Reinvigorating the Holiday Feast

Chef Bradley Ogden

Fellow Midwesterner and award-winning chef Bradley Ogden possesses a well developed social muscle that he exercises in his new cookbook Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden: 150 Festive Recipes to Bring Family & Friends Together. This pretty yet practical book, written with Lydia Scott and photographed by the talented Jeremy Ball, takes a friendly approach to holiday meals celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Focused on relationships, holiday traditions, beauty and flavor, this attractive cookbook foregrounds the communal pleasures of a well-constructed feast for dozens of friends and relatives or an intimate holiday dinner for two. Long on advice for getting the most out of the holiday feast experience, Chef Bradley’s newest book lends a gourmet hand with unique ingredients and methods for producing a memorable meal for these winter holidays.

Michigan Roots of a Gourmet Palate

Click to enlarge

Chef Bradley was born in Traverse City, Michigan and grew up with easy access to local Rainbow Trout, foraged wild mushrooms, and a variety of fresh local produce. “Food and I go way back,” he says as he describes this ideal setting that inspired him to make a career creating artistic dishes with organic, wild, and flavorful ingredients. “There is no exception to my love of all things fresh from the farm,” he writes in the introduction to Holiday Dinners. Although he now lives in the Central Coast and enjoys our year-round bounty from farmers markets and foragers, Chef Bradley first honed his earliest culinary skills with the freshest seasonal foods available to him from his grandmother’s Ontario farm and the natural landscape surrounding his family’s Michigan home. By being open to flavor, texture, and freshness, he soon began to develop his “special talent for food.”

Roasted Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

Growing up in Ohio, I had many opportunities to travel with my family on summer weekend trips to the very green, heavily forested state of Michigan to the north with its enormous sand dunes on the western shore. My Michigan memories recall summertime car camping and hiking with my parents who were in the early stages of what would turn out to be a full-fledged obsession with birdwatching. Michigan’s spring and fall seasons featured many species of migrating birds and even the occasional endangered species (Kirtland’s Warbler) which they gleefully scored for their life bird lists. This ability of Michigan to harbor so much more wildlife and wild landscape than my own southwestern Ohio neighborhood struck me both then and now. I will always remember Michigan for its intense green foliage and healthier balance of wild to tamed landscapes than my suburbanized corner of the Midwest. Although I don’t remember much memorable food from those Michigan vacations, Chef Bradley’s new book makes me wish we had stopped by his house for dinner on one of our many visits.

Holiday Dinners, in Real Time

Crispy Flounder with Cara Cara Orange Sauce and Lump Crab

Featuring luscious photographs of real food that Jeremy shot for only 5 to 10 minutes each over the course of 5 days of marathon cooking, Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden provides a lens to view food prepared for eating not shellacked and designed to patiently and perfectly outlast the many hours of a standard food photo shoot. “We shot over 5,300 photos in 5 days, our own version of a quick fire challenge,” remembers Jeremy, still sounding a little boggled by the feat. “The only rest was a moment to taste what we just shot!”

Tucked into the pages of this approachable cookbook are tips and notes to help with extra-feasting decisions such as choosing a good wine for the meal and setting the holiday table as well as sustaining and initiating new traditions. Chef even includes hangover remedies in the New Year’s Day feast section. Many recipes include a simple wine pairing to point celebrants in the right direction, should there be any question about how to best pair wines to these dishes. Feast preparation tactics fill the pages between the traditional yet fresh recipes Chef Bradley has included here to help “reinvigorate the holiday feast,” his stated goal for the book. Among familiar recipes such as persimmon bread made with bourbon and a sage-butter roasted turkey, he includes unique dishes such as twice-baked blue cheese soufflés with citrus-fennel salad honed in an array of restaurants he founded across the west such as Root 246 in Solvang and One Market Restaurant in San Francisco.

Sweet Potato Gratin

A degree of idealism about the holidays nests in the pages of Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden and might make you wish your family were a bit easier to take. Whether you find yourself celebrating with or without a pack of family members over the holidays, Chef Bradley offers a number of menus for these parties in each holiday section, including a traditional and a “something different” menu for the feast as well as an intimate dinner for two and a grilling menu, among others. And, if you have the good fortune to be a guest at someone else’s party, he also includes a selection of recipes that make excellent edible gifts. Chef Bradley’s enthusiasm for demonstrating a generosity through food comes through on every page of his newest cookbook and invites you to select several dishes to push the edge of your cooking while creating a memorable holiday meal for the ones you love.

Holiday Dinners with Bradley Ogden: 150 Festive Recipes to Bring Family and Friends Together is available at the following Central Coast bookstores ~


Chef Bradley and photographer Jeremy Ball, getting it right

photos: Jeremy Ball of Bottle Branding

You may also like...