Some of the very best dishes are those that take a long time — time you never used to have. These comforting but festive holiday recipes don’t require much prep time or hands-on attention, but they do need you to be around the house. You just have to wait while the dishes fill your home with the aromas you want this time of year.
Case in point: Braised brisket takes only 30 minutes to be ready for the oven, but its spiced, meaty scent will waft through the kitchen for the next four hours or so. And it needs that time. If not cooked long enough, brisket’s leaner and more readily available first cut, or flat cut, can be tough and dry. The meat seems to tighten as it cooks until all of a sudden it relaxes into tenderness, like a rubber band that finally snaps. After the meat is sliced, it gets heated in the sauce to further tenderize it and ensure it’s moist.
For a sweeter note, slow-cook clementines in syrup. The French tradition of cooking whole fruit in sugar over days produces glasslike orbs that are lovely to look at but are more of a conversation piece. This clementine confit is a decidedly edible version that captures the spirit of the method, with less sugar and time, but just as much beauty and a lot more ease.
Segments of the fruit go into simple syrup, then into the oven for two to three hours. This process is more about transformation than preservation. During this time, they morph into something more complex, chewy, concentrated and kind of fancy. They’re perfect for topping a simple ginger chocolate cake that’s everything a chocolate cake should be: easy, gorgeous and just rich enough. It may remain in your repertoire forever.
The same can be said of this sheet-pan French toast. Invest 10 minutes in thickly slicing bread and whisking together eggs, flavorings and milk, then combine them to soak overnight in the fridge. The next morning, the slabs of bread emerge from the oven custardy on the inside with a crisp caramel shell.
While tending to French toast on the stovetop is fine, it requires constant attention and can be a bit messy. The even heat of the oven and a sheet pan do a better, more foolproof job at caramelizing the bread to the burnish you’re after. It’s also relatively hands-off, except for two easy turns with tongs. Scaled up for a bigger batch, this recipe saves you from being stuck behind a stove, short-order cooking.
All of these dishes do. That they can sit for at least a day after being prepped, and before serving, adds to their leisurely vibe and may just make you want to always stay home.