This year I played with several new recipes and focused on one very special ingredient: cranberries. Of course I’ve served cranberry sauce with Christmas dinner every year. It’s a delicious holiday staple, native to North America, and the clean, tart taste breaks up the heaviness of the other holiday foods. But I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve always used canned cranberry preparations. Maybe it was habit. Maybe I was intimated by the texture, but this year, I broke out of the yoke of processed food bondage.
My inspiration for elevating this ingredient started with my travels this year. As you may recall from previous installments, I had the pleasure of spending time in both Nova Scotia and Wisconsin. These lovely, northern locations are both cranberry producing areas, and I brought home some choice flavors to save for the Christmas season. From Nova Scotia, I brought Lake Rossignol Cranberry wine from the Lunenburg County Winery at Hackmatack Farm. From Wisconsin, I brought Fireside Jam, a delicious blend of cherries and cranberries, purchased from The Summer Kitchen’s booth at the Dane County Farmer’s Market.
To build the rest of our holiday meal, my family and I made an expedition to the Dekalb World Market in Atlanta. My regular readers might be getting the idea that this is one of my favorite finds in Georgia, and they would be right. I’m generally a huge advocate of local food, but the atmosphere, incredible variety, and great prices at this international market have become something of a moral splurge for me.
After stocking up on Sunday afternoon, we spent most of Monday (Christmas Eve) preparing a big family meal. It included mascarpone chive mashed potatoes, green bean and artichoke casserole, double cranberry apple sauce, and a grilled beef tenderloin all served with whole wheat rolls and cranberry wine. The mashed potato recipe came from a fellow food blogger at http://www.goodlifeeats.com, although I did add extra mascarpone cheese. The green bean casserole preparation was the same as described in my November 2012 Thanksgiving post. And although I modified it a bit, I have to give props to http://www.myrecipes.com for the original cranberry apple sauce idea.
Double Cranberry Apple Sauce
6 small to medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced to 1” cubes
1 (12 oz) package of fresh cranberries
3 tsp lemon juice
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 cup water
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
Combine the apples, fresh cranberries, lemon juice, granulated sugar, ginger, and water in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until the cranberries pop and the mixture starts to thicken (still stirring often). Remove from heat. Mix in the dried cranberries for texture. Pour the mixture into your serving dish and chill in the refrigerator. Serve cold.
My husband was the grill master for our tenderloin. He and I agree that the most important trick for any meat course is to start with a high quality cut. Don’t be afraid to ask your butcher what they have in the back. In our case, we had a perfectly sized section cut from the middle of the loin by the helpful people at the Dekalb Market, and we still spent less than at a traditional grocery store. We seasoned it simply with salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and garlic powder and cooked it to a medium rare over hot charcoal.
The cranberry wine was a nice touch with dinner, and the cranberry jam was perfect over toast for Christmas Day brunch. Speaking of Christmas Day, I have to take a second to brag on my foodie loot for the year. Instead of stocking up on candy that I shouldn’t eat, my family has gotten into the habit of exchanging nuts, dried fruits, and fun snacks (like the green bean and plantain chips pictured below). I’m excited to say that I also received a set of sustainably produced bamboo kitchen utensils, two new pans, two small spatulas, an herb chopper, a fun set of monster bag clips, a pie crust design cutter, and an adorable set of glass jars for herb storage. For some great culinary ideas, I received the Cooking Behind the Fence cookbook from Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the two-book set of Julia Child’s historic Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The piéce de résistance of the morning, however, was my new food processor. I’m sure these goodies will inspire a host of fun blog topics for 2013. I hope you’re looking forward to it as much as I am.
From my family to yours….Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Photos by Jenn Ballard