Friday, November 18, 2011

6 Days and Counting: Cranberry Citrus Compote and a Shiny New Toy

We're less than a week before Thanksgiving, but the Big Deal Meal is right on schedule.  Last night I made the Cranberry Citrus Compote that you see on the left, recipe from Fine Cooking here.  The cranberry compote is chilling out in the garage refrigerator, and all I need to do on Thanksgiving is stir in some chopped scallions right before serving.

This recipe is incredibly easy.  You can even have your kids make it, although mine were already in bed by the time I started.  You just mix fresh cranberries, lemon zest, orange juice, and granulated sugar together, dump it into a 9" x 13" glass baking dish, drizzle orange juice over the top, and then bake it in the oven for about a half an hour until the sugar dissolves and some of the berries pop open.  It's so much more flavorful than anything that comes out of a can, and just as effortless when it comes time to serve your Thanksgiving dinner.

-- Wait!  I forgot!  Two finely chopped shallots (in case you don't know, a shallot is like the Frankenstein vegetable child of an onion and a head of garlic) get stirred into the cranberries with the zest and the sugar.  Normally, I would have chopped up the shallots with a paring knife or a chef's knife, but this time I remembered that I own this handy little miniature food processor contraption.  I usually forget about the convenience of food processors unless the recipe specifically instructs me to use one, but every time I do, I marvel at how well they work and how much FASTER they are. 

So, if you read my previous Thanksgiving meal posts, you know that I had also planned to make an Appleberry Pie this week.  My sister sent me a nearly-identical recipe from another cookbook that she swears by, and I did some more research about the pros, cons, and recommended procedures for freezing unbaked pies.  I laid out all my ingredients, then I paced around the kitchen for awhile and thought of other things that I could do instead of pie making.  I'm such a scaredy-cat when it comes to pie! 

I finally got up the courage to take the Pie Crust Plunge yesterday morning.  My recipe calls for making the crust with a food processor, which I've never tried before.  So I hauled out the 7-cup Cuisinart that we got as a bridal shower gift thirteen years ago, set it on the counter, and then looked at it dubiously.  I sent some frantic text messages to Janice the Manice, because she is a pie wizard.  She said my food processor is "probably fine."  Then I went online and did some more research about the proper food processor capacity for making a double pie crust.  Most resources recommended a minimum 12 cup capacity, almost double the size of mine.  I also read recommendations of sharp blades (my food processor blade was even duller than my knives) and powerful motors, which tend to be a given with larger capacity food processors.  My old food processor also had little hairline fractures in the plastic bowl caused by a certain someone trying to force the bowl into place incorrectly.

So, did I need  a new food processor?  Probably not.  Whatever.  Look what followed me home from Williams-Sonoma:

Cuisinart Elite Die-Cast 16 c. food processor, photo from Williams-Sonoma

Let me introduce you to the Cuisinart Elite Die-Cast 16 cup food processor from Williams-Sonoma!  My new food processor is cool because:

1. One food processor, with three different bowl sizes!  There's a 4 1/2 cup bowl, a 13 cup bowl, and a 16 cup bowl.  I'm planning to use the 13 cup bowl for my pie crust, but the 16 cup bowl will really come in handy when it's time to puree the Buttercup Squash Soup.  Also, remember my amazing rediscovery that food processors chop vegetables faster than I can chop them with a knife?  There are so many recipes that I don't make as often as I would like because prepping all the ingredients takes so long.  I had forgotten that food processors can slice vegetables nearly instantaneously, to exactly the thickness you want, with no danger of cutting yourself with the knife.  You can grate a block of cheese instantly with a food processor, too -- it took me forever to grate all the cheese for homemade baked macaroni and cheese last week.  I am resolving to put the new food processor to work on all these jobs as frequently as possible.  With three different bowls at my disposal, there won't even be the fuss of washing out the bowls between ingredients for most recipes.

2. The Cuisinart folks have addressed all of my grievances against the older food processor model.  For instance, with this new food processor, the knife blade stays in place until I release it, so it won't fall out when I'm pouring out the soup and splatter food all over the kitchen.

2. With the older food processor, I had a knife blade and two sharp discs to store somehow without creating a hazard in a dark cupboard.  The new food processor comes with a cute storage case that holds everything safely, also making it easy to find the parts you need.

3. The new food processor has a seal on the lid so liquids don't squirt out at the top and run down the sides, oh so much fun to clean.

I told Bernie I wanted the new food processor to live out on the kitchen counter, to remind me to use it.  Bernie says he would rather look at an empty counter.  He pulled the old "I want to enjoy looking at my granite" card.  So the food processor is going to sit out on my counter for now, while I get used to using it, and then when I get tired of looking at it and find a space for it in my cupboard, then I might put it away.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and it's going to be another busy weekend.  I'm definitely going to make the Appleberry Pie tomorrow, now that I have a shiny new tool to bolster my confidence, and I will also make the roux for the gravy and do some additional grocery shopping for perishables.  I'll be supervising Lars's work on his science project and helping Anders get started with a book report project, fighting the never-ending laundry scourge, and might even be hauling out some holly this weekend as well.  Our tradition has always been to start decorating our (artificial) Christmas trees on the Friday after Thanksgiving so the house is decorated for the start of Advent, but this year we'll want to spend that time relaxing with our company.  Although I'm the first one to complain about Holiday Encroachment, it really makes more sense to decorate the house right before we have guests instead of waiting until after everyone has left.  I also know that we are going to spend some time teaching the puppy dogs the Rules of the Christmas Trees (such as Ornaments are Not Chew Toys, and No Urine Marking the Christmas Trees) and keep an eye on them while they are getting used to the decorations.  If you have dogs, do they leave your Christmas decorations alone?  I welcome any suggestions.  Well, we'll just have to see how the weekend goes. 


design elements said...

delicious! Happy Sunday

Nicole Gamble said...

What a great idea – I think it looks delicious!

verykerryberry said...

That cranberry compote looks good! I posted a reply to your stamping query on my blog if you wanted to check out the info- couldn't find your email!

Ivory Spring said...

Hope you had a good holiday too, Rebecca. At some point, you will need to share that citrus compote recipe.

Joann Mannix said...

Oh, so much to say!

First of all, I am so trying your cranberry compote. The cranberries are my one recipe that I'm still fiddling around with at Thanksgiving because I haven't found the right one. I bet you anything the shallots give it a perfect balance, taking away some of the tartness.

And thanks for reminding me about my food processor. I think you're onto something. If it sits in my pantry, I don't use it. In fact, as you were talking about all its uses, I was all, "Heyyyy, I forgot it did that!" This week I am excited to be making my sister's died-and-gone-to -heaven crunchy macaroni and cheese. It's like the crispy top of the mac and cheese, but the whole thing is like that! OMG, crackalicious is what it is. But it takes a lot of cheese grating. My processor's coming out.

Oh, and here's my decorating tip, although it won't work for you, yet. Every year, decorating the tree takes forever, because after awhile my girls drift off and leave me to do everything. (It's a big artificial tree, with years and years of ornaments.) Last year, it just so happened that there were a gaggle of teenagers at my house when I pulled out the tree. The kids were excited to help and it was up and decorated within an hour.

This year, I had my girls call all their friends and we did the same thing. It was great fun. And I didn't need the ladder since I requested they called the tallest boys they knew.

And as for the dogs? They have not touched the tree this year, although one of them did try to walk under it, which does not fare well when that pup is much larger than she thinks she is. Other than that, no casualties.