Here’s something a little different. I wanted to make a pie, but couldn’t decide what kind (pear? apple? brown butter cheesecake?), so I started flipping through a few baking books. What caught my eye was a recipe for “Warm Cranberry Crumble Tart” in The Art and Soul of Baking, one of the books I brought home from the International Food Blogger’s Conference last spring. Festive, seasonal and something I’d never thought of trying – perfect.
In some ways, this tart is kind of odd. The cranberry-orange flavor is so strongly associated in my mind with turkey that I find it hard to remember I’m eating dessert. But it goes great with vanilla ice cream (especially homemade), which makes up for the fact that the tart isn’t very sweet on its own. The more I ate, the more I liked it.
One of the things I like about spending Thanksgiving with our Kansas City relatives is the wide assortment of cranberry sauces. I grew up with basic boiled cranberries and sugar, and I still consider that the most elemental form of cranberry sauce. I know plenty of people swear by the canned stuff, but it makes me think of canned beets and (sorry to all you canned-cranberry-or-beet eaters) I just can’t do it.
But the other kind – the sauce in the pretty glass dish in the picture – is my personal favorite. I still make the boiled kind for everyday, but for Thanksgiving I have to have this. I don’t know Aunt Sheryl’s personal recipe, but when I make it myself I use the Joy of Cooking‘s Uncooked Cranberry Relish recipe. It’s very simple, just put into a food processor and grind up:
- 4 cups cranberries
- 1 whole orange
- 2 cups sugar
That’s it! It’s fresh, bright, tart and fantastic with turkey and stuffing. Joy says to let the whole thing “ripen” for a couple days before eating – doesn’t seem strictly necessary, but maybe it makes it even better, who knows?
This recipe has an interesting (to me) backstory. Years back, I had come into possession of some random issues of Home & Garden magazine, which I mostly looked at for the photos of unattainably beautiful and enormous gardens. One of them, though – I believe the November 1992 issue – had a story about going out to pick fresh cranberries in Maine and bringing them home to make clafoutis for breakfast. The recipe seemed simple (minus the fresh-picked cranberries – not so common out here), so I tried it, and it became a solid staple in our breakfast repertoire. I barely noticed the author of the article.
Much later, my father was reading Jim Harrison’s remarkable book The Raw and the Cooked, and noticed that he was constantly singing the praises of someone named John Thorne, calling him the finest food writer in America. That’s interesting, we thought, we’ve never heard of him. So when I happened across one of his books (Pot on the Fire) I snapped it up, and I found his website and went through it. He is indeed an amazing food writer – I have since subscribed to his newsletter and bought my father every single one of his books. And I discovered that in one of his earlier books, there’s a recipe for a cranberry clafoutis. The very same one that we’ve been making all these years! So I am very happy to attribute this recipe, correctly, to John Thorne and his wife, Matt Lewis Thorne. I don’t remember if the Grand Marnier is my own idea or not. Probably not. Continue reading