Three-Minute Wasabi Salmon

(Serves 8 or more)

Three minutes refers to the amount of time it takes to "prep" the salmon. This looks especially beautiful on a large white platter surrounded by fresh kumquats. From "Christmas 1-2-3" by Rozanne Gold (Stewart, Tabori & Chang).

31/2- to 4-pound side of salmon, skin on

Salt and white pepper to taste

6 tablespoons wasabi power, available at Asian grocery stores

11/2 cups mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

With tweezers, remove any little bones from salmon and season fish with salt and pepper. Mix wasabi with 5 to 6 tablespoons water until it forms a smooth, thick paste. Stir into mayonnaise and mix thoroughly. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground white pepper. Spread mixture on fish to cover completely.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 20 minutes. Do not overcook. Fish should be moist. It may take a few minutes more or less, depending on thickness of fish. Top of fish should be slightly golden. Serve immediately.

Celebration Potatoes

(Serves 8)

Versions of this recipe have been kicking around for years. The advantage over mashed potatoes is that you can make it a day ahead and reheat it before serving. It's delicious and, yes, very rich, so you won't want to eat it every day. Baking the potatoes rather than boiling them makes for more flavorful pulp.

9 large baking potatoes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

3/4 cup sour cream

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Butter for baking dish

For the topping:

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

2 tablespoons butter

About 1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse potatoes, prick them with a fork, and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Bake for roughly 75 minutes. Remove from oven when they are easily pierced with the fork.

Cool slightly. Wearing oven mitts, slice potatoes open and spoon pulp into a mixing bowl. Cut butter and cream cheese into small pieces and add to potatoes. Beat the mixture with a hand mixer until light and fluffy. Do not overbeat. Beat in sour cream. Season with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Place in a buttered casserole dish. Scatter bread crumbs, the butter cut into small pieces, paprika and chives over the top. Refrigerate until serving time.

To reheat, place in a 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Champagne Oyster Stew

(Serves 8)

Yes, it may sound fussy, but it's just soup! Perfect for New Year's Eve. From "The Best American Recipes 1999" by Fran McCullough and Suzanne Hamlin (Houghton Mifflin).

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 shallots, minced

1 1/2 cups champagne or other sparkling wine

12-24 oysters, shucked, liquor strained through cheesecloth or a coffee filter and reserved

24 ounces clam juice (canned or bottled)

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

For the garnish:

4 teaspoons minced fresh chives

4 teaspoons chopped fresh chervil or parsley

Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large saute pan and add shallots. Cook briefly, not allowing them to color. Add the wine and gently boil over medium-high heat to reduce by two-thirds.

Add reserved oyster liquor and the clam juice and simmer to reduce by half. Add cream and salt and reduce until slightly thickened. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add oysters and poach until they are just barely heated, about 3 minutes. Don't allow the soup to boil.

Spoon into warm, shallow bowls and sprinkle with the fresh herbs and white pepper.

Jalapeno Macaroni and Cheese

(Serves 6 to 8)

This is macaroni and cheese with a twist. From Jacqueline McMahan in "The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook, Volume II" (Chronicle Books).

8 ounces elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon butter, plus butter for baking dish

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned is okay)

2 canned jalapeno chiles, minced

11/2 cups milk

2 eggs

1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco (available in Latino sections of groceries)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep, 1 1/2-quart baking dish.

Bring 2 quarts salted water to the boil in a large pot over high heat. Add pasta and cook 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a bowl and add butter, garlic, salt and Tabasco; toss to combine. Stir in the grated cheddar cheese.

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute about 10 minutes, or until softened. Add tomatoes and jalapenos. Simmer for 5 minutes, then add to pasta and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared baking dish.

Combine milk and eggs in a blender, process until smooth, then pour over pasta. Bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes to absorb excess liquid.

Sprinkle with queso fresco.