It's that time of the year: holiday parties for two months, where you want to bring something nice but after the first couple of parties you just can't be bothered. You're running around, trying to go to your friends' parties to see them and have a good time with them while arranging your own holiday life, getting in fights with your parents, failing to find presents that your sisters will actually like, forgetting some of your friends when setting up your own party invitations, trying to get all of your work done while half of your coworkers are gone. It's no wonder that there's a popular urban legend that the suicide rate goes up because of winter holidays.
The best recipe for this time of year should be delicious, easy to make, quick to make, and require only ingredients that you've already got in your kitchen. Not surprisingly, such a recipe does not exist. The closest you can get are delicious recipes that are easy to make and which use common ingredients, ones that you can easily get at the grocery store. The good news is that this recipe meets all of those requirements, and gets better the longer it sits in the fridge.
This recipe works because it releases a lot of the sugar (sucrose) held in the apples and cranberries. The longer the apples sit with the cranberries, the more the tastes mingle, so the two-day old leftovers from this recipes will often taste better than the freshly made version.
You can also change things up quite easily in this recipe. I didn't have dried cranberries about half of the times that I made this crisp, so I just used more fresh cranberries instead. It came out fine. You can also add in other flavors easily - orange zest, lemon zest, nutmeg, etc. The one part of the recipe you don't want to change is the topping (the part that becomes crisp when you bake it).
I got this recipe from America's Test Kitchen: All-time Best Holiday Recipes, which was an impulse buy when I was stuck in a ludicrously long line in a Whole Foods. I don't know why the website says price: $9.95, on sale: $9.95. Maybe they are great at baking and terrible at arithmetic. All I can tell you is that this magazine is worth the money.
This crisp is a great party dish because it is easy to make and transport (just one baking dish), it has ingredients that are considered to be winter holiday fruits (apples + cranberries), and it's different from what most people bring (chocolate, gingerbread, or pumpkin pie). It's easy to serve and people are always impressed if you make fresh whipped cream to go along with it.