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thanksgiving week 2015: donna’s cranberry sauce and roasted root vegetables with rosemary & parmesan.

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The next entry in the lead up to the big day? A classic accompaniment and a twist on a traditional side.

First things first, let’s talk about cranberry sauce. Some people love it, some people think it’s wholly unnecessary. I happen to fall into the former camp and think that those in the latter camp must have only experienced cranberry sauce from a can. Which is basically illegal in the Radeke household.

Once you’ve tasted homemade cranberry sauce — one with warm spices and a hint of orange, you’ll seriously examine your life for what’s been missing all these years. It’s a revelation that was bestowed upon us long ago by a dear family friend, and my defacto Aunt growing up, Donna. Donna’s cranberry sauce is rich and a little boozy and it’s sweet/tart flavor pairs perfectly with the buttery flavors found on the rest of the table. It’s a never miss in this house, and it should be in yours too.

As for the next recipe, it’s a different take on a classic Thanksgiving ingredient — sweet potatoes. I’ve never been a fan of the sweet potato marshmallow monstrosity that finds its way to the table; it’s too sweet and it completely masks the beautiful flavor (and natural sweetness) of this glorious root vegetable. In this version, which is a take on a Bon Appétit recipe found long ago, roasted sweet potatoes are paired with roasted red onions and dressed minimally with fresh rosemary and parmesan. It’s so simple but so insanely good; you’ll have a really hard time trying not to sneak bites before it even gets to the serving table.

Two great recipes. Two excellent additions to any Thanksgiving.

You ready? OK, let’s do this.

Donna’s Cranberry Sauce
Serves: 8

You will need:

3 cups fresh cranberries
1½ cup sugar
¾ cup orange juice
½ cup brandy, port or rum

1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon orange zest

1/3 cup mincemeat (I recently learned that mincemeat does in fact contain meat, so if you want a vegetarian version of this dish, skip this step or sub in a few tablespoons of orange marmalade)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Kitchen equipment: large saucepan

In a large saucepan, bring the orange juice, booze of your choice, sugar, and all of the spices to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 5 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the cranberries and stir to coat them in the liquid. Let the cranberries cook, stirring occasionally, until their skins start to pop and the sauce begins to reduce. This should take about 15 minutes. After most of the berries have popped, add in the mincemeat (or marmalade) and the nuts. Let cool completely, which will thicken the sauce slightly. You can either serve at this point, or you can refrigerate until about an hour before you need it. Let the sauce come to room temperature before serving.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Red Onions with Rosemary & Parmesan
Serves: 6

You will need:

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
3 red onions, peeled and cut into eighths through the root
3 garlic cloves, chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

Kitchen equipment: two baking sheets

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, setting one rack in the middle and one on the lowest bar. Lay out your baking sheets, placing the sweet potatoes on one and the onions on the other. Drizzle the vegetables each with a few tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle the garlic over the sweet potatoes. Season both trays liberally with salt and pepper, then get in there with your hands and toss to coat the vegetables thoroughly with the oil and spices. Spread the vegetables out into a single layer on each sheet and pop them in the oven.

Check and stir the veggies about every ten minutes; they should be completely done in about 30-35 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when the sweet potatoes are soft and nicely browned and the onions are a deep purple.

Remove from the oven and add both veggies to a large serving bowl. Add most of the parmesan and rosemary (reserving a little of each for garnish) and toss to coat. Garnish with the rest of the cheese and herbs and serve immediately.

If you need to make this ahead of time, roast the vegetables and refrigerate separately. Then reheat just before serving, combine and toss with cheese and herbs.

Enjoy!

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