What happens when you get back from the butcher (the Organic Butcher of McLean, that is) with five pounds of bone-in short ribs at nearly 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve? You don’t eat dinner until nearly 8 p.m., not such a good idea when kids under 5 years old are invited to the party.

So you get some heavy snacks on the table by 4 p.m., leftover latke batter is fried up fresh, served with a yogurt-cream cheese spread and a bit of lox decorated in everything-bagel seeds, then there’s: special occasion cheese, like a French triple cream, saucisson sec, castelvetrano olives, buttery crackers, heartier crackers, chilly albarino and ice-cold martinis.

Dinner is courtesy of weeks of cookbook flipping, a favorite activity now that I can actually cook at home and not be out more nights than not at restaurants.

“Most cookbooks fall into one of two categories: the aspirational and the useful, those that are flipped through on lazy Sundays, then returned to the top shelf, and those that live a dog-eared life on the counter,” writes Margaux Laskey in the New York Times.

“With Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, Ashley Christensen has written the rare cookbook that begs to be labeled as both.”

Christensen’s short ribs recipe is simple to follow and execute: roast the salt-and-peppered meat in a 475-degree oven for 20 minutes, then lower the oven and let the meat sink into a pan filled with red wine, thyme, rosemary and a whole head of garlic for the next four or so hours.

The resulting meat is lovely as is the winey sauce that crept over a mound of Woodson’s Mill Heirloom Bloody Butcher Grits (it gets its name from Virginia-grown red corn) and a side of turmeric-cumin, hot-and-quick roasted carrots, which cooked in the oven while the meat rested and we set the table. The top of the carrots became the base of a bright green sauce buzzed with tahini and swirled into Greek yogurt. (I refuse to acknowledge my failed attempt at searing half a cabbage, basted in butter on the cast iron.)

Dessert was an attempt at the jiggly Japanese cheesecake, though it was delicious, light and tangy, it never achieved that airy texture.

The star of the holiday food was the next morning’s doughnut holes. The batter comes together in minutes and the only tricky part is getting the holes small enough and keeping the oil high enough to cook the dough through without too much browning.

I’m thinking of making these again for New Year’s Day, gotta keep practicing the technique, right?

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