ground, unprepared masa (prepared masa is mixed with lard and ready to go), which had a sweet, earthy aroma the consistency of fresh Play Dough.

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Prime rib, Frenched lamb racks and crab legs...Tis the season to indulge in fancier-than-normal fare. People tend to place duck in this category, but as I prepared this one-skillet dinner a few nights ago, I wondered why. Sure, duck is decadently rich and flavorful, but it’s also as easy as a roast chicken. In other words, “fancy” doesn’t have to be complicated.

The best part of this recipe might be the potatoes. As the duck roasts over a charcoal fire, the fat renders and bastes the rounds of Yukon golds, making them crisp and incredibly flavorful. To balance the richness, I like to serve the duck and potatoes over a big salad of frisee (or another bitter green) tossed in a mustardy vinaigrette.

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This rich, smoky stock made from the carcass of a smoked chicken (or two) might be my favorite recipe in my latest cookbook, “Thank You For Smoking.” The deeply flavored results are so satisfying and elevate countless meals, including gumbo, tortilla soup, chicken and dumplings, and need I mention gravy?

When I smoke chickens with the intention of making stock, I put the drip pan to work. Since it catches the delicious seasoned drippings and heats for about an hour, I infuse that liquid with additional aromatics, just as I would when simmering stock. (Whenever I ask a butcher to spatchcock or split chickens for me, I save and freeze the backbones for these occasions.) I also take extra care to keep the drip pan mixture free of ash. I clean the grates before I place the drip pan on the grate, and use a light hand when moving hot embers or adding more fuel, so I don’t kick up a flurry of ashes.

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