Here is a confession: even with more than a decade of professional culinary experience under my belt, cooking for Thanksgiving still makes me nervous. There is a lot of pressure to make it perfect- a Norman Rockwell-worthy tablescape, a stunning golden brown (and perfectly moist) turkey, a million side dishes the cook is supposed to magically reheat simultaneously in an oven that is no bigger than it was yesterday. And the fact that, in a world where practice makes perfect, you only do this once a year. Anything you learned from last year's mistakes (or hopefully successes), you have by now forgotten. Plus, magazines and blog posts keep encouraging you to do something new- there are recipes to smoke your turkey- or brine it, rub it, fry it, bag it, wrap it- all in the same November issue of bon Appetit! So in an effort to keep it simple, I am only offering up a few tried and true recipes here, but the good news is, they are fully customizable. Take the basic dressing recipe, and go crazy adding whatever herbs, nuts, dried fruits, wild rice, apples, etc. Or start with the very simple cranberry sauce recipe, and then add orange zest and ginger, blueberries and apples, maple syrup and rosemary...you get the idea. The holidays can be stressful enough without tackling trendy new recipes each year and starting from scratch. Master a few basics, and then you can always get creative with them, not in spite of them.
Simple Cranberry Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup water (or juice-apple or orange)
1 12 oz. package fresh cranberries
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chopped fresh herbs (like thyme or rosemary, optional)
1/2 cup add-ins (like diced apples or blueberries, also optional)
Combine sugar and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Add cranberries, return to a boil, and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool completely, and refrigerate until serving.
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