Never quite follows the recipe. Doesn't really measure. Tastes with her fingers. Somehow, it always works.

A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Cranberry-Chipotle Relish

Posted: November 20th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Johanna, Make-Ahead, delish | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

Being a native New Englander, I know the story of the first Thanksgiving very well. And even if it isn’t true, and even if Thanksgiving is a holiday to cover up the horrible, terrible things that the original Pilgrims did to the Wampanoag people, what with their smallpox and their venerial diseases….. I don’t care.

Not-Quite-Thanksgiving Dinner

It’s nice, to think that in celebration and thanks for the fact that they did not die alone in the horrible New England winter (a thing I too gave thanks for, every time it got to be spring in my childhood and I still had a pulse), my forebears sent a message to ol’ Squanto, and chief Massasoit, telling them to come hang out and bring some food and some friends. Together, said Miles Standish, we’ll all celebrate the fact that we did not die. And while there may or may not have been cranberries (although cranberries originated in Massachusetts and Maine), and there may or may not have been some gnarly old heritage turkey, I think that the Pilgrims were probably pretty happy that the Wampanoag hadn’t murdered them all yet, and had in fact helped them survive.

Along with laying an extra place for the people who might show up, and the people who are there only in spirit, my family is mindful of tradition. My father, true to his Yankee heritage, makes cranberry sauce every year, from a very nice recipe by Jeff Smith, that old preacher-man, whose ingredients are essentially, if memory serves, cranberries, oranges, and sugar. Dad, correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

While I’ve often eaten it, I can’t say that cranberry sauce is one of my favorite parts of the actual holiday table. Cranberries are tough to eat, very bitter and sour. But I’ve long been intrigued by them, and wondered if it was just me, or Jeff Smith’s pairing of them with something that could ALSO be bitter and sour. So, emboldened and embarking on a trip into the land of Thanksgiving foods, I decided that Cranberries should be tested.
Cranberry-Chipotle RelishCranberry Chipotle Relish
Via Epicurious – Bon Appetit November 2009

The ingredients here are pretty simple: 1 pkg of frozen cranberries. 1 1/3 cup of sugar. Juice of 1 lemon. 2 chipotles in adobo (don’t bother soaking a dried chipotle. Trust me.) Garlic. Cinnamon (I’m working on a replacement). Cumin.

You combine the cranberries, sugar, lemon juice, and chipotles (rinsed. trust me.) in a saucepan, and bring them to a simmer. You can put the cranberries in still frozen, I learned. Once the sugar and lemon juice have dissolved and everything is at a simmer, let it go for about 5 minutes. I mashed some of the cranberries up with a potato masher, although I also mashed some of the chipotle by mistake, but didn’t see any adverse effects.
You add the garlic, cinnamon and cumin, and simmer until things start thickening and darkening. When this happens, immediately scoop or pour your cranberry relish into a clean bowl, and rinse. out. your. saucepan. STAT.
Melted sugar, especially when combined with fruit sugars, WILL TURN TO CEMENT. It’s a fact. Sort of. Regardless, you need to wash your saucepan while the sugar is still warm, and therefore liquidy, to avoid a situation that involves you chipping caked-on sugar out of it (sidenote: anyone know how my new saucepot got a dent in it already? dub tee eff?)

Back to the relish. Once it’s in the bowl, put it in the fridge while you prepare your baked chicken and brussels sprouts (roasted with bacon and garlic. delish. who knew?? not me. this was the first time I’d ever even SEEN a brussels sprout in person. legitimately.)
So technically they're Belgian Sprouts, right? It's not about the chicken.

And there you have it! A winning update to a Thanksgiving classic, and a TON better than whatever you shake out of the can on the big day, I promise. Not to mention, I bet if you mixed this with some honey mustard, it would create a sandwich spread that would rival the delicious one that I slathered on turkey burgers last year, at the behest of my girl, Rachael Ray. Also, it keeps for ages. Make it on Saturday and put it in the refrigerator until Thursday, and you’ll have one dish less to worry about on Thanksgiving.
Simplicity in the face of chaos – that’s really what we’re looking for, isn’t it?


A Very Pretty Thanksgiving: Who’s yer Punkin?

Posted: November 15th, 2009 | Author: johanna | Filed under: A Very Pretty Thanksgiving, Bake-zilla, Johanna, pumpkin | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Punkin Paaaah!There are some things that are synonymous with Thanksgiving, with the holidays. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Squash. We’ll get to all of these except the turkey as we help our dear friend Bakezilla work her way through her first Thanksgiving dinner, as well as sharing stories adn tales about our own personal holiday faves.

A big one for me at the holidays has always been Pumpkin Pie. I went through a phase where it was my favorite thing ever. I’ve kind of cooled on it lately, which is odd given my recent love affair with most things pumpkin. I’m more into combining pumpkin with muffins, or brownies, or jello shots.
However, my friend and all around awesome lady, Jackie, brought me back to pumpkin pie. She has an allergy to cinnamon, which means that her fave dessertĀ  has the chance to put her into anaphylactic shock. This is not a cool thing, as you might imagine, because I love Jackie and do not want her to die from dessert. She asked the Pretty Girls via Twitter to try and hack pumpkin pie to produce something she could consume. I promised to try.

A couple days later, while washing the dishes, my mind wandered away from the crusted on remains I was scraping off my casserole dish, and suddenly, I had it. Cumin, and Cayenne, would provide the heat and spice that cinnamon give. Nutmeg and Cardamom would provide warmth and spiciness.

Pie-oh-My.

I had it. And I had to immediately try my theory. I abandoned the dishes and immediately ran to the store to buy pumpkin and evaporated milk.
Pumpkin Pie for Jackie
Preheat oven to 425.
Roll out your pie shells and place into your pie plate. If making 1 pie, make it a deep-dish pie plate.
Combine 3/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar in a bowl. Reserve.
Beat 2 eggs in a large bowl. Add in 1 can of pumpkin puree and the sugar-and-spice mixture. Once this is combined, add in 1 can of evaporated milk.

Pour the filling into the pie shell, thump it on the counter a fe times to get rid of the air bubbles, and put it in the oven. I baked my 4 mini pies and 1 mini springform for 15 minutes at 425, then reduced the heat to 350, and bakedĀ  them for 35 minutes. For a larger pie, make it 45 minutes at 350.

This pie was 2-boy-approved: Jesse and our friend Steele both decided it was pretty darn good. While you notice the lack of cinnamon, I certainly didn’t miss it. The spices work brilliantly with the pumpkin, creating a general feeling of warmth, and the cayenne provides a nice slow burn at the end.
In fact, you could probably use coconut milk instead of evaporated milk, if you’re lactose intolerant.

But in the end, the best part is that Jackie can have her fave again, without anaphylactic shock. And that’s a win. :)