Chef Jennilee Morris has her hands full year-round. She is the executive chef and co-owner of Grace & Grit catering and the North Fork Roasting Co., which has a coffee shop in Southold. Morris reflects on the holiday season, her favorite traditions and talks about what it’s like to be part of a foodie family.
Share some of your favorite holiday food traditions from growing up, and from your family today.
My family has always come together on Christmas Eve and enjoyed sharing baked clams, linguini and lobsters. My mother’s side of the family has a lineage of caterers, so it’s quite the lineup when we get together for “dinner service!” My uncle, cousins and I are like a little symphony, plating the food for the rest of the family. I always enjoy this time of togetherness and holiday tradition.
What is the one food or dish that defines the holiday season for you?
My mother’s rice pudding. The secret to it…her patience. She sits and slowly stirs it for the full 30 minutes per batch. There are no shortcuts that can replace that magic.
What aspects define your idea of the perfect holiday celebration?
Some classical holiday music, something simmering on the stove, relaxing with your loved ones and enjoying a laid-back approach to sharing a meal together.
What do you love about the cooler-weather seasons and the holiday time of year here on the East End?
I love all of the locals I get to see at our coffee shop. We get the fire going and finally get to have real conversations now that the busyness of summer is behind us. It’s a time to dream of what’s next and re-energize.
What is your favorite holiday movie or TV special, and why?
I just saw for the first time—It’s a Wonderful Life—and it instantly became my favorite holiday movie. I felt so inspired to watch [George Bailey’s] journey to despair and back and to realize the ripple effect of goodness that we all have the ability to put into this world.
What is the best kind of holiday cookie?
Sugar cookies, warm from the oven.
You have a glass of your favorite wine in-hand. What is your toast for the holiday season and the new year?
Cheers to remembering that we all truly have everything we need.