I love Thanksgiving. The demands of the day — good food and lots of it — are ones I can handle. Turkey, sides and pies? I can do that. And unlike other holidays, there are no presents to buy, no costumes to make, no festivities that are dependent on the weather. Beyond the food, the expectations are low and manageable. Show up, be polite, eat something, have a glass of whatever's offered and make small talk with family members — at least some of whom you maybe actually like.
As for the meal itself, it's probably best not to mess with tradition. At our house, the kids want to wake up to the smell of turkey roasting. They want to snack on Chex Mix and eat carrots and pickles and olives from the relish tray until it's time for dinner. And when it comes to the meal itself, my kids' tastes are uncomplicated. They want a traditional turkey, they want Stove Top Stuffing (yes, made just like it says on the box), sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, green bean casserole and crescent rolls that pop from a tube — and they'll probably fight over who gets to pop them.
And that's okay. After all, Thanksgiving is about family and memories, and even though food is central to the celebration, it's the memories of the food that really matter. So I don't mind making the kids' favorites, but I do like trying different sides as well — maybe oyster dressing or roasted Brussels sprouts or a carrot soufflé. One year, after we had taken the kid-pleasing, straightforward Thanksgiving lunch to my folks and packaged up plenty of leftovers for them, we came home and cooked a turkey on the grill, and I made another round of less traditional sides. And my Stove Top-stuffed kids were happy to indulge me — and they even liked my Brussels sprouts. The oyster dressing, not so much.
This is the most satisfying recipe. It makes the kitchen smell great, and it's very forgiving. The recipe on the back of the cranberry bag just calls for a cup of water, a cup of sugar and the bag of cranberries. So that's really all you need for a serviceable sauce. But the apple cider, spices, liqueur and orange zest really add a lot of flavor — and a fabulous aroma!
- Sarah Murrell
Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon allspice
• 1 cup apple cider (or water)
• 12 ounce package fresh cranberries
• 2 tablespoons orange liqueur
• Zest of 1 medium orange
In a medium saucepan, add sugar; stir in cinnamon, ground cloves, ginger and allspice. Add cider and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to combine.
Add cranberries, return to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, adding the orange liqueur about halfway through the cooking time. Remove from heat and stir in orange zest. Allow to cool. Store covered in refrigerator for up to a week.
Cook's note: This is terrific not only with turkey, but also with a cheese plate. It also makes a great filling for bar cookies (replace the jam or preserves in raspberry streusel bars, for example, with cranberry sauce).