The final Thanksgiving countdown has begun. In just a week all of the cooking will be over, the dishes washed, and the crazy relatives packed off to their Black Friday sales. Your lunch is going to be a Pilgrim Sandwich of epic proportions. Life is but a dream.
This week we are still in organizational mode. There are many expectations to meet, with fussy eaters to please and the fancy pants gourmands to placate. One unpretentious cook who has very reassuring advice, as well as legit cooking chops, is Ina Garten. She approaches Thanksgiving with a cool calm. She believes in store-bought dinner items, if they can make the cook’s life easier. Amen.
In a recent New York Times piece (sorry about the pay wall: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/13/dining/ina-gartens-store-bought-thanksgiving-recipes.html) the gospel according to Ina Garten proclaims that store-bought pie crusts are fine. You can go ahead and cook down and strain your own cranberries, but it is much easier to buy a can of Ocean Spray whole cranberries and toss them into a sauce pan with some orange zest and call it your own. Go ahead, cook the mashed potatoes ahead of time – they will re-heat very nicely and you won’t have quite so much chaos in the kitchen just before the meal. You might even have enough counter space to accommodate a cocktail.
Thanksgiving can be the ultimate beige-y meal if you are not careful. Browned turkey, white meat, creamy mashed potatoes, white pearl onions, taupe gravy, sepia stuffing, white wine. You should add some color and spark, a new texture, something sweet and tart. Thank goodness for garnet-colored cranberries.
Our family has never had a firm opinion about cranberry sauce (or jelly). We vacillate. Some years we have been amused by the irony of sliding an entire can of ribbed cranberry jelly onto an heirloom compote dish. Last year we boiled down a bag of cranberries, with sugar and orange peel; luckily, we caught it just before it was irreparably scorched, because we were also chasing an 18-month old. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-make-cranberry-sauce
This year, in light of the fact that the 18-month old has grown, and is speedier, I’m opting for cranberry sauce that we can cook ahead of time.
Here is Ina’s recipe: Chunky Cranberry Sauce by Ina Garten
1 (14-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce (I use Ocean Spray)
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled and grated
½ teaspoon grated orange zest
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
¼ cup walnuts or pecans, large-diced
¼ cup raisins
Place the cranberry sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the apple, orange zest and orange juice, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Off the heat, stir in the walnuts and raisins. Transfer to a bowl and chill. Serve cold or at room temperature.
(I am not going to add the nuts or raisins – the 8-year old fuss pot objects.)
There are other ways to enjoy cranberries at Thanksgiving. Cranberry orange muffins are always a big hit. https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/cranberry-orange-muffins/
On our last outing to Chestertown we had some divine cranberry scones from Evergrain. These are a worthy substitute: https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a82372/cranberry-orange-scones-with-orange-nutmeg-glaze/
We cannot let Thanksgiving go by without mentioning Susan Stamberg’s Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish, a holiday staple in any self-respecting NPR household: https://food52.com/recipes/38994-mama-stamberg-s-cranberry-relish
Ina also has a recipe for Cranberry Martinis. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/cranberry-martinis-9564294
The Spy Test Kitchens wish all you Gentle Readers a happy Thanksgiving. Don’t forget to take the giblet packets out of the turkey. Go ahead and call the Butterball Turkey Talk Hotline if you need help – they have heard it all before: Call us at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (1-800-288-8372) https://www.butterball.com/contact-us.
“I made cranberry sauce, and when it was done put it into a dark blue bowl for the beautiful contrast. I was thinking, doing this, about the old ways of gratitude: Indians thanking the deer they’d slain, grace before supper, kneeling before bed. I was thinking that gratitude is too much absent in our lives now, and we need it back, even if it only takes the form of acknowledging the blue of a bowl against the red of cranberries.”
― Elizabeth Berg