In a parody about Thanksgiving cranberry sauce (I posted it to Facebook), one line about the notorious, obligatory, sweet n’ tangy side dish got stuck in my head; it was the cranberry sauce saying: “ I’ve got feelings, I’m scrumptious, and I deserve more.”You know what, cranberry sauce? I couldn’t agree more. I know that a lot of people remember sad little cans of the stuff served in the Thanksgivings of their childhood—even then it wasn’t terrible, but I’m here to tell you it can be infinitely more than just OK. If anything, cranberry sauce is the perfect palate for early winter fruits, spices and late autumnal flavors—pomegranate, maple soaked, cinnamon flavored notes that can hit the palate just right…that is, if you’re willing to prepare your cranberry sauce with love.
Everyone familiar with my entertaining style knows that, whenever possible, I like to make up food in advance. Cranberry sauce is something you can check off your to-do list as early as 2 weeks ahead of Thanksgiving. Your typical recipe for it yields so much ruby-colored sauce that you’re well advised to divide up half of it, seal it for the freezer, and enjoy the rest at Christmas dinner. It’s great for so much more than taking up that reserved, compartmentalized space on your plate, near the mashed potatoes. When you futz around with the recipe, thinking of last minute thickening agents like molasses and orange segments, you can dial up cranberry sauce’s texture to be a relish or a chutney, great for slathering over sandwiches, or serving atop a cracker with melted goat cheese.I produced a saucy version when I made it this week, and enjoyed my cranberry sauce a number of ways. I whipped up a Cherry Crumble Cake from Sunday Best Dishes and used it as a sweet cranberry syrup over the top. I mixed a half cup of it with champagne in a punchbowl (YUM!). I even whisked a little red wine vinegar in, at one point, and made a vinaigrette for a strawberry and chicken salad. I’m telling you, it’s a very versatile side dish and prompted me to look at how different celebrity chefs make their’s. The Pioneer Woman basically reduces cranberries with pure maple syrup and a little cinnamon; that’s all. Alton Brown likes to blow through a lot of oranges, and Martha Stewart sets her’s apart by featuring the seasonal freshness of pomegranate seeds in (one of many) her version. Some famous chefs call it a day with the simplistic approach of using just cranberries and red currant jelly—it’s a delicious result that may be simple, but beats emptying a can with the ridges still showing on the sides of the cranberry sauce, am I right?
The cranberry sauce recipe, I’m featuring in today’s blog was done with lots of refreshing citrus zest; the maple syrup I swear by in a pancake recipe from Sunday Best, and a fair amount of lovely green Anjou pears because they are a staple for me this time of year. I also used a splash of dry red wine, which “classes up” cranberry sauce like nobody’s business. My results were sweet and tangy enough that I’m upgrading the dish I typically use for cranberries this Thanksgiving. It’s a side dish that should be wearing its Sunday Best, even if we’re celebrating Thursday night!