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CNN anchors share their favorite dishes for the holidays

By Kristen Rogers, Madeline Holcombe and Amanda Sealy, CNN

Don Lemon’s Louisiana crawfish étouffée and Brianna Keilar’s chili mac are among the favorite family recipes our CNN anchors love to cook up this time of year — and now they’re showing us how they do it. So grab an apron and join in on the fun!

Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s chai

Gupta let us into his home as he showed his daughters how to make his mother’s chai, or spiced tea with ginger and cardamom.

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
  • 3 tea bags, preferably strong black tea such as Assam
  • 1 cup of half-and-half


1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a saucepan or small pot. As the water heats up, add the ginger, cardamom and, if using, brown sugar.

2. Once water has reached a boil, reduce to medium-low heat so it simmers with gentle bubbles. Add the tea bags and half-and-half.

3. Let the liquid slowly come to a boil once again, then remove from heat.

4. Remove tea bags and carefully pour tea into teapot or cups.

Brianna Keilar’s chili mac

To pay homage to deployed service members, Keilar schooled us in making Game Day Chili Mac, “the most popular MRE (meal ready-to-eat) of the US military,” and a themed cocktail for the Army-Navy football game.

Makes 4 servings


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped + 1 more for topping, chopped (optional)
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 8 ounces tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 ½ tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or red pepper flakes)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti (1 package)
  • Lots of shredded medium cheddar


1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, brown ground beef and 1 chopped onion, about 10 minutes. Brianna likes the ground beef to be more broken up, so she used a handheld potato masher or pastry blender to separate chunks (you can also do so with a spatula).

2. Drain fat if needed.

3. Add beef stock, then simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add tomato paste, chili powder, apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cocoa powder, garlic powder, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, allspice, cloves and bay leaf. Simmer — uncovered so that chili reduces — for 1 hour.

5. Bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti until al dente.

6. Remove the bay leaf from the chili. Use a spoon to skim off fat if needed.

7. Serve chili over spaghetti. Top with cheese and, if preferred, 1 chopped onion.

Poppy Harlow’s apple crisp

Harlow enlisted her kids, Luca and Sienna, this year to help her put together the apple crisp she grew up making with her mom, Mary Harlow.

Makes 8 servings


  • 5 apples, preferably Honeycrisp
  • 1/3 cup softened unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional, but highly recommended)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius). If using a glass dish, preheat to 375 F (191 C).

2. Peel and thinly slice apples, and place in 8×8-inch buttered baking dish.

3. To make the oatmeal mixture, combine in a bowl: cinnamon, brown and white sugars, flour, salt and oats.

4. Mix 1/3 cup softened butter into the oatmeal mixture with your fingers.

5. Spread the oatmeal mixture on top of apples and press down slightly.

6. Bake until the top is a little brown and the apples are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm. Top with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Don Lemon’s Louisiana crawfish étouffée

Lemon and his mother walked us through this heirloom recipe that’s made its way through generations of his family, passed along by mothers to their children.

Makes 4 servings


  • 1 pound (at least) crawfish tails
  • Fat and juice from the crawfish
  • 5 tablespoons margarine or unsalted butter
  • 1 pack Cajun étouffée mix
  • Cream of celery soup (1-2 tablespoons per pound of crawfish)
  • Cream of shrimp (1-2 tablespoons per pound of crawfish)
  • Tomato soup (1-2 tablespoons per pound of crawfish)
  • Cream of mushroom soup (1-2 tablespoons per pound of crawfish)
  • Splash of seafood stock
  • Sprinkle of creole seasoning, preferably Tony Chachere’s
  • 1 finely chopped green onion, green tops only
  • Long grain rice


1. Open crawfish tails, making sure to drain the fat and juices into a bowl or plate.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the margarine. Then add the whole pack of étouffée mix.

3. Add desired amount of cream of celery, cream of seafood, tomato soup and cream of mushroom soup to the pot.

4. Add crawfish and the fat and juices to the pot, stirring in and breaking up the tails.

5. Add in a splash of seafood stock and a sprinkle of creole seasoning to the main pot.

6. Bring to a boil, stirring often.

7. Once the mixture comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.

8. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes.

9. Ensure the seafood is thoroughly cooked to 145 degrees, then top with green onion and serve over rice.

Erin Burnett’s oyster stew

It took a while for her mom’s oyster stew recipe to grow on Burnett. But now she enjoys it so much that this year she passed the holiday tradition down to her young children.

Makes 4 servings


  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter (or 3 ¾ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Diced white onion to taste (optional)
  • 2 dozen raw oysters, freshly shucked, or about 1 pint jarred oysters, drained
  • 2 cups skim or whole milk (can be adjusted to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon celery salt + more to taste
  • Ground white pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)


1. Melt butter in a large soup pot over low to medium heat (or, if using extra-virgin olive oil, heat the oil).

2. Add the onion; sauté until softened and translucent, taking care not to brown, about 8 minutes.

3. Add the fresh oysters. Cook until the edges of the oysters just begin to curl, 3 to 4 minutes. “Oysters don’t take long to cook, but you don’t want an overcooked, rubbery oyster,” Burnett said. “Just keep an eye on it.”

4. Gradually stir in small amounts of milk, then monitor the heat so the milk simmers, forming tiny bubbles only, and does not boil. If it boils, a coagulated film could form, and the stew might taste burnt.

5. Season to taste with celery salt and white pepper. Garnish with parsley, then serve.

Alisyn Camerota’s linguine in white clam sauce

Camerota shared a recipe that she said her Italian American family would cook as one component of the Feast of the Seven Fishes every Christmas Eve.

Makes 6 servings


  • Salt for pasta water
  • 1 pound linguine
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil + extra to add at the end, to taste
  • 6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 anchovy fillet (to deepen flavor)
  • 2 6.5-ounce cans minced clams in clam juice
  • 2 6.5-ounce cans chopped clams in clam juice
  • 1 6.5-ounce can whole clams
  • 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley + sprigs for garnish
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Ground black pepper, to taste


1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add linguine and cook until al dente, about 8 to 10 minutes. (Italian for “to the tooth,” al dente means pasta should be cooked enough to no longer be hard but have a slight resistance when you bite it.) Drain well.

2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large, deep skillet. Brown garlic in the oil over medium-high heat until garlic is golden, about 1 ½ minutes. Remove garlic (leaving the oil in the pan) and set aside.

3. In the same skillet, add red pepper flakes and clam juice from two of the cans. Simmer uncovered until the sauce has reduced, about 10 minutes. Dissolve anchovy into the sauce. Add the rest of the chopped and minced clams (without the remaining juice) and heat through.

4. Transfer pasta to a large serving platter. Pour the sauce over the pasta, then mix in the chopped parsley, lemon juice, pepper, whole clams (without juice) and, if using, more extra-virgin olive oil until ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.

5. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and the reserved golden garlic slices.

John Berman’s nachos

Not comfortable in the kitchen yet? Even the most novice cook can handle these nachos. No recipe required.

™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Madeline Holcombe, Sherry Liang and Kristen Rogers contributed to this story.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Health

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