If ever there was a foodie holiday, this is it.
Most people in the United States right now are busily preparing their feasts. But not me. Whats this, you say? I claim to be a foodie and I’m not cooking a Thanksgiving feast?
Nope. Not today anyway. My husband works today, and for the last ten years has worked every Thanksgiving (save one or two, I think). The line of work that he is in requires him to be there on this day, as it is one of the busiest days of the year for the company.
So, we generally postpone the holiday until it’s convenient for everyone in our household. Which is just fine with me. To me, Thanksgiving is more about gathering with those you love: family. It doesn’t really matter which day you choose to serve the turkey and all the trimmings, does it?
But this IS a foodie blog and Thanksgiving is a foodie holiday, so I thought it would be appropriate if I share with you one of my favorite holiday recipes. In my opinion, it’s the one overlooked dish on the plate: the cranberry sauce.
While growing up, the cranberry sauce was so overlooked that we were served that jelly stuff out of the can, sliced haphazardly using the markings from the can to cut the slices, which were still imparted on the can shaped, jiggling ruby-red jelly. I’m sorry, that stuff is alright if you’re a kid, but, one of the first things that I changed about my own Thanksgiving when I became an adult is the cranberry sauce, because… gross. Just… gross.
Now, I am not one to go and get a bag of fresh cranberries and cook them down. I wish I were, but, on Thanksgiving, there’s a lot of stuff to do, and that much work is not something I want to pile onto the list. So I do utilize the can, but I use the canned whole cranberries instead of that jelly stuff.
Here’s a basic recipe, keep in mind that when I cook I do it primarily by eye and taste, not so much by measuring:
- 1 can of cranberries (whole cranberry sauce)
- canned pears
- 1 orange
- Dried Cranberries (I usually use Craisins, because I they’re my new raisins, I use them all the time)
- Loose Leaf Chai (your favorite brand, I think that a black tea or spice only blend works best in this recipe. If you only have teabags, use 2 teabags instead of 1 for this recipe)
- Nutmeg (freshly ground)
Start by steeping the chai tea strong. If you generally use 1 1/2 teaspoons of loose leaf chai to make a cup of chai, use 3 teaspoons. Steep 1 cup of the chai using boiling water and steep for 3 – 4 minutes. Add a handful of dried cranberries to a bowl and strain the chai over the cranberries. Set the bowl aside.
Open the can of cranberries and put in a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat until it comes to a simmer. In the meantime, slice the pears into small chunks (I generally use the equivalent of 1 1/2 pears in this compote. You can use more or less according to your own preference), and zest the orange.
Once the cranberries are brought to a simmer, add the chunks of pear and about 3/4 teaspoon of orange zest. I don’t measure the orange zest. I just eyeball it, and this is an estimate of how much I add. Then cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice and pulp (no seeds, please!) into the sauce. Stir.
Now add the dried cranberries which have reconstituted slightly in the chai. Pour off the excess chai (don’t discard it though), and add the cranberries. By this time, it’s probably getting a little thick and could use a little liquid. Add the remaining chai by tablespoons until it is a little liquid-y (as it will continue to reduce down a bit), but not too much. I generally find about 3 tablespoons is about right. Just remember that you can always add a little bit more, but you can’t take it away once its in there, so add it slowly until you reach the ideal amount of liquid.
Allow to continue to simmer and reduce down a bit. Once you reach a pleasing consistency, remove from the heat and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top and stir it in. Then I put it in the fridge to cool because my family prefers it served as a chilled salad, but, it is also quite nice served warm.
This is my absolute favorite way to serve cranberries, and while cranberries aren’t as popular with the rest of my family as they are with me, my family actually eats them when prepared this way (they don’t like the cranberry sauce as is). It also tastes great on leftover turkey sandwiches the next day.