Eat like a Vanderbilt: 5 chef-created Biltmore Estate recipes

Mackensy Lunsford
Southern Kitchen

If you were a guest for Thanksgiving dinner in 1904 at the gilded Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, Edith and George Vanderbilt, the home's immensely wealthy owners, would have shown you the royal treatment.

“Dinner at the turn of the last century was an important form of social interaction,” Darren Poupore, Biltmore’s chief curator, told Southern Kitchen. “A dinner party was an opportunity to see and be seen and to practice the art of conversation."

A 1904 menu book, which recorded a lot of what the Vanderbilts ate that year, shows the family enjoyed sumptuous holiday feasts including oysters, consommé royale, Spanish mackerel, and even calves' brains with mushroom sauce and a fashionable salad of celery served with Virginia ham.

Biltmore chefs serve guests a more updated slate of holiday dishes. Here, the estate has offered an array of chef-developed recipes to help you entertain like a Vanderbilt, no calves' brains required. It's based on history, but thoroughly modern.

Oven Roasted Turkey

Brined and roasted turkey

Executive Chef Sean Eckman of the 4-star Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate created this updated turkey recipe based on a holiday dish the Vanderbilts often enjoyed. A brine time of up to 24 hours makes this bird extra succulent.

Preparation time: 8 hours

Cooking Time: 4 hours 30 minutes


1 18–20 pound turkey


  • 2 gallons water
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • 12 cloves fresh garlic
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme

Roasting ingredients

  • 1 brined turkey
  • 1 stick unsalted butter melted
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Butcher’s twine


Brine method: You will need a heavy-duty plastic brining bag and an ice chest large enough to hold a 20-pound turkey.

In a four-quart saucepot, combine 2 quarts of water, vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns, red pepper, mustard seeds and fennel. Simmer the brine for 5 minutes, making sure that salt and sugar have dissolved, and then let cool to room temperature.

Crush garlic cloves.

Fill quarter of ice chest with ice. Place turkey in bag, along with cooled salt-water mixture, crushed garlic, thyme, and remaining water. Tie securely and cover with as much ice as cooler will hold, packing around sides and top. Let brine overnight and up to 24 hours.

Roasting method: You will need butcher’s twine and a roasting rack.

Preheat oven to 375. Prepare a roasting pan and roasting rack. Remove turkey from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and place in a roasting pan, breast side up.

Let stand at room temperature 45-60 minutes. Brush all over with butter and season liberally with salt and pepper, including inside the cavity. Tuck wings under turkey and tie legs together with twine.

Cook 2 ½-3 hours, basting every 30 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh is 165.

Let rest 30 minutes before carving.

These roasted sweet potatoes with cranberries and pumpkin seeds are the quintessential holiday side.

Roasted sweet potatoes with cranberries and pumpkin seeds

Eckman also based this holiday side on a traditional dish Biltmore Estate guests enjoyed.

Serves 4-6


  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat the oven to 450. Peel and dice the sweet potato into 1/2 inch pieces. Then lay them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss the sweet potatoes, spread them out, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tender, but crispy.

Meanwhile, place the remaining oil and the butter in a skillet and set over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic and sage. Sauté for one minute, then add the pumpkin seeds and cranberries and sauté another minute.

Stir in the roasted sweet potatoes, then add the chicken stock. Stir gently to coat and remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Brown butter-pancetta green beans

Green beans pair beautifully with nutty almond brown butter.

This delicious Biltmore-developed side dish will make your holiday meal a stand-out affair.

Servings: 4-6


  • 1¼ pounds thin green beans such as haricots verts
  • 1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt


Trim any stems from the ends of the green beans. Crush hazelnuts with the side of a knife or rolling pin and reserve. Set a six-quart pot filled with water over high heat, and bring to a boil. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.

Dice pancetta into 1/4-inch pieces and cook until crisp on the outside but still tender on the inside, about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove cooked pancetta, and add butter to same skillet. Cook butter over medium heat until it becomes light brown, about 30 seconds, and turn off the heat.

Salt boiling water to taste, and cook green beans until tender, about 2 minutes for haricots verts. Remove cooked green beans from the water, and add to skillet with browned butter along with remaining ingredients. Toss well to coat green beans, and season to taste with salt.

Peanut butter Yule log

A peanut butter Yule log from the Biltmore Estate.

Inspired by the traditional French bûche de Noël, or Yule log, Biltmore Pastry Chef Aaron Morgan developed this rich confection, iced with elegant Italian buttercream that resembles freshly fallen snow.

Once the cake is assembled, branch out with decorative elements such as marzipan mushrooms, sugared berries, and fresh herbs that help make your yule log the highlight of any holiday or winter-themed gathering.

