Saturday, December 1, 2007

Alrighty Then

Yes, I managed to go for an entire month without posting anything on this blog. And despite my benign neglect, 10 of you have faithfully checked in nearly every day. Some of you have nagged. Which is obviously what it takes to get me off the dime.

I could give you a nice long justification for the month long silence but really, do you care? Suffice to say, I know what I want this blog to be and what's required to make that happen so there you go.

But it's a brand new month and we have no time for regrets because the holidays are upon us and that means food, glorious food!

The other day I was talking with Seattle Coffee Girl about Thanksgiving. For years now we have celebrated with my family but The Spouse's work schedule has made that more and more problematic. So this year we stayed home, to be joined by The Neighbor and our Chicago friend, Buck

Many in my circle, including SCG, were curious about what sorts of twists I was going to give the feast. The answer was a resounding, "None". Because as much as I love fiddling with food, Thanksgiving is the one meal in the year that absolutely has to taste like, well, like Thanksgiving:

Roast turkey (not brined, not deep-fried...plenty of other times in the year to get all avant garde and cutting edge with turkey).

Stuffing and dressing, made with bread, onions, sage and celery.

Mashed potatoes with gravy. The potatoes are mashed with butter, cream and salt. Period. There is some debate in the house about whether or not the gravy should include giblets. Let's just say that I for one was delighted that the turkey I purchased came without them.

Here's a story about gravy. I once attended a Thanksgiving dinner wherein the hosts decided not to make gravy because "no one really eats it". Are you kidding me? I was already sad that year that I wasn't going to be with my family. But no gravy? The only Thanksgiving I ever had that was weirder than that was the one spent with vegetarians. Anyhoo, it also turned out that their turkey was horribly dry. Gravy would have saved it. Oh, it was a sad meal.

Yams. Ok, on this point I get a little more high church than the marshmallow topped extravaganza of my youth. I roast the yams and mash them with sugar, butter, brandy and some cream. Then I caramelize apples in more sugar and butter, add more brandy and cook them down until they are syrupy but still holding their shape. Then the apples are arranged on top of the yams and it's all baked together. Fab.

There is a green bean casserole and yes, you'd better believe I use French's Fried Onions.

Finally, there are cranberries 2 ways. First, cranberry sauce from a can. Because if there aren't ridges on the cranberry sauce, something is wrong.

But canned cranberry sauce is emotional food; it is overly sweet and tastes only vaguely of cranberries but it reminds me of all the feasts of my childhood so I serve it. For the grown-up in me, I also make a cranberry compote, which is a bit more lively and tastes more authentically of the tart fresh berries.

Note: when the cranberries start appearing in the market I always buy more than will be needed for Thanksgiving. They freeze very well and there are always one or two occasions throughout the year when I want them but after Christmas they are pretty much impossible to find.

I have a very loosey-goosey recipe for my cranberry compote. Definitely a "I'll know when it's right" sort of proposition. Play around with it.

Lorraine's Cranberry Compote

2 bags fresh cranberries, rinses and sorted. And yes, you have to take the time to sort them because any berry that is mooshy or unripe will be gross. It must be banished. But I think it's fun; raking my fingers through my own little bog of cranberries. It really doesn't take that much time. Lord, it's not like deveining shrimp or something.

granulated sugar, up to a cup or so

2 oranges, zested and then juiced

2 cinnamon sticks


chili powder (optional)

After you rinse and sort the berries, toss them into a large sauce pan with a half cup of sugar, the orange zest and juice, a glug or two of brandy and the cinnamon sticks. Stir and bring to a boil. After it has become good and bubbly and the cranberries have begun to pop, turn down the heat to low. Taste and adjust sweetness if the sauce is too tart. Cook on low for about 10 minutes, until sauce has begun to thicken but most of the berries are still holding their shape.

If you want to add a little kick to the compote, add some chili powder at the beginning of cooking. It makes for a surprising little zing. But only do it if your guests are the adventurous sort.

Compote can be served hot or cold, but serving it hot would imply that I'm making it as the turkey is resting and trust me, I have already done it at least a day ahead. I'm not doing anything while the turkey is resting except nibbling on hors d' oeuvres and chatting with guests.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful! That is a gahjus table pic up there. And the canned cranberry ridge of wonder? It's a must have. Period. Delightful post Rainypants. (snowypants?) tee hee
Can't wait what you put up next month. (oh no she di'nt! heh heh)

Word Verify is: viewn

Which I have. And enjoyed.

Anonymous said...

"Can't wait TO SEE what you put up..." etc. etc.
In my giddy glee of back-handed compliments I left out a couple words. Serves me right. Pft.

Lorraine said...

What's that, Hat? You didn't enjoy that big glob of snow I just stuck down your back? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

HAH HAH! Also, my word verify for this one is KZKWIRD, which I read as kicks weird. Which you do.

Buck said...

"Give us this day
Our gravy and bread. . ."