Cranberry sauce for many means this: a tubular, red, gelatinous substance that slithers out of a can, shiny ridges included free of charge. You’d think with so many people interested in fresh, local foods that it would be a relic from the past, a candidate for the museum of regrettable edibles. But I know it’s still a popular holiday item because this time of year you see stacks of this canned product on prominent display at grocery stores, Whole Foods included. Why? Why? Why?
I grew up thinking this was the only way to prepare cranberries and it scared me (much like marshmallows on sweet potatoes). I always said, “No thanks,” and loaded up on more stuffing instead. Which is a shame, because nothing complements turkey and cornbread stuffing better than the tang of cranberries—it’s the trinity of Thanksgiving flavor.
What changed my mind (and my palate)? A recipe I found in Bon Appetit 9 years ago. It mixes cooked cranberries with poblanos, cilantro, orange juice and hazelnuts creating a spicy, sweet and tart salsa that’s terrific with turkey, but also plays well with pork, tamales or even tortilla chips. And while I know now that there’s a whole world of things you can do with cranberries (aptly demonstrated by last week’s Rachael vs. Giada “Iron Chef”), I still always return to this salsa—my first cranberry love, if you will.
Cranberry, orange and cilantro salsa (from Bon Appetit)
1 red bell pepper
1 fresh poblano chili
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 cups cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Char red bell pepper and fresh poblano chili over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose pepper and chili in paper bag. Let stand 10 minutes to steam. Peel, seed and chop pepper and chili.
Mix sugar and orange juice in heavy large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Mix in chopped cranberries. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Cool to room temperature. Mix roasted pepper and chili, chopped hazelnuts and grated orange peel into salsa. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Mix in cilantro into salsa. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
What are your thoughts on the canned cranberry log? Yay or nay? And if you make homemade cranberry sauce, what ingredients do you use?