This holiday season, with help from renowned chef Bradley Ogden, you can give your menu a little more dazzle. His new cookbook, Holiday Dinners With Bradley Ogden (Running Press, $30), shares with home cooks his recipes and techniques for holiday favorites. “I’ve been cooking holiday meals for years, mostly in restaurants,” Ogden says, “and these were special events not only in others’ lives, but in my own life as well.”
After graduating with honors from the Culinary Institute of America, the eventual James Beard Foundation award-winner found that his family and friends returned every year to the restaurants where he was preparing the holiday meal. “I would go in, help get everything together and, in the late afternoon, sit with family and friends—all 500 of them! And they would do it on a yearly basis. I’ve always thought of these holidays as family coming into my home even though I’d be in the restaurant.”
The beautifully photographed cookbook focuses on the three big overindulgent holidays of the year: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. More than 150 of Ogden’s personal recipes are detailed, many of them with ingredients derived from his Midwestern upbringing, a nod to his lifelong commitment to sustainable, farm-to-table cooking. Dishes range from the must-haves, such as cranberry jelly (which he actually prepared himself this past Thanksgiving) to elegant Christmas bites such as foie gras poppers, and New Year’s Day prosperity dishes such as black-eyed peas with smoked bacon and spinach.
What sets this cookbook apart from so many others is that it guides home cooks through holiday festivities. Readers will find planned menus for an intimate dinner for two and a traditional spread for a large gathering, in addition to preparation timelines to ensure everything gets on the table at the same time and with ease. Ogden’s menu and forte has for so long been American cuisine that “I actually cook it, breathe it, live it,” he says. This book assembles “three decades of my recipes as well as a lot of my own nuances.” Yet he urges readers that dishes in his book can be prepared year-round, for no special occasion at all. The dishes have been tested and written for the home cook, with ingredients available at most grocery stores.
2012 promises to be another busy year for Ogden. His menu at Caesars Palace has made the transformation to Bradley Ogden Steak & Seafood, where you can sample some dishes featured in the book, such as the twice-baked Maytag blue cheese soufflé, and a roasted rack of pork. Ogden himself will be spending a lot of time on projects in his Bay Area home base, including a new restaurant and a cooking school, which will also involve a camp environment for kids.
But for now, Ogden continues on his book tour and making appearances at food and wine festivals around the country. And after indulging in this whirlwind holiday season, he’ll be participating in his own New Year’s Day tradition of a pot of steak chili with black beans, a seemingly low-key start to 2012. “I usually make that,” he says, “and have a bunch of people over and watch football.”