24 December 2010

Short and sweet-tart

Were you thinking, perhaps, that cranberry sauce wasn't worth the effort this year? That the recipe on the back of the back didn't turn out much better than a can, or that the solid mass of ribbed, jellied sauce that slurps out of the can would make up for what it lacks in pure amusement value?

Reach to the back of your freezer, then, for the bag of cranberries that you stashed away when they were on sale last January, because this cranberry sauce is so much more.

toasted almonds

The most obvious addition is slivered almonds—toasted to perfection, half are mixed in with the hot sauce, the other half sprinkled over the top before serving. More subtle is star anise, a beautiful spice with subtle, complex flavor.

spiced cranberries

All told, this takes about 15 minutes to make—at least thirteen of which can be spent paying attention to other things—so it's ideal to make on Christmas Eve or even in the morning when you are brewing your tea or coffee. Just reserve time for the sauce to cool and chill (an hour or two if you put it directly in the fridge).

The turkey is brining, the sausage is made. Stale bread is finishing the drying process in the oven, and bottles of Prosecco and grape juice are chilling in the fridge. I have a mug of spiced cider in hand, and the presents are all wrapped and under the tree.

The only thing left to do is decide what's for dessert tomorrow. Oops.

cranberry sauce with almonds

Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Tangerines and Almonds
If you don't have star anise, most Chinese five-spice powder mixes would would as a replacement (just make sure it doesn't have chile, pepper, or salt); just add about ¼ teaspoon powder.

1 cup slivered almonds
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries (one standard bag)
1 tangerine or small orange
¾ cup water
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 nutmeg, broken into large pieces with a pestle or rolling pin (or 1 pinch ground nutmeg)
2 whole star anise
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread almonds in a single layer over a rimmed baking sheet and toast, stirring once or twice, until light golden and fragrant, 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pour the cranberries into a medium saucepan and briefly rinse, then pick over to remove any bad berries. Zest the tangerine directly into the pot, then cut in half and juice into the pot. Add the water, sugar, and spices, stir to combine, and place over medium-high heat.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. The cranberries will be breaking down and the mixture will have thickened slightly. Mash one quarter to one third of the mixture roughly with a wooden spoon, then stir well to combine. Remove from heat and stir in half of the almonds.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and cool completely. Chill before serving—mixture will thicken further as it cools.

Makes about 3 cups

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