November 15, 2012
YOU GUYS. Thanksgiving is next week. When the hell did that happen?
Seriously, I swear the holiday has snuck up on me this year (you too, perhaps?), but this is kind of a good thing. It means, much like having only sixteen days notice to get ready for a baby, that I can’t overcomplicate things too much. I can not plan my many plans. I can’t over-think and re-think the menu, making things less fun and more fussy. I can’t go overboard.
I know that “overboard” is normally what Thanksgiving is about, but this year I’m aiming for right at or above board instead. I’ve got a turkey in the freezer, and I plan to try brining him (a first) before letting Jill roast him (she’s the expert in our house). I’ve made the cranberry sauce you see here, and my mom and I are both craving pecan pie, so that’s on the docket.
Jill will probably whip up some of her famous deviled eggs, and I loved my friend Rebecca’s grandmother’s dinner rolls so much last year that I think I will have to make them again. Mom makes a killer vegetarian dressing. Throw in a couple of vegetables—butternut squash? green beans? beets? (I’m totally open to suggestions here)—and I think we will call it a day.
This year, I’m leaving the perfectly coordinated, picture-perfect, show-stopping Thanksgiving to someone else. And for that, I feel truly grateful.
HOMEMADE CRANBERRY SAUCE
This cranberry sauce has the texture of a loose jelly and a very bright, sweet-tart cranberry flavor. It’s dead simple to make and is a lovely addition to the Thanksgiving meal as well as to leftover turkey sandwiches (especially when paired with mayonnaise!).
I use port in my sauce, but you can substitute red wine, or even water. Keeps very well in the fridge, so it’s great for making ahead of time.
1 (12 oz) bag cranberries
zest of 1 navel orange
juice from half of the orange (approximately 1/8 cup)
¾ cup water
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup port*
Combine all ingredients in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly. As the sauce cooks, the cranberries will burst and break down, so I like to keep a lid partially covering the pan, to prevent splatter.
The sauce is ready when it has reduced by almost half and is quite thick in texture, sticking a little as it pulls away from the side of the saucepan while you stir. Cool completely, then refrigerate before serving.
*If you’re feeling boozy, you can bump this amount up to ½ cup & drop the water down to ½ cup. Any proportion will work as long as you end up with 1 cup of liquid total, plus the orange juice.
Along with cranberry sauce, here are some other ideas for your Thanksgiving table: