Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Thanksgiving Goodness: Cranberry Orange Sauce

You’re thinking: Cranberries have nothing to do with Louisiana.

You’re mostly right…the only real correlation is that cranberries are grown in bogs, which is kind of similar to a rice field…or a swamp…in that there’s a lot of water, and you have to wear waders to go into one.

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(See?  Basically the same…right?)

Okay, so no…not really.  But: here’s the connection for me.  Until I moved to Louisiana, I had never eaten cranberry sauce.

I had SEEN cranberry sauce, or what passes for it, anyway…I mean, how is this even remotely appetizing?


(Yes, Mom, please pass me some of that red-colored tin can, thanks.)

MAYBE I’d have eaten it sooner if the first time I’d seen jellied cranberry sauce, it was presented like THIS:



Because any kid can look at that & say “Hey!  Red Jello with fruit!  MMmm!” (quickly followed by “can someone get the grass off of it?”)

But no, at our Midwestern family dinners, we had that sad blob of red tin can, that when sliced, looked far too much like pickled beets for me to even consider snagging one. 


And my parents didn’t eat them either…I’m actually not sure WHO in our family DID eat them, I just know it showed up on the table every year out of some sad tradition. (My cousin & I had our own tradition—we demanded that a bowl of Spaghetti O’s be among the holiday feastings every Thanksgiving & Christmas.  Even though we’re now in our 30s, it’s still part of our family tradition if we’re both going to be there, for ol’ times sake….which is why we also have matching Spaghetti O’s ornaments on our tree that I made back in 2009):


(Not the greatest photo…sorry.  I could’ve sworn I had a closeup. But you get the idea.)

I’ll be honest… until I moved to Louisiana, my concept of cooking/trying new foods was pretty limited.  Yes, I watched Food Network incessantly, yes, I worked at a pizza place where I was free to experiment with different flavor combinations (Pineapple & Italian sausage FTW!), but my version of “exotic” food was a Chinese buffet.  Not even a good Chinese buffet…we’re talking about being happy because I could get my pepper steak with lo mein noodles rather than fried rice, and because they always seemed to have fried potatoes on the bar.

But then I moved to New Orleans, and got a job at Martin’s Wine Cellar in the gourmet foods department.  That sounds fancy, but it mainly means I sliced a lot of meat & cheese.  Granted, yes, I can slice prosciutto paper-thin (assuming I had a well sharpened meat slicer in my house…which I don’t) and I occasionally word-vomit around party cheese plates (“Oh!  You got the Humboldt Fog!  I love this cheese.  SO good with Sundried Tomato Wheat Thins.  How much does it sell for now?  It was $17.99/lb when I was at MWC…”) 

However, the job had its perks.  I did gain about 10 pounds trying all of our delicious products over the year that I worked there (hey—can’t properly sell it if you haven’t tried it—and admit it, if you had access to free dark chocolate-covered almonds that usually sell for $12.99/lb, you’d be occasionally noshing too), and thanks to some great local coworkers who had grown up in New Orleans, I began to branch out.  First pate? Right there in MWC (Les Trois Petite Cochons Mediterranean Pate, which sadly, isn’t part of their lineup anymore…sad, because it was GOOD, and didn’t actually have any liver in it.)  First caviar?  Good ol’ MWC.  First cheese that didn’t come from a cow?  MWC.   First time eating sushi?  New Orleans’ own Rock-n-Sake.  First time eating Pho?  Pho Bang on Vets.  First non-buffet Chinese?  5 Happiness on Carrollton (mmmm…shrimp toast—and ”shrimp toast” is something I wouldn’t have tried on my own without outside coercion).  First Indian food?  Masala Indian Kitchen in Lafayette.  Mediterranean food?  Lebanon’s Cafe in NOLA.  I could go on, but I’m already drooling on myself.

So—cranberry sauce.  I had it for the first time Thanksgiving of 2005 at a friends house.  It was fresh, homemade by my friends’ mom.  It looked like cherry pie filling, and I timidly tried a spoonful.  Slightly sweet, deliciously tart, beautifully ruby in color.  There couldn’t have been a better first cranberry.


OKAY.  This year, in the spirit of trying new things, I made my own cranberry sauce for the first time.  Used fresh Wisconsin cranberries (which were on sale for 99 cents a bag at Aldi’s) and a recipe from a friend. It couldn’t have been simpler.


2 cups orange juice
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
4 cups fresh cranberries
1 orange, zested


(Seriously… isn’t that just the most gorgeous color?)


Combine juice, nutmeg, and sugar in a medium pot over medium-low heat.  Cook until sugar dissolves, stirring.

Add cranberries, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 


Then cook without stirring until cranberries pop—watch the pot or it might try to boil over.  Remove from heat and mix in orange zest. Pour into a serving dish and chill at least 4 hours. 

I nom’ed on it with some of our TurkeyDay leftovers.


Shared on: 33 Shades of Green

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