Turkeys are traditional but side dishes are evolving
Cranberries are showing up everywhere, from sauces to salads to chutney
Turkey dinners still rule the roost on Thanksgiving, but cooks these days are having fun with side dishes, including cranberry sauce.
Cranberries with turkey are a longstanding tradition, whether unloading a can of the jellied red sauce onto an attractive dish or cooking fresh cranberries with a healthy dose of sugar for a savory but sweet accompaniment to the turkey.
Gene's Fine Foods has taken cranberry sauce to a new level by adding fresh blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries as well as zest of fresh oranges.
"Most people are so traditional," said Bobbi Lillak, who has worked in Gene's deli for 18 years, "but people come for our homemade cranberry sauce."
It sells for $4.99 a pint throughout the holiday season. A sample might make a believer out of you.
Thanksgiving dinners can be preordered dish by dish at the Pleasanton supermarket, including Diestel turkeys.
"Our turkey is pretty doggone popular," said Lillak, "and our side dishes -- mashed potatoes, apple sausage stuffing, sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower."
She also recommends their homemade spinach dip and artichoke souffle.
"What's really nice is everything is fresh," she said.
Their gravy, she added, is made from turkey simmering all night long, with the aroma filling the store.
Cindy Roberts, who teaches "The Ultimate Thanksgiving" at adult schools in the Bay Area, combines traditional and contemporary ingredients in recipes that reflect her experiences studying cooking at home and at the Cordon Bleu in France.
"I want to teach home chefs to create extraordinary things at home," she said. "The class is inspired by the thought that this is one meal of the year when families come together and they're really expecting a home-cooked meal."
Her class and her family dinner are filled with unusual dishes such as shiitake mushroom gravy, cranberry orange chutney and mashed potatoes with chilies and jack cheese. Roberts' recipes come from a variety of sources, including family specialties and culinary magazines.
Cranberries can be frozen for up to two years, and the berries blend well in many different recipes. You can add a tablespoon or two of sweetened dried cranberries to your hot or cold cereal in the morning. You can use fresh or sweetened dried cranberries in main dishes like pork, chicken and beef. Or you can drop dried cranberries into a green salad for a festive holiday flare.
"The great thing about cranberries, too, is that they are high in antioxidants," says Tom Lochner, executive director of the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. "The health benefits of the tart berries are great, and many people don't realize that cranberries are so good for them."
People can get creative with the berries, too. One idea is to rim a glass with sugar, pour in some cranberry juice and clear soda, and add a cherry on top for a great alcohol-free cocktail. Or, if you're in need of decorating ideas, fill a glass container with the bright red berries and a couple of green leaves or pine branches for a colorful and natural seasonal centerpiece.
The Thanksgiving buffet at the Farmer Restaurant in the Pleasanton Hotel on Main Street offers turkey and all the trimmings as well as honey-glazed ham and herb crusted prime rib au jus. Its banquet of side dishes includes classic stuffing as well as imaginative offerings that include a rice dish made with pecans -- and cranberries.
Cindy Roberts' Cranberry Orange Chutney
24 oz. fresh cranberries
2 C. water
3 C. granulated sugar
1 large pippin or tart baking apple, chopped finely
1 navel orange
3 T. candied ginger, chopped finely
3 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 C. golden raisins
1) Prepare the orange: Zest the entire orange. Squeeze the juice from the orange with a juicer and set aside the juice and zest.
2) Heat the water and sugar together until the sugar is just dissolved.
3) Add cranberries, apples, orange zest and orange juice to the sugar water. Stir constantly to ensure fruit is continually covered with water. Cook at a high temperature until the berries pop.
4) Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to cook until a foam appears, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
5) Add the candied ginger and cook for another 5 minutes longer to soften the ginger and release the flavor.
6) Add the red pepper flakes.
7) Turn off the heat. Add the golden raisins. Sample the chutney and adjust sugar and peppers to taste.
Store the chutney into a glass jar. This will last two weeks in the refrigerator or can be frozen for use at a later date. Serve at room temperature.
Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
2/3 C. butter or margarine, softened
2/3 C. brown sugar
1 1/2 C. old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 C. flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 (6 ounces) package sweetened-dried cranberries
2/3 C. white chocolate chunks or chips
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well.
2) Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in sweetened-dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.
3) Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 2-1/2 dozen cookies.
Kathy Cordova and ARA Content contributed to this story.