Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cranberry, Shallot, and Dried Cherry Compote (Page 904)

RECIPE #885

  • Date: Wednesday, December 3, 2008 -- 10pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Since Thanksgiving I have been in the mood for some cranberries, so I made this compote last week. I have done a lot of cooking in my life, so it is rare these days to think, "Well I have never done this before." I had one of those moments while making this recipe though. The recipe started simply enough: blanch and peel shallots or red pearl onions. I used pearl onions, despite the fact (as frequent readers will know) that I think pearl onions are a huge pain in the ass. Once they were peeled I cooked them in some butter, then added sugar and white wine vinegar. Here's the unusual part though. I then cooked the mixture until the sugar caramelized to a deep golden color. Now, The Book is way into caramel, so it didn't surprise me to see caramel pop up. But I have definitely never made onion caramel before. And if you had asked me before, "How do you think onion caramel would taste?" I am not sure I would have made positive comments. I love onions. I love caramel. I even love caramelized onions. But onions in caramel sauce? Turns out it works. Once my onion caramel reached a nice golden color I dumped in some white wine, more vinegar, and salt. Just a minute later, some dried sour cherries went in as well. I cooked it for forty-five minutes more, until it was nice and syrupy, then I dumped in the cranberries along with some water, and cooked it until the berries burst. After cooling it was ready to serve. So how was it? It was pretty good. Between the sour cherries, the caramel, the vinegar, the cranberries, and the onions, there were a lot of strong flavors here. So I can certainly imagine that it wouldn't appeal to everyone. But I liked it. I thought the flavors went well together. The sweetness of the caramel did a lot to balance the tartness of the cranberries and cherries and the acidity of the vinegar. And in addition to a lot of flavor contrast, there was also nice textural contrast between the various components. It was definitely not your typical cranberry sauce (so if that is what you are looking for, keep looking), but I would certainly eat this with some turkey. It was a bold take on a Thanksgiving classic, and I think it worked.

Here is the recipe.

And just like that, the semester is over! Well, not exactly -- finals start Monday. But I taught my last classes of the semester yesterday. Now I just have a whole bunch of office hours, two review sessions to teach, two exams to proctor, and 130 exam papers to grade and the semester will really be over! When I put it like that, actually, it sounds like I have a long ways to go...
My business calculus students will take their final on Monday, which means that tomorrow (Sunday) I will be helping them for much of the day. Office hours in the afternoon, and a review session in the evening. For the most part, I think they are fairly well-prepared. Many of the students in that class have been working really hard, and I think the class as a whole will do ok on the final. In a course like this, where I teach just a fraction of the 1500 - 2000 students in the university who are taking the course this semester, the final is written departmentally rather than by the individual instructors. In some ways I like that because the students know the exam will be hard, but they don't blame me for it. In that class, at least, the students see me as being on "their side" to help them prepare for the exam written by the evil math department. Of course it's not really like that -- I participated in some way in the creation of this exam. But it's a good way for the students to see it. If they think of me as an ally they are more willing to come to me to get the help they need.

Hopefully on this fine Saturday evening, they are all sitting in their dorm rooms or apartments, diligently preparing for the exam! Ha ha ha...

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