Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden is not our chosen cookbook this week for the obvious holiday reasons, though that green bean and persimmon salad (with basil) in the first "Thanksgiving Fest" section actually did cause us to reconsider Thursday's family appetizer for a moment.
But these holiday recipes somehow have that "special" (did we just use that word?) occasion flair that's actually perfectly seasoned -- meaning nothing frumpy or over-dressed, each recipe with enough interest to consider for that memorable but unfussy holiday table. No, really. You know, real life, despite the made-for-TV photos.
Which is to say, if you need last-minute recipe fodder that is truly fodder, not roundups of "the all-time best" (according to whom?) mashed potatoes, you'll find it in the Thanksgiving third of the book.
Ogden gives recipes for corn and shrimp fritters as an appetizer, a light endive salad with tangerines and kumquats to start the sit-down affair, roasted broccoli rabe with fennel and oranges for a roasted turkey side (or sure, to go with wood-grilled turkey chop with wild mushroom gravy, p. 47), an apple pie with sour cream (!) pie crust, 3-layer chiffon pumpkin pie and persimmon-walnut upside down cake. No gold caramel strings attached: just honest cooking.
Is this a holiday book? Sort of. If already having thumbed every few pages for our future weeknight (fine, Saturday) December dinner tastings makes it everyday "holiday" Parmesan crackers with red onions, leftover turkey hash, cranberry scones with orange glaze and celery root and pear purée appropriate, sure.
We could go on to tell you about the "Christmas Dinner" and "New Year's Day Celebration" recipes in the other half the book. Instead, what we can't leave out is that final chapter, more of an epilogue called "A Special Note about Warm Weather Holidays."
That Ogden included a note about West Coast sunny weather, and that grilled apricot and goat cheese salad mentality to go along with it, well, we say thank you.
To that end, let's not forget our friends who aren't as into that Burgundy as we are. And so we raise an apple-cranberry-ginger glass... you know the rest.
Apple Juice with Cranberry and Ginger
From: Holiday Dinners With Bradley Ogden
Serves: 4 to 6
1 Granny Smith apple
12 whole cloves
6 cups apple juice
1 12-ounce package fresh cranberries
1/3 piece fresh ginger, cut in half
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lemon balm, plus additional for garnish (or mint)
2 lemons, 1 thinly sliced, 1 for garnish
1. Stud apple with cloves.
2. In a large saucepan over high heat, combine all ingredients except garnishes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Pour the liquid in a fine mesh sieve into a large pitcher. Serve hot in glass mug garnished with a lemon twist and a sprig of lemon balm or mint.