Cranberries are no doubt that wonderful splash of red, the gorgeous little shimmering rubies of the fall and early winter season. Sharply tart and sweet, cranberries bring an amazingly colorful and bright presence to any well-spread holiday table—mine, being no exception. But perhaps I’m a bit unique in my adoration of cranberries; I genuinely love the little gems. And I don’t use the word “love” lightly here. From the time they first come available in late October, all the way through the time they take their final bow on the store shelves around early winter, cranberries are a staple food item in my fridge; and I typically even have an extra bag or two as back up, just to make certain I’m never out. Told you I wasn’t kidding about the “love” thing.
Good, tangy, homemade fruit compotes, sauces and chutneys are something that I really enjoy, and it doesn’t even have to be a holiday for me to make them. I add them by heaping spoonfuls to my spiced bowl of steaming oatmeal with slivered toasted almonds, or drizzle them over top my homemade, warm-out-of-the-oven *Milk ‘N Honey Biscuits. The juicy, glossy and sweet-sour aspects of compotes are what I love so much about them, and cranberries are the perfect pick to create those luscious qualities. Quick to cook, these little beauties need only some sugar and some liquid to make a simple sauce; but add in fragrant, diced Bartlett pears, and a little splash of Grand Marnier? Now we’re talking. You’ll forget you ever ate cranberry sauce out of a can.
What a simple, beautiful thing that the red cranberry is; and what a statement it can make on your holiday table. Fresh, homemade, comforting and scrumptious is what the Thanksgiving meal is really all about; and a simple, spiced cranberry and pear compote spiked with just a hint of sweet, orange liqueur, is one gloriously vibrant side dish that speaks sweetly of that. And as long as we’re talking side dishes, pass some of those biscuits, too, please!
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
*The Milk ‘N Honey Biscuits are a bonus recipe this week, and can be found below the Grand Marnier-Spiked Cranberry and Pear Compote recipe.
Grand Marnier-Spiked Cranberry and Pear Compote
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(This recipe can absolutely be made without the Grand Marnier; just leave it out, if you prefer, for an equally delicious, spiced compote.)
(Serves about 6-8)
16 oz. fresh cranberries (a 12 oz package, plus 1 cup)
2 red or gold Bartlett pears, finely diced
Zest of 1 orange
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
¾ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ tablespoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur (optional)
-Add the cranberries, the diced Bartlett pears, the orange zest, the sugar, the orange juice and the cinnamon into a medium-large pot, and set it over medium-high heat; stir the ingredients gently to incorporate the sugar and the spices together, and bring the cranberry/pear mixture to the boil; once it comes to the boil, reduce the heat to low/medium-low, and allow the mixture to gently simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries begin to “pop” and split, and soften slightly, for about 7-8 minutes; turn off the heat, and pour the cranberry mixture into a clean bowl, and allow it to cool completely (the mixture will continue to thicken up due to the natural pectins in the fruit, as it cools); once completely cooled (it may take a couple of hours, and can be expedited in the fridge), you can gently mash the compote slightly to make it chunky/smooth, or leave it as is for a more “whole berry” consistency, your choice (I mashed mine slightly); finally, finish the chilled compote by adding in the Grand Marnier, if using, and gently stir to blend well; serve compote cold.
Milk ‘N Honey Biscuits (makes about 20 biscuits)
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2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ sticks ice cold butter (12 tablespoons), cut into small pieces
1 ¼ cup buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons to brush on top of biscuits
2 tablespoons honey
• Sugar to sprinkle
-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and lightly spray two, 9” cake pans with cooking spray.
-Add the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt into a large bowl; using a small whisk, gently blend the dry ingredients together until well combined; next, add in the ice cold butter pieces, and using a pastry cutter or forks (or even your fingers, like I did), cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a chunky crumble; next, add in the buttermilk and the honey, and gently incorporate that into the mixture with a spatula, just until combined, being careful not to over-work the dough.
-Next, flour a work surface lightly with flour, and turn the dough out onto it (the dough will be quite sticky, so use a little extra flour on your hands if needed) bringing the dough together into a ball; once the dough comes together, use your hands to gently press/flatten and shape it into a medium-large disc shape, about ½” thick; cut the biscuits out using a 2½” glass or cookie cutter dipped in flour, cutting as close to the edges as possible; pull together the remaining scraps of dough, flatten a bit, and cut those out as well, as to not waste any dough, if possible.
-Place the biscuits into the pans (10 in each cake pan) touching each other, and brush a little bit of the 2 tablespoons of buttermilk on the tops of each, and sprinkle a little sugar over; place the biscuits into the oven and bake until golden on top, for about 20 minutes; serve while warm and fresh, with butter, honey and Grand Marnier-Spiked Cranberry and Pear Compote, if desired.