I'm obsessed with sausage balls,” says Annie Pettry, chef-owner of Decca restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. “No matter where I am on Christmas morning, I'm making them.” Hers are juicy pork sausage mixed with cheddar cheese that oozes out and forms a lacy, cracker-like disk at the bottom—just like her mother always made them. “Christmas would be incomplete without them,” she says.
And that's the thing about holiday breakfasts: As much as we love the dressy to-do of a festive dinner—the centerpiece roast, the good china—our simpler holiday morning traditions can often be the more lasting and beloved ones. Free from the stiffness of a formal sit-down, celebratory morning meals allow for those sometimes messy dishes that even exacting chefs love.
For Noah Bernamoff, co-owner of Mile End Deli and Black Seed Bagels in New York City, Hanukkah breakfast often includes his Dagwood-like loaded latke. “My mom would make what seemed like hundreds of thousands of latkes in advance for the holiday and freeze them,” says Bernamoff. “And I'd make little food mountains with them.” Now, one of his favorite creations is a latke schmeared with chopped liver and topped with a fried duck egg and a tangle of tangy pickled onions.
Christmas morning for Jonathan Brooks, chef-owner of the quirky breakfast-and-lunch spot Milktooth in Indianapolis, was always a morning-to-afternoon affair. His big family alternated cross-country skiing and sledding with picking at the Pillsbury orange rolls, honey-baked ham, scrambled eggs, and bacon left out on the table. “We did it almost tapas-style,” he says. Now that he has his own wife and kids, he sticks to the same format of a long, lingering breakfast, but makes giant, gooey pecan sticky buns from scratch with a few clever tricks: The caramel is made with coconut milk, beer, coffee, and barley malt syrup. While the kids are tearing into presents, Brooks passes around ginger-absinthe mimosas. Booze while you're still in your pajamas? Hey, it's a holiday breakfast; you make the rules.
Get the recipe for Latkes with Chopped Liver and Onions »
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Get the recipe for Ginger–Absinthe Mimosas »