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Holiday Recipes & Tips from TLU Celebrity Chef Ernest Servantes

November 14, 2017


If Grill Master Ernest Servantes has learned anything throughout his award-winning career, it’s that you don’t ever give your grandma competition in the kitchen—especially during Thanksgiving. The Food Network “Chopped” champion, and star of Discovery America’s “BBQ Pitmasters,” said he leaves the turkey to his beloved abuela. In true Chef Ernie form, he prefers a 12-pound pit ham to be the star of his Thanksgiving feast.

His famous bourbon-glazed ham will take your holiday dining experience to another level. So if you’re looking to switch things up a bit, serve this pork perfection alongside his twists on sweet potato casserole and cornbread stuffing.

Chef Ernie’s Bourbon-Glazed Ham


10 to 12-pound pit ham

36 oz of your favorite root beer (Chef prefers IBC)

16 oz of light brown sugar

1 cup good bourbon

A fresh squeeze of orange

Additional Items

Roasting pan

2-quart saucepan


Cooking Directions

Heat oven to 350°. Score ham and place in a roasting pan. Pour five ounces of root beer over the ham. Reserve remaining root beer for later. Pack brown on top of the ham, making sure to get inside all of the scored grooves. Cook for 30 minutes.

While the ham is cooking, combine the remaining root beer, the bourbon, and the juice of one orange in the 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a medium simmer and reduce to low heat. Once the sauce is done, baste the ham every 15 minutes for about 2 ½ hours. Look for excess juices at the bottom of the pan and keep basting until very little remains. Remove from oven and serve.

Chef Ernie Tip: Save the remaining juices from the ham and use it as gravy for your other turkey, mashed potatoes, etc.

Cornbread Stuffing with (or without) Sweetbreads

FYI: Sweetbreads are calf and lamb glands, usually the thymus and pancreas. You usually find them at your local grocery store’s meat counter or at a butcher’s shop.

Recipe can be halved or doubled


2 lbs Sweetbreads (omit if they aren’t your sort of thing)

1 yellow onion

2 boxes Stove Top Stuffing

2 poblano peppers

2 ears of corn (roasted)

2 hard-boiled eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

FYI: Chef Ernie cooks his sweetbreads in a smoker a day before making the stuffing, but he says pan-frying them works as well.If using sweetbreads, season them with salt and pepper and fry them in a pan with a little bit of oil until they are gold and crispy the day before making the stuffing.

Heat oven to 350°. Chop up onion and add to a medium-sized pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil or butter (Chef Ernie uses bacon grease) and let the onions caramelize on low heat, stirring occasionally. While the onions cook, make stuffing in separate pan exactly as according to the box. Set aside.

Chop up poblano peppers. Remove corn kernels from cobs by carefully slicing down the sides of the cob. Add peppers and corn to the onions, sautéing them all together until onions are fully caramelized. If using sweetbreads, put them in. Add mixture to stuffing, making sure everything is combined. Put everything in a greased, 13x9-inch pan. Cook for 10 minutes or until the top becomes a bit crispy. Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Chef Ernie Tip: Incorporate boxed ingredients into recipes to save time. You can always add other ingredients to bump the dish up a notch.

Sweet Potato Casserole


2 large cans of sweet potatoes or yams (drained)

2 sticks of unsalted butter

¼ cup light brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

1/8 tsp salt

2 cups marshmallows

Additional Items

Large saucepan

13x9 Pyrex baking dish, greased

Cooking Directions

Heat oven to 325°. Dice sweet potatoes. In the saucepan, combine sweet potatoes, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, bananas, and salt. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Stir several times before pouring into Pyrex dish. Cover mixture with marshmallows. Cook until marshmallows are golden brown.

Chef Ernie Tip: Marshmallows can burn quickly, so make sure you keep an eye on the casserole as it cooks. Adding festive marshmallows in different colors, or even Peeps, can make for a fun addition to the dish.