The combination of sweet and sour, sugar and tart is one of my all-time favorite flavor profiles. My mouth is pooling with saliva just writing these words. I remember learning to make a gastrique in culinary school, a sauce that combines sugar and vinegar, with other ingredients, and it was a revelation. I realized in a kind of “life flashes before my eyes” moment, that I have always loved this combination. Think: bread and butter pickles, tart plum gallettes dusted with sugar, balsamic vinegar reduction, hot dogs with sauerkraut and sweet relish, honey mustard dressing, Sweet Tarts for God’s sake! Now, think: cranberry sauce! If done well, (and it’s so easy to do well!) and not extruded from a can, it’s the culinary equivalent of a machete, quietly cutting through the starchy jungle of heaviness that is our cherished Thanksgiving meal. It not only brightens the flavor of our layered Thanksgiving bites, (don’t tell me I’m the only one that tries to compose a perfect balance of turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potato, yam, and cranberry sauce on each forkful), but it brightens up our plates with it’s deep garnet tone.
This particular recipe has a depth of flavor that is at once different from all the other flavors on the traditional Thanksgiving table, with it’s two kinds of ginger, and a dash of Chinese Five-Spice, but complements them spectacularly. And the Pinot Noir, well, that just needs no explanation at all. I mean, since when does the glorious flavor of reduced red wine ever need to be explained?
I warn you. Once you make this, once you serve this, you will not be allowed to go back to your old version. Everyone will demand it this way from now on, and with just a hint of the exotic and the decadent, it’s very fitting for this very American meal.
Spiced Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir
Makes about 2.5 cups
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups cranberries (about 8 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 cups Pinot Noir or other dry red wine
1 cup of sugar (I like to keep it on the tart side, but start with this amount, you can always add more if you like it sweeter)
3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon Chinese Five-Spice powder
1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cranberries and fresh ginger; stir until cranberries begin to burst, about 3 minutes.
2. Add wine and sugar; boil until mixture is reduced to 2 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes. Add crystallized ginger, curry powder and five-spice powder. Season with salt and pepper.
3. (Can be made 3-4 days ahead. Cover; chill.) Serve sauce cold or, if desired, rewarm over low heat, stirring often.