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Drunken Cranberry Sauce

This warm, rich variation on traditional cranberry sauce is both sweet and savory, always a great combination, and very different from the traditional. And don't worry, you can serve it to the kids. Most of the alcohol evaporates in the cooking.

thanksgiving dinner

Makes. 4 servings

Preparation time. 1.5 hours

Ingredients

1 (750 ml) bottle inexpensive American port

1/2 cup inexpensive balsamic vinegar

8 ounces dried cranberries

1 shallot or small onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground thyme powder

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon table salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

zest of one medium orange

About the cranberries. Don't try this with fresh cranberries. Dried cranberries, sometimes called craisins, are like raisins. The secret is that the dried berries reconstitute with the wine and get plump and rich.

About the port. I prefer New York ruby ports for this recipe because they are fruitier than California ports and tawny ports. Look for Taylor or Widmer. If you can't find them, a California port like Gallo will do just fine.

About the thyme. You can use 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves if you wish, but I prefer the powder because it disappers while leaves get in your teeth. If you have dried thyme, powder them in a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. If you have fresh thyme, toss in two springa bout 2" long and then fish them out before serving.

About the white pepper. I prefer white pepper because it disappears in the mix, but if you don't have any, go ahead and use fresh ground black pepper.

About the orange zest. The zest is just the very thin layer or orange on the outer skin of the orange. It is rich in flavor and orange oils. The white layer just below the zest is the pith and it is bitter, so you need an orange zester tool, or a microplane, or a potato peeler to remove it. The zester and microplane produce tiny shreds, perfect for this recipe. If you use a potato peeler, you need to chip the zest into tiny bits. The strips in the picture above are decorative and would need to be chopped up for the recipe. If you get a little white it is OK, but not too much.

Do ahead. This dish can be made in advance and refrigerated. Just leave out the butter. Warm the mix in the microwave or a saucepan, then add the butter, and stir it in with a spoon, not a whisk.

Method

1) In a saucepan stir together the port, balsamic vinegar, cranberries, shallot or onion, and thyme. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about an hour. Don't dry it out. This process cooks out most of the alcohol, but there may still be a little left, but nowhere near enough to get anyone tipsy.

2) Just before serving, stir in the butter until it melts, salt and pepper to taste, the orange zest, and serve warm.

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