Who says you have to stick to tradition for holiday meals? Jazz up your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners with the following five-star recipes from Chef Blake Jackson with Drake Catering.

Pumpkin & Shrimp Soup


In a world that appreciates pumpkin everything, we made the perfect pumpkin dish to serve in the fall. Thyme and cayenne take this soup to the next level. Not only is this great when hosting guests, but also it’s a perfect dish for a quiet, chilly night with a loved one.

Feeds 4

1 butternut squash
3 teaspoons all purpose Cajun seasoning (with salt)
Olive oil
1 can pumpkin
3 cups veggie stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1 pound 31-35 shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pint cream

  1. Peel and cube squash. Season with 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast at 400°F for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
  2. In a food processor, combine pumpkin, squash and stock. Puree until smooth. In a short pot, melt butter. Add thyme. Season shrimp with 1 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning. Sauté until pink.
  3. Add contents of food processor to pot, stir in cayenne, followed by cream until desired thickness. Stir and heat on medium until everything comes together.

Five Spice Pork Tenderloins


Asian flavors have always been one of my biggest influences. The aromatics in Chinese Five Spice seasoning are a real testament to the exotic and impacting flavor that can change a dish from zero to hero. Pickled veggies as a garnish add an awesome pop of acidity and color. I love to serve this dish with oven roasted garlic sweet potatoes.

Feeds 6

½ cup soy sauce
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 pork tenderloins
4 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice
Pickled carrots and daikon radish*

  1. At least four hours before cooking: combine soy, honey and oil. Whisk vigorously until mixed. Put liquid and pork into a plastic bag and seal. Refrigerate.
  2. After marinating, remove pork from liquid. Let marinade drain off. Place the pork in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle five spice to coat pork. Roast at 375° F for 25-30 minutes, or until firm. Pork should be cooked to 145-160°F internally.
  3. Slice, garnish with pickled carrot and radish.

*To pickle at home, slice the carrot and radish; let soak in 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons salt and ¼ cup sugar. Soak 4-6 hours.

Bacon Goat Cheese Ravioli


Bacon and goat cheese. I don’t know of a combination more meant to be. Savory, salty and a bit sour. Add in some jalapeño heat and honey sweet — you’ve got yourself a well-rounded flavor profile. This dish is served in a caramelized onion butter, which adds a perfectly light touch to a heavy hitting ravioli. If you are looking to impress somebody, this is a home run.

Feeds 2

16 wonton wrappers
2 eggs
Flour or cornmeal


1 (6 ounce) log goat cheese
4 strips bacon, cooked, drained and chopped
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup grated Parmesan (plus extra for garnish)
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper


1 stick butter
1 white onion, minced
1 shallot, minced

  1. Fold together ingredients for stuffing in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Lay out 8 wonton wrappers on a floured (can use cornmeal) working surface. Place a dollop of the stuffing mix in to the center of each wonton. Leave ¾ inch on each side to allow sealing.
  3. Beat two eggs to create egg wash. Brush egg wash along all exposed edges. Take remaining eight wontons and place on top of each stuffing. Pinch edges together and set in refrigerator for a few minutes to help seal, creating raviolis.
  4. Boil raviolis shortly in salted water. Raviolis are normally ready when they have all floated to the top.

For Sauce: Allow skillet to get hot. Add ½ stick butter. Once melted, add onion and shallot and reduce to medium heat. Continue to stir until onion and shallot have started to caramelize. Add remaining butter and turn up the heat. Add cooked raviolis to sauce and heat together.

Serve and garnish with more grated parmesan.

Pepper Jelly Barbecue Sauce

Everyone has a favorite sauce in the grillin’ game. And I could see this as a heavy hitter on anyone’s list of favorites. Finishing off a whole smoked or char-grilled chicken, or even serving next to a whole grain mustard on a sausage board — this is a well rounded BBQ sauce that even a pit master would be proud of.

1 (6 ounce) jar of pepper jelly
1 cup favorite ketchup
2 heaping tablespoons roasted garlic
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cane syrup
¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Mix all ingredients over low heat in a sauce pot. Cook down until combined and melted together.

A Wisconsin Flip


Okay, okay. So I have always been skeptical of how folks north of the Mason Dixon Line eat crazy things together. I’m just right at home with the weird combos of the South that I know make sense — chicken and waffles. But our northern neighbors did something oddly amazing: Cheddar and Apple Pie. This turnover addition is a guaranteed hit when the leaves fall.

Feeds 4

For Stuffing:

¼ cup sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ shredded sharp white cheddar
4 medium sized red apples, peeled & chopped into small pieces

For Pastry:

1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon sugar mix

  1. Combine first three stuffing ingredients in a bowl. Add apples and toss to coat.
  2. Unfold pastry dough on a floured surface, and cut large sheet in to 4 squares. Add mix in center of each square. Top each mix with shredded white cheddar. Fold over.
  3. Place on non-greased baking sheet. Brush top of each with butter. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top. Bake at 400° F for 12-16 minutes depending on oven and desired brownness.