Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pear, Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

I remember the first holiday my family switched over from the canned “cranberry” abomination to making our own.  It was my third year in college when I spent a lot of time watching the Food Network instead of writing papers.  Which is not to say I didn't write the papers just that I did the writing at literally the very last second before they were due, editing and printing the papers minutes before catching the bus to class.  All the while frantically praying to the goddess of procrastination,  my long time muse.  I did well in all my classes I was just much more interested my new passions born out of living alone for the first time in a big city; cooking, coffee, and beatnik poetry. 

Unfortunately my last minute writing technique was so successful that it's the only way I know how to write to this day.  Which is why I often neglect this blog unless someone in my life writes me an email that basically amounts to “blog today or else...”  So if I've been promising to write about something fabulous I fed you or told you about or a recipe you sent me to try and it isn't blogged about yet, you need to write me a kind but pressing email telling me to hurry up and write about whatever it is.  It works, promise.

Anyway somewhere along the line in the plethora of cooking shows I was watching I got the itch to make real cranberries since my brother was and still is ion love with all versions of cranberry sauce.  So I bought cranberries and enlisted my little brother to help me make them.  We just cooked the simple version off the back of the bag.  Equal parts sugar and water, the bag of cranberries and boil until the berries burst. 

We were fascinated watching the berries burst all over the pot which my mother heard from the other room and probably imagined as something much more dangerous than what was actually happening because she came to watch too.  It really is the simple pleasures in life because we had more fun making those berries than most of the rest of dinner and they were delicious, we never went back to buying the canned stuff

As the holidays went on we got creative and started adding orange zest or cinnamon and comparing them hot versus how good they were cold.  Soon my brother and I were making 3 or 4 batches of cranberries to feast on  while home for the holidays.  It became an obsession and is still a holiday tradition to make too many cranberries.  I certainly wasn't going to shun the tradition this year but since I'm making a habit of making new and interesting food I knew I would have to up the ante on the creativity of the cranberries this year.

The fella and I made these for Thanksgiving and fell in love.  They are the best cranberries ever.  With brandy, pears, and walnuts how could you possibly go wrong.  Though they take a little effort they are very much worth it and will wow everyone at the table.  My family, the fella, the chef and I made these disappear very quickly.  We ate them with dinner, then a little bit after dinner, then for dessert, then on top of dessert.  They are great alone but on top of coconut ice cream they are divine.  Dip in a gluten free Christmas cookie and you may never leave the table.  Or you may become so drunk on cranberries you end up playing hours of ridiculous card games.  Either way you will be very happy.

Funny to think my cooking obsession started with cranberries and has led me to French cooking and a food blog.  From playing with food with my little brother to my brother being old enough to drink and me cooking with these two crazy lovable guys.  From living for a year in Iowa with no kitchen to making gourmet meals every night. 

Okay enough end of the year nostalgia.  It's been an amazing journey 2009 but its time to move on to frog legs and shirataki noodles.  In other words, you  haven't seen anything yet.

Oh and will someone convince Jacob to share with the rest of the world what he did to the turkey?  It was the best turkey I've ever tasted and I wasn't around to watch his secret ninja cooking techniques to find out what he did.

Pear, Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce

1/3 cup, plus 2-3 tablespoon brandy, divided use

2 cinnamon sticks, each broken in half
8 black peppercorns

12 ounces fresh cranberries, picked over
1/2 cup agave nectar
2 medium firm but ripe bartlett pears, peeled

1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

 Pour 1/3 cup brandy into liquid measuring cup; add enough water to reach 1/2 cup liquid total. Set aside. Place broken cinnamon sticks and peppercorns in center of small piece of cheesecloth or large tea bag and tie closed using kitchen twine.

In medium saucepot, combine cranberries, agave nectar and cinnamon-pepper bundle. Using large holes on a box grater, grate pears into saucepot. Stir in brandy-water mixture.

Over high heat, bring cranberry mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium and cook 10-12 minutes, or until cranberries have burst and the mixture has combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Stir in remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons brandy. Let cool. Remove and discard cinnamon bundle. Stir in 7 tablespoons toasted walnuts. Transfer mixture to small serving bowl; sprinkle with remaining walnuts.

Original recipe from Food 52.

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