Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feelin' Saucy

Growing up, I was never particularly fond of cranberry sauce, which in our family was always the deep maroon, jiggly jellied stuff that proudly displayed its canned heritage, even as it sat in its antique cut-glass dish. My aunt, who liked to think of herself as a bit of a rebel, once served the canned whole berry sauce as well, but as I remember, no one touched it. (I was even less enamored of that than the canned version!)

So you might think that I would be an unlikely person to lead a kind of cranberry sauce rebellion. But nevertheless, Thanksgiving of 1982, I announced that I wanted to try my hand at making cranberry sauce from scratch. I picked a recipe from Bon Appétit that included fresh-squeezed orange juice and cognac among its ingredients. "How bad could anything with cognac be?" I reasoned. Not only was it good, it was a revelation -- to everyone. "Would you bring the cranberry sauce for our Christmas turkey dinner?" my aunt asked me as we helped clear the table. Of course, I would. I was hooked.

By now, I have a repetoire of recipes, and as soon as the displays of fresh Cape Cod cranberries start to appear in our local markets, I begin discussing with my sister Robin and brother-in-law Dave, which one will go best with the feast we are preparing. (Those years when we go to other people's houses, I make whatever they request.) And of course, sometimes, I find a new recipe that's just too interesting to pass up.

So here are my three favorites (currently). I was interested to see that I had a recipe from each of the last three decades, including the original, which I still love. So which cranberry sauce am I making this year? Well, as we are going to take a southwestern approach to our meal this holiday, I thought I'd make the Irene Sax recipe I found in Saveur last year, where the cranberries are roasted with a little jalapeno pepper. That should really spice things up!


Orange-Cranberry Sauce
Bon Appétit, November 1982

1 cup sugar (Recently, I've use a combination of white and dark brown sugar.)
½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
½ cup water (I replace this with another 1/2 cup of orange juice
3 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and stemmed
2 T Cognac
Coarsely grated orange peel
1 T fresh lemon juice

1. Combine sugar, orange juice and water in large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
2. Add berries and cook until popped, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. Mash some of the berries with back of spoon, then remove pan from heat.
4. Cool five minutes, then blend in remaining ingredients.
5. Cool completely. Refrigerate sauce until ready to serve.
Makes 3 cups
NOTE: This is best made at least 4 hours ahead so it can chill and thicken.

Cranberry Agrodolce
Food & Wine November 1994

2 T. vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries, about 1 cup
½ cup dried cranberries (about 2 ½ ounces) (I plump them for ½ hour in the ¼ cup of port.)
½ cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups cranberry juice
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup port
1 ½ t. coarse or kosher salt
1 ½ t. coarsely cracked black pepper
½ t. allspice
1 small cinnamon stick
1 nickel-size slice of fresh ginger,
2 whole cloves

1. Heat oil in a large non-reactive saucepan. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes.Add garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Stir in the fresh and dried cranberries, the brown sugar, cranberry juice, balsamic vinegar, port, salt, pepper, and allspice.
2. Tie the cinnamon stock, ginger, and clover in a small piece of cheesecloth and add it to the saucepan. Bring agrodolce to a boil over moderately high heat. Lower the heat and simmer gently until thickened, about 35 minutes. Discard the spice bundle and let cool.
(The agrodolce can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week. Let return to room temperature before serving.)
Makes about 4 cups

Roasted Cranberry Sauce
Irene Sax, Saveur Magazine November 2008

1 orange
1 lb. fresh or thawed cranberries
1 cup sugar (I use brown sugar)
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 green cardamom pods, smashed
4 whole cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 small jalapeño, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 1⁄2 tbsp. port

1. Heat oven to 450°. Using a peeler, remove peel from the orange, taking off as little of the white pith as possible. Cut peel into very thin strips about 1 1⁄2" long. Squeeze juice from the orange; strain and reserve 1 tbsp. juice.
2. In a bowl, combine peel, cranberries, sugar, olive oil, salt, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon, and jalapeños. Toss and transfer to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Roast until cranberries begin to burst and release their juices, about 15 minutes.
3. Transfer cranberry mixture to a bowl; stir in reserved orange juice and port. Let sit for at least 1 hour so that the flavors meld. Remove and discard cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon before serving.
Makes 2 cups

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When Life Hands You Rutabagas, Make Rutabaga Fries

Last year, Robin, Dave, and I were part of an informal winter CSA with one of the farmers we met through the Seacoast Grower's Association. It was a little hit or miss -- sometimes we'd get to Portsmouth on Friday evening to find a bag of goodies handing from the doorknob -- often times, not. But there was something satisfying about having farmers' market-quality food throughout the winter, especially since this particular farmer had access to a greenhouse, so we frequently got a bag full of fresh greens as part of our order.

This year, we decided to make things more official, by joining the Winter CSA through Heron Pond Farm. Of course, this means dealing with vegetables we probably otherwise would never buy. Like rutabagas, for instance. Other than potatoes and raw carrots, we never ate much in the way of root vegetables when I was growing up. In fact, the first time I remember actually tasting rutabaga was one Thanksgiving when one of our guests brought some pureed rutabaga with peas. But on Week Two, our CSA share included two rutabagas.

As we were planning to grill a couple of grass-fed rib eye steaks from Wee Bit Farm for dinner, a puree seemed less than optimal. Since oven-baked sweet potato fries are a frequent accompaniment to steak in our house, we thought why not try serving the rutabagas that way? We peeled them, cut them into half-inch sticks, seasoned them with Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning and a little olive oil, put them on a well-oiled baking sheet and baked them just like we would potatoes.

The Northwoods Fire Seasoning is a blend of coarse salt, chipolte pepper, Hungarian paprika, Tellicherry black pepper, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and cayenne, so it was a great complement to the sweet, spicy tast of the rutabaga. I think that chopped thyme or rosemary with some garlic powder would also be good.

While the rutabaga oven fried don't crisp up like regular regular potato fries, they don't get all soft like the sweet potato version either. When they browned up nicely, I just sprinkled them with a little coarse salt and served them up with our steaks. Quite frankly, they were delicious! Best of all, I now  feel ready for anything our CSA gives us. Kohlrabi? Bring it on!

Oven-Baked Rutabaga Fries
2 medium rutabagas, peel and cut into sticks 1/2 inch wide
Olive oil, for drizzling and coating baking pan
Penzey's Northwoods Fire Seasoning (or other spice blend) to taste
Kosher salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Drizzle olive oil over rutabaga, put in a paper bag or plastic baggie, add seasonings and shake to coat.
3. Place rutabaga on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake in middle of the oven for ten minutes.
4. Turn rutabaga fries over and cook for another ten minutes, or until well browned.
5. Sprinkle with kosher salt and serve.