Sides: Mild to wild and something in between

  • Stories by J.M. Hirsch / Associated Press
  • Saturday, November 18, 2006 9:00pm
  • Life

No, it isn’t as easy as opening a can. And no matter what recipe you follow, it never will have those distinctive ring marks. But making cranberry sauce from scratch this Thanksgiving requires minimal effort that is well rewarded.

Traditional fresh cranberry sauces are simple affairs. Toss a bag of fresh berries and equal parts water and sugar (usually 1 to 2 cups) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until the berries start to pop. Chill and enjoy.

For a gentle rethinking of that basic recipe, consider cranberry, apple and walnut conserve from Gourmet magazine. This recipe tames the tart cranberries with serious apple overtones, including a dash of the apple brandy called Calvados.

Care to be wild? Try a raw cranberry relish from Real Simple magazine. This time, oranges and raisins control the cranberries. Preparing the sauce to be eaten raw gives it a texture completely different from traditional recipes.

Or if your tastes are more moderate, try chipotle-cranberry compote from Cooking Light magazine. These cranberries can handle the heat.

1 1/2cups water

3cups turbinado sugar

13-inch cinnamon stick

1/4teaspoon allspice

312-ounce bags fresh cranberries (about 21/2 pounds, or 11 cups)

3Gala or Pink Lady apples

2cups walnuts, toasted, cooled and broken into small pieces

2tablespoons Calvados or brandy

In a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, simmer the water, sugar, cinnamon stick, allspice and half of the cranberries, stirring occasionally, until cranberries just start to pop, about 5 minutes.

Add half of the remaining cranberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and then cut them into a 1/4-inch dice. Add to the pot, along with the walnuts and remaining cranberries. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in the Calvados and simmer 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cool to warm or room temperature. Discard the cinnamon stick. Makes about 12 cups.

Raw cranberry orange relish

2navel oranges, washed and patted dry

1cup dark or golden raisins

112-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1tablespoon orange liqueur

Peel one orange, discarding the peel. Leave the peel on the other orange. Cut both oranges into wedges.

Place the oranges and raisins in a food processor. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the cranberries and pulse until finely chopped, but not pureed.

Transfer the relish to a serving bowl. Stir in the liqueur. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Chipotle- cranberry compote

11/4cups sugar

1/4cup fresh orange juice

212-ounce packages fresh cranberries

1tablespoon chipotle chili, canned in adobo sauce

1 1/2teaspoons grated orange rind

1/2teaspoon cinnamon

1/4teaspoon ground coriander

1/4teaspoon salt

In a large saucepan over a high heat, combine the sugar, orange juice and cranberries. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 minutes, or until cranberries begin to pop.

Stir in the chipotle, orange rind, cinnamon, coriander and salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes, or until mixture is thick. Chill before serving.

Makes 14 servings.

Simple squash

Though a staple of many Thanksgiving tables, traditional butternut squash purees often feel like the culinary family’s dull uncle. Against the fat of mashed potatoes, the sweet zip of cranberry sauce and the savory chew of turkey, squash can seem ill-defined and uninteresting.

To give this dish a mild tweak of personality, consider Real Simple magazine’s recipe for roasted butternut squash puree. Roasting sweetens and intensifies the squash’s flavor, and a bit of honey, butter and thyme go a long way to pulling this dish from the doldrums.

For a more radical rethinking, try Bon Appetit magazine’s butternut squash and apple bisque. This soup pulls squash from the sidelines and lets it lead the meal as the perfect light starter.

For the middle ground, try the roasting without the pureeing. Country Home magazine’s recipe for simply roasted squash mixes things up by ditching butternut in favor of large chunks of the more visually appealing kabocha or acorn.

Roasted butternut squash puree

3butternut squash, each about 2 pounds

11/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2teaspoon black pepper

6small shallots, halved

4tablespoons honey

6sprigs fresh thyme

6tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the ends of the squash, then halve lengthwise, discarding the seeds. Place the squash, cut-side up, on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Season with salt and pepper, then top with shallots, honey, thyme and butter.

Cover the squash with foil and roast until softened, 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, scoop the squash flesh and shallots from the peels into a food processor.

