Some might call it heresy, but for me the turkey is the most boring part of the Thanksgiving meal. It's rarely cooked properly and often bland. It exists as a centerpiece, to be admired and then drowned in gravy.
The sides! THAT is where it's at when it comes to the Thanksgiving meal. Dense, savory stuffing. Delicious garlicky mashed potatoes with great dabs of butter. Bright, crunchy green beans that snap delightfully when you bite into them. And pies, oh the pies. Of course we can't forget the cranberry sauce.
Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite Thanksgiving sides. I will freely admit to loving the canned tube of cranberry sauce as a child, sliced into thick rounds and devoid of anything even approaching texture. As I've gotten older, though, I've come to appreciate, if not love, a deliciously chunky homemade cranberry sauce. In fact, cranberry sauce has become something of an obsession for me - so much so that for a Friendsgiving dinner I pretty much demanded that I be the only one allowed to make the cranberry sauce. (Insert shrugging emoji here.)
Cranberries, cooked simply with a little citrus and sugar, make a perfectly passable sauce. I, however, prefer to take my sauce in a little more of a savory, spiced direction. This Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce is a riff off a recipe I saw in a food magazine a while back. I tweaked it a bit to pull back on the sweetness and play up the brightness, and let me tell you - this will disappear the moment you put it down on your Thanksgiving table. The best part is that it keeps fabulously in the fridge - make it two or three days ahead of time to remove one more thing from your Thanksgiving Day to-do list. I prefer to serve it warm, but its perfectly tasty at room temperature as well.
And don't forget to save some for leftover turkey sandwiches the next day!
Ginger-Orange Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 1 quart
- 2 12-ounce bags of fresh cranberries
- 2 large oranges
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup loosely-packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup finely minced fresh ginger
- Salt and pepper
- Peel and segment the oranges, placing the segments in one bowl and squeezing whatever juice you can out of the remains into another bowl. If the orange segments are large, cut them into about 1-inch pieces.
- In a large non-reactive saucepan combine the cranberries with the 1/2 cup of water and the orange juice and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the cranberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.
- Uncover the pan and add the vinegar, both sugars, minced ginger, and the orange segments. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook for about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Remove the pan from the heat and, if desired, use a potato masher to mash the cranberries into a more jam-like consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm or at room temperature. (If you're making the cranberry sauce ahead of time, let it cool a bit before pouring it into a heat-proof container and refrigerating for up to 5 days. Reheat in a pan on the stovetop, in small bursts in the microwave, or by placing the container in a hot water bath for 15-20 minutes.)