Thanksgiving isn’t the time for experiments. The family gathered around our table crave the classics – the flavors from childhood Thanksgivings past. But, I’m never satisfied with the classics – even new classics. I want to play. When I hit upon “The Ultimate” sweet potato casserole recipe, I swear it will be my go-to recipe for all the years to come. Yet, by next November, there are three new recipes I want to try. I’m always experimenting, always trying something new…except for my Cranberry Sauce. What could possibly be special about cranberry sauce? The C-sauce doesn’t play starring role. Frankly, it’s not even a co-star. Cranberry sauce lands somewhere in the chorus, but I couldn’t imagine my Thanksgiving table without it. And it has to be this version. The warming spice and tart cherries pair perfectly with the cranberries – elevating the sauce just so, but not too much. Classic, with a twist. So, from my Thanksgiving table to yours…
Trusting has been difficult for me, yet of the highest importance. I don’t trust easily – or often. It takes years of loyalty to gain my trust, one bad deed to destroy it. One boyfriend, The Irishman, managed to garner my complete trust during our exceedingly brief 8-month relationship. At the time, I should have questioned it further – why did I trust him, what was his secret trust sauce? Because now, I could use a magnum of it. I find myself obliged to trust others with my livelihood, my reputation, my future, my pride and, most importantly, my heart. Utter reliability on others has never been my forte and, today, I’m left vulnerable. I possess no options except to close my eyes, fall back from a great height, and pray someone’s there to catch me.
While I anxiously await answers to my immediate future, I divert myself with this holiday-appropriate use for leftover cranberry sauce, using last week’s recipe.
6 Tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons whole milk
1 cup cranberry sauce
½ cup oatmeal
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 8×8-inch baking pan with heavy-duty foil, leaving overhang. Spray foil with nonstick spray.
Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in processor; blend for 5 seconds. Add butter and extract. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and pulse until mixture comes together in small clumps.
Transfer ½ cup (packed) mixture to small bowl and reserve for streusel. Blend remaining mixture in processor until large moist clumps form. Press dough over bottom of prepared pan. Don’t clean processor bowl. Bake dough until golden, about 15 minutes; cool crust 15 minutes. Maintain oven temperature.
While crust bakes and cools, blend cranberry sauce in processor into a chunky puree. Add oatmeal and walnuts to reserved 1/2 cup dough. Mix dough with fork or fingers, breaking streusel topping into small clumps.
Spread cranberry sauce over baked crust. Sprinkle streusel topping over. Bake until filling is bubbling and streusel topping is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. Using foil overhang as aid, lift from pan. Peel off foil and discard. Cut cookies into 16 bars.
For all of November, and most of October if I’m honest, I’ve had a terrible bout of writer’s block. It’s not lack of topics, the “what,” that has me flummoxed; there are plenty of topics – big topics, sensitive topics and juicy topics. However, approaching them, the “how,” has confounded me for weeks.
So, as we move into December, I find myself tardy on both this recipe’s relevancy and the announcement of my not-so-recent career resignation after 15 years. I’ve spent the majority of the last two and a half weeks in my bathrobe without any rush to return to the workforce (or post, obviously).
If I can’t find a new situation, how do I find contentment in my current state?
I have been begging anyone who will listen to help me escape from my daily slog. So far, my pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Now I’ve begun to wonder, if it’s not time for my situation to change, how do I find contentment with what I have?” Not, “what can I do/change/buy to find contentment,” but “how can I find contentment where I am right now with what I have?” If I never break free, I don’t want to live this life unhappily. I can’t look for solutions externally; I can’t change who I am. So, how do I find happiness with what is here, now?
My temporary placation, as I ponder my predicament, comes in the form of a sugar pacifier. Thanksgiving just isn’t complete without cranberry sauce, but my favorite recipe makes 4 ½ cups and I’m always left with a large Tupperware container of the stuff after the main event. This year, I decided to make a tart with the leftovers and, full of chagrin, devoured the whole thing in two days.
Bring cider to simmer in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and add dried cherries. Let stand for 8-10 minutes. Mix in sugar, cranberries and cloves. Cook over medium high heat until cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 9-10 minutes. Refrigerated until cold, at least 4 hours. Sauce will thicken as it cools.
Make the Tart:
Heat the oven to 425. In a bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. In a small bowl, whisk together the oils, milk and vanilla extract. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix gently with a fork, just until dampen. Do not overmix.
Transfer the dough to a 9 or 10-inch tart pan and pat out the dough so it evenly covers the bottom and sides of the pan to the rim. In a separate bowl, combine 1/2 cup demerara sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the butter. Using your fingers, pinch the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly like wet sand and small pebbles.
Fill the tart shell with the cranberry mixture (you may have extra). Sprinkle all of the streusel mixture over top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the tart is bubbly and the crust is slightly brown. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or room temperature.