Honest to God, I don't know if I should be embarrassed or proud. Martha Stewart both interests and repels me at the same time. Some of her ideas are just great; others.... not so much.
Still, I'm an equal opportunity chef, so I decided to try one of Martha's recipes for cranberry sauce to serve at Christmas dinner. I was hoping for a gentle lift to a family favorite.
First, Martha had me mix the cranberries with sugar and let them simmer (without any liquid) until, she said, the cranberries would burst in about 15 minutes. Well, I waited, stirring occasionally, but the cranberries were hardly bursting in their allotted
time. I let them cook another 15 minutes before it looked like there was enough juice to move ahead with the next step: adding small bits of a fresh orange (peel and white stuff removed) and one tablespoon of freshly ground ginger. A touch of cinnamon and,
as far as Martha was concerned, that was it.
And that was when I knew I'd stumbled into a major problem: the ginger overpowered the lovely cranberry flavor. It wasn't even close to the cranberry sauce my friends and family know and love. It was time for emergency surgery.
It was Christmas eve, so what followed was rather a wild ride. I'd have to rely on my sense of smell, and hunches about what to do to balance too much ginger. As my efforts proceeded, I also had to balance what I added to correct the original offending
ingredient (not that I don't love ginger... it has it's place.... but I respectfully suggest you ignore anyone who tells you to add ginger to your cranberry sauce).
I reached for some OJ and stirred. Better, but the ginger was still too strong. I tossed in a touch of balsamic vinegar (possibly a bit of insanity on my part) and that helped but not quite enough. Next, some lemon juice, which didn't do much. Then some
red wine. Better, but even further from the cranberry sauce "lift" I'd been looking for. As my sanity lost more of its grip on the issue, I added curry powder and possibly some Cointreau. At this point, I can't remember all that was thrown in to fix the ginger
issue, although I do know that by the time I was done, the ginger was tamed but the result was a very distant cousin of the cranberry sauce I'd been hoping for.
I placed it in the 'fridge to let it gel and, after an hour or so -- in a unusual moment of clarity that night -- I asked my husband to taste it to let me know if he thought it would work. He took a bite and said: "If there are cranberries in here they've
lost their will to survive".
And thus, the whole batch went into the garbage. Sweet hubby went to the market, and Christmas dinner was served with cranberry sauce from two cans of Ocean Spray.
The lesson learned: don't mess too much with a recipe that should let the main ingredient speak for itself. First Martha messed with it by adding ginger and then I messed with it by adding pretty much everything but the kitchen sink.
My New Year's resolution (besides losing 30 pounds, which is my traditional resolution) is to keep experimenting, but to do so when I'm not in a crunch for time.
Hope your holidays were free of unnecessary ingredients, and that you're off to a good start in 2011.