Thanksgiving means many things to me, as I am sure it does to everyone in this country.
In years past when I was working in resorts and hotels, we would often do big buffet or plated dinners for the celebration of the holiday. Every year I would have a meeting with the kitchen and dining room staff and would often share with them my goal of evoking good food memories in all of our guests. If some of those folks thought of their family’s tables and food while sharing our tables, then we had succeeded. The smell of fresh bread, freshly carved turkey, rich gravy made from wonderful stock, potatoes, sweet potatoes , fall vegetables, salads...not to mention the desserts creative, rich, luscious, seasonal and sweet.
On one particular side dish I must confess to a guilty pleasure every year: I insist on the canned cranberry of my youth. Sweet, tart, cold and with the ridges of the can still visible, which is essential to my full enjoyment. The guilty pleasure is not fulfilled by canned cranberry from the big cans, or with whole berries, or by any and all manner of fresh made delicacies...no, it must be the small can, Ocean Spray if at all possible.
And to make sure it is there for me I generally take a can with me to dinner, in the pocket of my jacket, just in case no one else shares my peculiar guilty pleasure. I once traveled half way across Paris to the hallowed halls of Fauchon, the fanciest grocer in the fanciest food city in the world to procure the proper can. And there it was, beautifully displayed in a large pile, centrally placed where all of us ex-pats would be sure to find it! And so I carried several cans, purchased at a significant price that I do not remember, back to La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, where several of us American culinary assistant/translators proceeded to put on our own special Thanksgiving feast, much to the amusement of our French hosts, chefs and friends.
Now don’t get me wrong, I make the fresh cranberry sauces, the relishes, with different flavors and accents, all to vary the experience of the holiday. But I think the true pleasure for is back in the traditions, that we each have. So nothing makes me happier than seeing four or five different cranberry sauces surrounding that lovely, red, ridged cylinder, in its’ proper place of honor. I have even supplied my second favorite recipe for ginger orange cranberry sauce below.
In recent years, I have often been up early cooking for those special folks who have talked me into roasting or frying a turkey for them on Thursday. The rule always was that you had to pick up before noon, so I could load my stuff and get off to Blount County. One year the editor of Cooking Light magazine got me to cook the whole meal for her invading family and in-laws...and she did me a great favor by sending her husband and brother over early to pick up and to wash pots and pans for me that morning. We did have fun, they jumped in, cleaned up my mess and even sang harmony on my personal tradition of listening repeatedly to Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie! You have to sing along and sing loud if you want to change the world. So go forth with your song and can of cranberry sauce and try to change part of the world for the better.
Ginger Orange Cranberry Sauce
2 bag cranberries
2 cup granulated sugar
2 cup water
2 TB grated fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup orange marmalade (more to taste)
˝ cup pickled ginger (like for sushi), diced (more to taste) Bring sugar, grated ginger and water to a boil and add the cranberries, half a bag at a time, bringing to a boil after each addition.
Berries will pop and try to jump out of the pan and startle you, wouldn’t you?
Cook until berries are all popped and mixture thickens slightly.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then stir in marmalade and pickled ginger.
Taste and add more marmalade or pickled ginger if desired.