Puree the squash mixture until smooth, then transfer to a serving bowl. Repeat with remaining squash and shallots. Serve warm.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Recipe from November 2006 Real Simple magazine

3tablespoons butter

5cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled and seeded butternut squash

11/4cups chopped onion

1/2cup chopped carrots

1/2cup chopped celery

1small Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped (about 11/4 cups)

1/2teaspoon allspice

31/2cups vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth

1cup apple cider

1cup whipping cream, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the squash, onion, carrot and celery and saute until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the apple, allspice, broth and cider. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

In a blender, puree the soup, in batches if necessary. Return soup to the pot. Add 1/2 cup cream and bring to a simmer. Thin soup with additional broth, if desired. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls, then drizzle with cream. Garnish with parsley. Makes 6 servings.

Recipe from November 2006 Bon Appetit magazine

Simply roasted squash

2kabocha squash or large acorn squash (31/2 to 33/4 pounds each)

1/4cup olive oil

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Several sprigs fresh watercress or oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.

Cut each squash in half lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds. With a large knife, cut each half into 1 1/2- to 2-inch wedges. Arrange the wedges on the baking sheets, the brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake the squash 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork and browned around the edges. Transfer the squash to a serving platter. Drizzle with additional olive oil and garnish with watercress or oregano.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Recipe from November 2006 Country Home magazine

Perky potatoes

It’s hard to improve on the simplicity of mashed potatoes, that luxurious blend of starch, fat and salt. But if you are tempted to mess with tradition this Thanksgiving, be certain your tinkerings complement the star of the dish rather than compete with it.

For mild palates, consider manchego smashed potatoes from Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. This is your basic mashed potato recipe with the addition of shredded Manchego cheese, a mild Spanish cheese that melts well.

If you’re hankering for something completely different, try baked potato soup from CookingLight.com. This hearty chowderlike soup is comfort food at its best. It won’t handle a ladle of gravy, but with a garnish of bacon who needs it?

Prefer to straddle the middle? Try two-potato mash from Cooking Light magazine. This recipe swirls traditional mashed potatoes with mashed sweet potatoes spiked with brown sugar and cinnamon. The result is beautiful and delicious.

4pounds baby red or baby Yukon Gold potatoes, large ones halved (peeled or not, to taste)

Salt

4tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

1/2cup milk or cream

12ounces manchego cheese, shredded

Freshly ground black pepper

In a deep pot, cover the potatoes with water. Cover the pot and bring the potatoes to a boil. Uncover the pot, salt the water and cook until tender when pierced with a fork, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot. Add the butter, milk and cheese and smash to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from the November 2006 issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine

4baking potatoes (about 21/2 pounds)

2/3cup all-purpose flour

6cups 2 percent reduced-fat milk

1cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extra-sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1teaspoon salt

1/2teaspoon black pepper

1cup reduced-fat sour cream

3/4cup chopped green onions, divided

6bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Pierce the potatoes with a fork and then bake for 1 hour or until tender. Cool the potatoes and then peel them, place them in a medium bowl and coarsely mash them. Set aside.

Place flour in a large Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot. Gradually add milk, whisking it until the flour is blended.

Heat the milk mixture over medium heat until thick and bubbly, about 8 minutes. Add the mashed potatoes, 3\4 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper. Heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts. Remove from heat.

Stir in the sour cream and 1/2 cup of onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Do not boil.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle each with remaining cheese, green onions and bacon.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from CookingLight.com

Two-potato mash

2pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 large)

1cup fat-free sour cream, divided

1/4cup packed brown sugar

1/4cup butter, divided

1teaspoon kosher salt, divided

1/4teaspoon cinnamon

122-ounce bag frozen mashed potatoes

21/4cups fat-free milk

1/2teaspoon black pepper

Pierce the sweet potatoes with a fork and arrange on paper towels in a microwave. Microwave on high for 12 minutes or until tender, rearranging the potatoes after 6 minutes. Let the potatoes stand for 6 minutes.

Peel the potatoes and mash them in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup sour cream, sugar, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and cinnamon. Stir until blended. Cover with foil to keep warm.

Heat the frozen mashed potatoes in a large microwave-safe bowl according to package directions, omitting any added salt or fat. Add the milk, remaining sour cream, butter, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Spoon the sweet potato mixture over the mashed potatoes, swirling with a spoon. To get a marbling effect, don’t blend completely.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe from the January- February 2006 issue of Cooking Light magazine

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