November 18, 2011

A Tale of College Thanksgiving & A Recipe for Cranberry Relish

With friends at our college Thanksgiving. You can see my plate there in the corner (I'm behind the camera).
Last weekend, some of my housemates, friends and I decided we would have our own Thanksgiving at Wesleyan before we all went our separate ways for Thanksgiving break. 

This was really a last minute Thanksgiving. I usually think of Thanksgiving as taking weeks of preparation, but we planned and cooked the entire meal in one day - and most of the cooking took place within a few hours.  Since this is college, there were a few changes that had to be made. The most significant of which was we roasted a chicken instead of a turkey. Most of the people there were vegetarians, so there was a focus on the sides. No problem as far as I'm concerned. 

If you're like me, Thanksgiving is all about the sides. Sure, turkey is perfectly tasty, but it's the sides that really do it for me. For our dinner, we made lemon-rosemary roast chicken, mashed potatoes (thanks, Sarah!), stuffing, gravy, cranberry relish, green beans, ginger Brussels sprouts, and fresh buttermilk biscuits. It was really quite a feast. Oh, and apple-rum cake for dessert. Thanksgiving has always been about things coming together - of families, friends, and side dishes.

Our last-minute Thanksgiving was just what a college Thanksgiving should be, a relaxing day in the kitchen - Damiano and I tried to divide and conquer the dishes - followed by a slow, wonderful, and filling dinner with friends. 

Below is a recipe for the cranberry relish (a.k.a. cranberry sauce) I made, which was a real hit. If you've never cooked anything for Thanksgiving but have always wanted to bring something to the table, below is the perfect recipe for your first go at it. It's a simple, foolproof recipe which requires almost no prep, is done in minutes, and can be made way in advance. This cranberry relish is tart, sweet, and spiced, combining bright, sour cranberries with fresh apple cider, golden raisins, walnuts and a dash of autumn spices. I like to add a little spoonful of this stuff right in the middle of all my sides to enjoy with each bite. It really brings your Thanksgiving together (recipe below).

Here are some more photos from our dinner. Prepping the Brussels sprouts and cranberries. 

Making biscuits makes people happy. It just does. And these were great biscuits, a rich and creamy recipe from Nathalie Dupree via Virginia Willis. Perfect for sopping up the gravy and cranberry relish. 

The roasted chicken, which was stuffed with lemon, rosemary and thyme, then smothered in butter. We did not shy away from butter for our Thanksgiving -  I think we went through 4 or 5 sticks by the end of the night (!). 

The spread included, from left to right, Brussels sprouts, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, stuffing, green beans and roast chicken. But wait, where are those biscuits!?

Oh, there they are! 

That sure looks like Thanksgiving to me. It's all about the sides, people. It's all about the sides. 

And that looks like a very full belly. 

Nico brought some awesome beer, with an awesome label. 

And yes, Thanksgiving means leftovers. For brunch the next morning (as though I had not feasted the night before), scrambled eggs, biscuits with gravy, potatoes and cranberry relish. Rise and shine! 

Recipe below.

The cranberry relish, made with apple cider, golden raisins and walnuts. I loved having this stuff around to spread on toast last week. 

Thanksgiving Cranberry Relish
Makes approximately 2 cups
Adapted from The Cilantropist

-3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
-pinch of ground cloves
-3 cups fresh cranberries
-1/2 cup golden raisins
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. In a medium pot, combine apple cider, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. 

2. Add the cloves, cranberries and raisins and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until all the cranberries have popped. 

3. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped walnuts. Allow to cool a little before serving. 

Can be stored up to 1 week, refrigerated in an airtight container.