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 many years ago. It mixes cooked cranberries with poblanos, cilantro, orange juice and pecans 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, I still always return to this salsa—my first cranberry love, if you will.
1 red bell pepper
1 poblano chili
1/2 cup sugar, plus more if needed
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
12 ounces cranberries
2 tablespoons grated orange peel
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Roast the bell pepper and Poblano chile under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the peppers in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. After the chiles have steamed, remove from the bag and rub off the skin. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and dice.
Meanwhile, place the sugar, orange juice, water, and cranberries into a large saucepan and toss until the sugar is evenly distributed over the cranberries. While occasionally stirring, cook the cranberries over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Taste and if the cranberries are way too tart for your liking, stir in more sugar, a tablespoon at a time.
Once the peppers are ready, stir them into the cranberry salsa along wit the orange peel, pecans, cilantro, cayenne, and salt. Taste and adjust seasonings. Can serve either warm or chilled. This can be made ahead and will keep four days in the refrigerator.
adapted by Lisa Fain from a Bon Appetit recipe