One year ago plus some change, I began this blog. It's fitting that I began this so close to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.
I have always loved talking about food, tinkering with recipes, testing things out, and yes, even failing on occasion. It's what makes day-to-day life interesting for me, and as I've learned, it's what makes day-to-day life interesting for a lot of people. This has become the best part of writing here. This blog has become a gateway into conversation with friends new and old. Nothing seems to get nearer the heart of things faster than talking about what you ate for dinner last night. I've learned that lot of us cook for the discovery of stumbling on something truly great. My mother, who's biggest culinary asset for years was a microwave, has transformed into the kind of person that dreams about what she's going to make for dinner that night. She's turned into a true food hobbyist, always in hot pursuit of the perfect roast chicken.
"This time," she explained to me on the phone the other day, speaking softly as though she was sharing a very shocking secret, "I put half a fennel bulb and an entire head of garlic in the cavity." When I asked her how it turned out, she didn't even resort to words. She made a low humming sound through the receiver. I knew exactly what she meant.
Like my mother, I'm on a quest of my own to find the perfect cranberry sauce. My palette loves anything tart, puckering, and sour. It's my favorite Thanksgiving dish, hands down, because it makes everything taste just a little bit better. Turkey, candied yams, stuffing, mashed potatoes. It doesn't matter. As long as there is cranberry sauce, I'm there. I've made chutney studded with cloves and orange segments, smooth gingery varieties, and of course, the version written on the back of the Ocean Spray bag. Every year, I find I've come up with the very best recipe, but this year I may have outdone all years prior with a simple take I found in the newest Canal House volume.
I love these women and their books so much. The writing is understated but beautiful, and the photography is mouthwatering. Every recipe I've tried has turned out incredibly. On my first look-see their juniper-scented cranberry sauce caught my eye immediately. Of course, I made a few adjustments. I don't really like a sweet cranberry sauce, so instead of using the port called for I subbed in a cup of dark pinot noir. The juniper softly mingles with the tart cranberries, without ever overpowering them, and I used a little white pepper to match the wine. I've got to say, she's a beaut. If there's anything left, I'll slather it on toast tomorrow, serve it with some duck confit, you get the idea.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Juniper-Scented Cranberry Geléeadapted from Christopher Hirscheimer & Melissa Hamilton's recipeYou could use port in place of the pinot noir for a sweeter take on this. I love a tart, smooth, and ever-so-slightly wine-y cranberry sauce like this.Ingredients:1 cup pinot noir1 cup sugar1 Tbs. fresh or dried juniper berries4 cups (or one bag) fresh cranberries7 black peppercorns3 white peppercornsDirections:1. Put the pinot noir, sugar, juniper berries, and peppercorns into a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.2. Add the cranberries and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries burst and are soft about 10 minutes or more.3. Strain the sauce into a bowl through a fine-mesh sieve, pushing the solids through the screen with a rubber spatula.4. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl, cover and refrigerate.YIELDS: 2 cups.