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Cranberries a la Symon

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Iron Chef America, anyone?  Last week they had a Thanksgiving special.  They had to use ingredients from the first Thanksgiving (no thank you plucking duck feathers), so I was only mildly interested in recreating the recipes.  There was one thing that struck my fancy, which Dan and I were determined to recreate.  Naturally, it’s a cocktail.  Unfortunately for me, Iron Chef doesn’t post it’s recipes anywhere so I couldn’t figure out what was going on, exactly.  So this is our interpretation of whatever deliciousness Iron Chef Symon made.  He started with cranberries, whole fresh ones.  Then he added vodka to the glass.  He let that sit for a bit, and right before serving he filled the glass with champagne.

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I figured that the flavor of the cranberries wouldn’t come out if they were just left whole, they’re pretty resilient little things.  So I opted to make a simple syrup to accompany them.  I also went light on the vodka because I didn’t want to be down for the count.

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*ADDENDUM:

The next time I made these, after some of the comments you posted, I boiled the cranberries in juice from one orange, with 2 tbsp of orange zest, for about five minutes.  Then I soaked the cranberries in syrup.  This helped bring out some of the flavor.

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Cranberries a la Symon

5 parts champagne

1 part vodka

1 part simple syrup

2 cups sugar (for syrup)

1 cup water (for syrup)

Handful of cranberries

Bring your sugar and water to a boil.  Once the sugar is dissolved, set aside and cool.  That’s your simple syrup.  Put your cranberries the glass, add simple syrup and vodka (equal amounts of each).  Let sit for ten minutes or so, so the flavors blend.  When you’re ready, add the champagne, and serve.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

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A few years ago I got my tonsils out.  And when I say a few years ago, I don’t mean as a child.  I mean as an adult.  It was an awful experience.  On more than one occasion during the two weeks that I was completely incapacitated, a friend would walk into my apartment to find my in the fetal position on my living room floor, completely pathetic.  It’s because having your tonsils out as an adult is torture.  Complete and total torture.

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One particularly cruel aspect was my losing my sense of taste.  And since my mom could only stay a few days and I was alone for most of my recovery, I did so much online symptom research that I convinced myself that I was going to be one of the small percentage of patients who lose it permanently.  Thankfully I only lost it for a few weeks.  Still, it was a horrible few weeks.  I didn’t eat for two weeks because when I was actually hungry and could swallow, my food tasted like cardboard mush.

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At one of the lower points, I thought that if I just made something I liked, I could make myself eat it.  What I really wanted was a burrito, but I settled for a sweet potato.  I stuck it in the oven, etc etc, sprinkled it with brown sugar and pecans, and sat down on my couch.  Drumroll please…. it tasted like nothing.  Long story short, I cried for hours and sent very sad text messages to my mother.

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The river of tears was partially because I was emotionally and physically exhausted, but also because I love sweet potatoes.  Especially when pecans and brown sugar are involved.  Which is why I love sweet potato casserole so much.  And I promise you, this recipe won’t disappoint.  It’s creamy, silky, crunchy, everything that you want in a casserole.  And the topping?  I practically live just for that topping.

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Sweet Potato Casserole

For the casserole:

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cup butter

1 cup milk

2 tsp vanilla

6 cups mashed sweet potato

For the topping:

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup flour

4 tbsp butter

1 cup chopped pecans

Peel, chop, and boil your sweet potatoes.  Mash, and set aside.  Beat eggs, sugar, and butter.  Add milk and vanilla, and combine with potatoes.  Spoon into a greased casserole dish.  Combine brown sugar, flour, butter, and pecans.  Mix until crumbly and sprinkle over potato mixture.

Bake at 350* for 45 minutes.

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Fresh Cranberry Sauce

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When I was a kid, I was completely horrified by cranberry sauce.  Mostly because I associated all cranberry sauces with what comes out of a can.  Which, is horrifying.  I don’t trust the way jello-like things move.  It weirds me out.  But, in adulthood, I’ve come to appreciate the made fresh cranberry sauce.  It’s tart, flavorful, and the perfect gravy substitute for turkey-topping.

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This particular recipe, adapted from the back of the Ocean Spray bag, is sooooo easy.  And, it can be made in advance, so it’s one less thing you have to worry about Thanksgiving morning.  My strategy this year for our Sunday Thanksgiving is to have everything premade by Saturday except the turkey and the stuffing.  That way, I just heat up the casseroles Sunday right before we eat, and voila, Thanksgiving!

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I will admit that I made a bit of a mess making this.  For photographic purposes I used a smaller pot, which backfired when the cranberries boiled over.  Now my kitchen smells vaguely of caramelized cranberries.  Which is okay with me.

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Cranberry Sauce

1 pack of whole fresh cranberries

1 cup of water

1 cup white sugar (substitute dark brown sugar for a richer, deeper taste)

Orange zest

Fresh squeezed orange juice from one orange

Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Add cranberries and zest, and return to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes or so, stirring every once in a while, until the cranberries burst.  Squeeze in orange juice.  Remove from heat, cover, and cool completely at room temperature.  Refrigerate before serving.


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