Thanksgiving is now in the memory books – it was a great one here at our house – and we’ve now moved on to readying ourselves for Christmas. The sheer amount of work Mike has going on right now (and my work schedule right up until Xmas) means we’re staying here in Atlanta now for the holiday. It was a tough thing to resign ourselves to but we’re making the most of it. Splurging on a tree and new decorations was easier now that we know we’ll be here to see it. A fresh fir wreath now adorns the door. We’re also menu planning for our dinner, where we’ll be having a few friends over for an intimate dinner. It’s another holiday change but we’re looking on the bright side of being in our home with the people here we care about.
I’ve been a fan of the Macy’s Culinary Council for some time – it’s been a treat to meet Marcus Samuelsson and Tyler Florence at events in the past. Recently, I received a copy of Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook, which is a collection of recipes for holiday celebrations from 13 Culinary Council Chefs like Marc Forgione, Rick Bayless and Todd English just to name a few. Frankly, I wish I had this book way before we planned our Thanksgiving menu – each grouping of recipes has something in it that I’ve wanted to make. It goes way beyond turkeys and hams (although Rick Bayless’ turkey recipe looks divine). There are breakfast items, seafood dishes (Todd English has a whole section of fish & shellfish recipes) and foods appropriate for a Hanukkah celebration.
Flipping through this book reminded me that the holiday season isn’t just two or three days. It’s about nourishing your friends and family throughout those weeks. Late breakfasts or weekend brunches. Open houses and luncheons with folks in from out of town. It’s also about the meals you eat in between times. Staying motivated to cook beyond all of the elaborate spreads and tablescapes. This book has recipes that will fit any holiday occasion. I’ve chosen two recipes to share with you here on the blog that are versatile enough to work with any sized gathering for a variety of occasions – a crisp, light, seasonal cocktail and a simple way to cook greens that you can make year-round.
As soon as I opened the book, my attention went straight to this recipe. During the holidays, we tend to get bombarded with super sweet cocktails at dinners and parties. There’s certainly a place for those but the seasonal & light notes in this drink had me at Honeycrisp. Spiced rum, apple cider and a bit of rosemary for garnish – it’s winter poured over ice. I’ve made this both with and without the simple syrup – if your apple cider is sweet enough, you might not need to add the extra sugar if you don’t want to. I like having a sliver of the apple with the skin on as garnish, as well. Who doesn’t like biting into the crisp rosemary-perfumed apple soaked in all that rum once the drink is done? The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can make non-alcoholic versions of this drink for those who don’t indulge. Just pour some cider over ice and garnish – they’ll look almost identical and your guests won’t feel out of place not taking part in the booze.
Honeycrisp Apple Spiced Rum - serves 6 – recipe by Marc Forgione originally found in the Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook
For the simple syrup: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and water over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. You should have about 3⁄4 cup syrup. Measure 6 tablespoons to use for the recipe; reserve the remainder in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a second batch of this cocktail or to sweeten other drinks. It will keep for up to several months in the refrigerator.
For the cocktail: Pour the apple cider into a measuring pitcher or other container with a spout. Peel the apple. Using a melon baller, scoop out 6 apple balls, being careful to avoid the core. Add the apple balls to the cider and reserve.
In a small pitcher, stir together the rum, the 6 tablespoons simple syrup, and the lemon juice. Fill 6 cocktail glasses with ice. Remove the apple balls from the cider and skewer each one onto the woody end of a rosemary sprig. Add 1 sprig to each glass. Pour the apple cider into the rum mixture and stir well. Then pour the rum-cider mixture over the ice in the glasses, dividing it evenly. Serve right away.
Greens of some sort are a staple of almost any dinner party we hold and certainly make their way onto the table at Christmas. They’re a healthy pop of green on what tends to be carb-heavy days. Greens are also a great way to make a filling side dish that doesn’t cost a lot – if you buy greens in a bunch and not prepared, they’re super affordable. They’re a blank canvas to flavor however you and your family like. While I make kale quite often, when I saw the lemon & garlic in Cat Cora’s recipe, I chose to cook with mustard greens. The tender leaves and slight bitterness of mustard greens went really well with the citrus and tang of the slivered garlic. Alongside a quiche and a glass of wine or light cocktail, this would be a wonderful lunch item. This recipe is going in my repertoire.
Sauteed Greens with Garlic and Meyer Lemons – serves 6 to 8 – recipe by Cat Cora found in the Macy’s Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook
– Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Add the greens and the 2 tablespoons salt. Bring the water back to a gentle boil, cover the pot partially, and cook until the greens are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Place a large colander in the sink. Drain the greens in the colander and let them sit to drain and cool for about 10 minutes. Once the greens are cool enough to handle, squeeze all the excess moisture from them with your hands. (The recipe can be completed up to this point several hours in advance. Set the greens aside at room temperature for up to 2 hours, or refrigerate if longer.)
– In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the greens and saute until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, add half of the lemon juice, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well. Taste again and adjust the seasoning with more lemon juice, salt, and pepper if needed. Transfer to a warmed serving bowl or platter and serve right away.
Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of the book and a gift card by BeEverywhere & The Macy’s Culinary Council. I was given creative license to talk about this book anyway I’d like & was not obligated to provide positive reviews. All opinions are 100% my own.