Tip: Don’t worry if your Yule log isn’t as smooth as you’d like — the snowy Italian buttercream frosting and decorations help cover any imperfections.


For the biscuit roulade:

  • 3 whole large eggs
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large egg whites
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting and shaping

For the peanut butter filling:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup heavy cream

For the Italian buttercream:

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, softened and cut into ½-inch pieces

For decoration (optional):

  • Marzipan mushrooms
  • Cocoa powder
  • Chocolate Florentine lace cookies
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Fresh or sugared cranberries


First, make the biscuit roulade: Heat the oven to 350. Spray the bottom and sides of a half-sheet pan (approximately 18x13x1 inches) with cooking spray; line the bottom with parchment paper, then spray the parchment with cooking spray. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the whisk attachment, beat whole eggs, egg yolks and 1 cup granulated sugar on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes until the mixture reaches the “ribbon stage,” or turns thick, pale, foamy and forms ribbons in the batter when the whisk is lifted. Fold in flour until just combined.

In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat 3 egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the egg-flour mixture until just combined.

Pour and spread the batter into the prepared sheet pan. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 14 to 16 minutes or until the cake is just baked through and lightly golden.

Sprinkle the top of the hot cake generously with powdered sugar (this will help to keep the cake from sticking). Run a paring knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the edges of the sheet pan. Top the cake with a light, clean kitchen towel and a large cutting board. Carefully but quickly, invert the cake onto the towel/cutting board. Remove the sheet pan and parchment paper from the cake.

Starting from one short end, tightly roll up the warm cake in the towel. Transfer to a cutting board, small sheet pan or large plate, seam-side-down. Set aside to cool completely, about 2 hours (you can refrigerate the cake to speed up the cooling process, if desired).

Meanwhile, make the peanut butter filling: In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar on medium speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Beat in the peanut butter, melted butter and vanilla extract on medium speed for 1 minute or until well-combined and smooth, scraping the sides often.

In a separate large bowl using an electric hand mixer, beat heavy cream on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the heavy cream into the cream cheese-peanut butter mixture until just combined.

Assemble the cake: On a clean work surface, carefully unroll the fully cooled cake. Spread peanut butter filling evenly over the top of the cake all the way to the edges. Reroll the cake and return to the cutting board/sheet pan; cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 1 hour to set the cake.

Meanwhile, make the Italian buttercream: In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stir 2 cups granulated sugar, water and corn syrup to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer reads 245°F to 250°F when inserted into the mixture.

While the sugar mixture cooks, in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat 5 egg whites on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.

With the stand mixer still running on medium-high speed, carefully and slowly pour hot sugar mixture into the egg whites. Continue to whip the mixture for 10 to 15 minutes or until it is fully cooled and turns to a light, fluffy, glossy meringue.

With the stand mixer still running on medium-high speed, add softened butter, one piece at a time, beating until the butter is fully incorporated and a light, fluffy, smooth frosting forms. If the frosting is too thin, cover and refrigerate until more firm.

Finally, assemble the cake: Use a sharp knife to cut one end of the chilled cake on an angle a few inches from the end; arrange the cut piece on one side of the cake to form a “branch.” Slice off the very end of the branch for a clean edge, if desired. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the buttercream (you might not use all of the buttercream); use an offset spatula to texture the sides, as desired.

Decorate and garnish the cake with marzipan mushrooms, Florentine lace cookies, cocoa powder, etc. as desired. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Biltmore's spiced wassail

This wassail is perfect for cold holiday nights.

Wassail is a traditional warm holiday punch that's seen many variations through the years. The name means "be in good health." In the Christmas carol "The Wassail Song," the "wassail" refers to good wishes, not to the beverage. But tradition has it that carolers might hope to be rewarded with a bowl of wassail for their efforts.

This recipe, provided by the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, can help you knock off winter’s chill. It features Biltmore Estate's Wassail Spice Blend and Biltmore red wine, but you can substitute other brands. This recipe is for one cocktail, so batch as needed.


  • 3 ounces of red wine (Biltmore Estate Limited Release Merlot is a perfect choice)
  • 2 ounces water
  • 2 teaspoons Biltmore Wassail Spice Blend, or other wassail spice
  • ¾ ounces Hudson bourbon (or your preference)
  • ¼ ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 dash walnut bitters
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • Diced apples, sliced oranges, whole cloves, star anise (optional)
  • Cinnamon stick (optional for stirring)


Combine wine and water in a pot and heat. Just before the mixture reaches a boil, remove from heat and add wassail spice blend, stirring until dissolved.

Pour mixture into a coffee mug. Add bourbon, lemon juice, and bitters; use the teaspoon of honey to stir and blend the beverage while infusing the flavors. Add diced apples, sliced oranges, whole cloves, and star anise if you like. You can even let folks stir it with a cinnamon stick.