Feast of the Seven Dishes

Local Chefs Share Their Personal Recipes for Holiday Gatherings
For the full feature on holiday dishes, pick up the November/December issue of Evansville Living.

As the holiday season hits its peak, family gatherings fill the calendar. Whether you are playing the role of host or attending as a guest, each special occasion calls for a dish or dessert created in your kitchen. We called on the pros — and pros in their own kitchens — to share what each might bring to a festive feast. Read our experts’ tips and techniques, fire up the stove, and start cooking. After all, the holidays aren’t complete without good friends and good food. 

Greek Roasted

Leg of Lamb

For as long as Doros Hadjisavva can remember, his mother has made a Greek roasted leg of lamb as a Sunday holiday dish for the family. “I make it for my kids now,” says Hadjisavva, a native of Cyprus, an island nation in the eastern Mediterranean. Hadjisavva, along with his wife Ellada, own Acropolis, a Greek restaurant on N. Green River Road rated No. 1 in the city on Trip Advisor. “I have customers who come in and bring me their dishes and tell me how many people they are going to have over and I make it for them on holidays,” he says.


» 5 pounds boneless leg of lamb
» 4 cloves garlic
» 2 tablespoons dried oregano leaves
» 2 tablespoons rosemary
» ½ cup olive oil
» 1 cup white wine
» ½ cup fresh lemon juice
» 1 teaspoon salt
» 4 bay leaves
» ½ teaspoon pepper
» 1 cup of water
» 8 large potatoes
» 2 whole tomatoes
» 1 whole onion
» 1 bag baby carrots

Clean fat from lamb and cut into 3 to 4-ounce pieces.

Peel potatoes and cut into large wedges or if you are using small potatoes, leave them whole. Peel onion and cut into 1-inch pieces. Cut tomatoes in 1-inch pieces. Finely chop garlic cloves and mix with cut up lamb.

Place all ingredients in a roasting pan and mix them together. Add the lamb fat in the pan for more flavor. Roast, covered with aluminum foil, at 400 degrees in an oven for one and a half to two hours until the meat is tender.

Uncover and turn oven to 475 degrees for 25 minutes. Turn lamb over to make a crust on the other side. Give potatoes a stir and continue to roast for another 20 minutes.

Fig-and-Balsamic Glazed

Cornish Hens

Cooking a turkey can be time consuming and daunting. Doug Rennie, who owns a catering and cookie company Just Rennie’s with his wife Marla, offers an easy and simple alternative using Cornish game hens. “It’s a very beautiful bird and presentation that is cooked perfectly and is moist so you don’t have to baste it overnight or adjust the temperature,” he says. Rennie applies a fig-and-balsamic glaze to the hens, and pairs the entrée with butternut squash risotto and roasted Brussels sprouts.

Ingredients (Source: Southern Living Christmas Cookbook)

» 8 (3.5-ounce) semi boneless hens
» 1 (11.5-ounce) jar fig preserves
» ½ cup dry red wine
» 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
» 2 teaspoons country-style Dijon mustard
» ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
» 1 teaspoon kosher salt
» 2 tablespoons dry red wine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Bring the jar of fig preserves, dry red wine, balsamic vinegar, ground black pepper, and Dijon mustard to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and let the ingredients simmer eight to 10 minutes or until the mixture is slightly thickened. Reserve half of the fig mixture; cover and chill. Let the remaining fig mixture stand at room temperature.

Tie the ends of the hen legs together with string. Place the hen on an aluminum foil-lined jellyroll pan or in a shallow roasting pan, and sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Brush hen with the room-temperature fig mixture. Reduce oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake hens 30 more minutes or until leg meat is no longer pink, basting with fig mixture every 10 minutes.

Place reserved chilled fig mixture in a small saucepan; stir in dry red wine, and cook over low heat, stirring often, two minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve hen with sauce.

Butternut Squash Risotto


» 1 cup butternut squash
» 1 cup Arborio rice
» 2 tablespoons olive oil
» ¼ cup white wine
» 5 cups water
» 1 tablespoon vegetable base

Cube and roast butternut squash at 400 degrees until soft, or for approximately 30 minutes. Season with salt and butter. The risotto requires a heated pan with the olive oil. Stir in the Arborio rice. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce. Stir in water plus the vegetable base a little at a time. Add enough water to cover the rice then reduce. Gradually add a little more and reduce, then add more liquid until cooked to the desired consistency, which will take about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, fold in the squash, and sprinkle with Parmesan, which is optional.


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