Here's the day's challenge question: why do people buy canned cranberry sauce when making fresh takes, and I'm not kidding, 15 minutes? And if you get that one right, why do people only make cranberry sauce once a year?
We had this stuff last night with roast chicken, and damn if it wasn't just the perfect accompaniment. Yes, it has a lot of sugar, so it's not akin to eating, I don't know, steamed okra, but who wants to eat steamed okra anyway? More importantly, who wants to eat any okra? Even MORE importantly, why am I writing about okra in the first place?
I happen to have quite a few whole spices in my pantry so I chose the ones pictured above: star anise, cardamom pods, cloves, and cinnamon sticks. I tie the spices up in a little cheesecloth bundle (except the cinnamon, which is easy enough to fish out on its own) and retrieve it before serving.
Now don't go spending the wad on these spices or you and your wallet will definitely curse me. If you live anywhere near an Indian grocery, you can generally get spices there for a song. The bulk aisle at Whole Foods also offers pay-as-you-weigh spices, a very economical solution so long as you don't pick up a lobster tail on your way out.
Here's a pretty basic cranberry sauce recipe with a fragrant twist. Be forewarned that star anise is especially potent, so if you double or triple the recipe, you may still want to use only one star anise.
Serves 4 adults, comfortably (double or triple as necessary)
One 12-ounce bag of cranberries (mushy or bruised ones discarded), rinsed
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
5 cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec)
Combine cranberries, honey, brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a medium saucepan.
Make a little cheesecloth bundle for the remaining spices to facilitate retrieval: tuck spices into a double-layered square of cheesecloth, then tie with kitchen twine. Toss into pot.
Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once bubbles appear, continue simmering until cranberries pop and burst, about 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Let stand off-heat for 5 minutes, then remove and discard spices and stir in liqueur.
Scrape sauce into a wide heat-proof dish (pyrex works well) to facilitate cooling. (Please exercise caution as contents will be very hot.) Once tepid, refrigerate until cold.
Can be made several days in advance.(Store covered in the fridge.)