About seven bites into the plate of food I couldn’t help but load as high as the laws of physics would allow, Thanksgiving dinner begins to feel like an onslaught of richness, search and fat. There’s roasted turkey, fluffy, buttery mashed potatoes, stuffing-hot out of the bird, winter vegetables mashed, or roasted and glazed, and the whole plate dripping in thick, rich gravy. My palate cries “Uncle!”
But cranberries, cranberries provide an island in that storm: tart, black-red and jammy. That is, unless you plop the cloying, wobbly log of jello out of the can, and while my brother and my husband require its presence on our Thanksgiving table, I instead look to whole cranberry compote, fresh, minced cranberry salad, or even a savory cranberry mold to deliver much needed relief.
Cranberries see the world in black and white: all acidity and no sugar. So even the tartest cranberry dish needs sweet balance. This compote delivers it with Cipollini onions, glazed with maple sugar, butter and rich stock. The cranberries cook down in Port wine to a thick, jammy texture. One spoonful per dinner guest will satisfy. But make a double batch. Blended with a little mayo, it will transform the sandwiches you’ll inevitable be sharing around the kitchen table later that night.
Cranberry Cipollini Compote
Makes about 3 cups
- 2 cups Cipollini or pearl onions
- 2 tbs butter
- 3/4 cup maple sugar*
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tsp finely chopped rosemary
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup Port
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- Blanch onions in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove to an ice bath. Trim tips and roots of onions, be careful to leave the base of the onion intact so that they don’t fall apart. If the onions are larger than bite sized, cut them in half.
- Melt butter over medium heat in a 3 quart saucepan. Add onions and cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown in places.
- Add 1/4 cup sugar, garlic and rosemary. Cook 1-2 minutes until garlic is golden.
- Pour in stock, reduce heat and simmer until liquid reduces to a thick glaze. Be careful not to burn the garlic as the liquid reduces.
- Add cranberries, Port and cider. Simmer over low heat until liquid is reduced to a glaze and cranberries have turned jammy. The cranberries will pop delightfully as they cook, but don’t worry, the juices don’t spatter out of the pot.
- Season to taste with balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and additional sugar if needed.