Saturday, November 27, 2010

Carrots, Cranberries, and Blueberry Beer

I have so much about which to write! Without further hesitation or introduction, the recap of our our blessedly bountiful Thanksgiving menu:

Cardamom Bread
Seitan "Turkey" and Rice Dressing with Portabella Mushrooms
Mushroom Herb Gravy
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Walnut-Cherry Vinaigrette
Classic Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry Sauce with Blueberry Lager
Pecan Pie
Sweet Potato Pie

Each year, our Thanksgiving menu gathers together a balance of traditional dishes, the ones we always know will be on our family's Thanksgiving table, and the new dishes that delight in the opportunity to experiment for the festive occasion at hand. When I took over the majority of the family cooking duties as a young teenager, our Thanksgiving menu became very Irish. I'm not entirely sure why my passion for Ireland fixated so intensely upon Thanksgiving, but for the majority of my latter childhood, soda bread and "sunshine" mashed carrots and parsnips graced our table holiday. I put leeks and cabbage in the mashed potatoes, and gazed longingly at the velvet hills and rocky cliffs in my Irish cookbooks as my mother patiently arranged the table setting and remarkably said not a word despite our total lack of Irish heritage.

To this day, carrots and parsnips are mandatory on our Thanksgiving menu. Just this year, though, I allowed myself to modify our adopted Irish Thanksgiving tradition just a bit, when I read of a roasted carrots and parsnips recipe in Cooks Illustrated. The dish turned out incredibly, of course - everything Cooks Illustrated creates is flawless, and all vegetables simply become 100% better when they're roasted. Oh yes, and the recipe contains rosemary, too, which is my favorite herb - and always readily available thanks to The Giant Rosemary Bush presiding over our back garden. The prep is a breeze, simply entailing slicing the root veggies into strips (there are somewhat terrifyingly detailed directions in the Cooks Illustrated magazine on exactly how to achieve the proper-sized slices, but I'm not quite as fussy as the Test Kitchen recipe authors, and was content with simply making slices of uniform size), tossing with a bit of herby-butter, and into the oven to caramelize into roasted perfection.

One recipe I always create anew for Thanksgiving is cranberry sauce. Each year my mother fixes a blessedly enormous batch of classic whole-berry cranberry sauce, which our entire family adores, and I set out to make the most unusual cranberry sauce/relish/chutney I can concoct. This year, I made one with beer. Anyone who's attempted to count the number of versions of beer bread I've posted over the years can attest to my fondness for inserting beer into any sort of foodstuff. Including cranberry sauce!

Because holidays are a time for traditions... and for giving heartfelt thanks for the bounty in our pantry, which allows us to create delicious new experiments too!

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Rosemary

(Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, November 2010)

1 lb parsnips
1 lb baby-cut carrots
4 T SmartBalance Light or butter, melted
1 T finely minced fresh rosemary

~ Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position.
~ Slice the parsnips into approximately the same size pieces as the baby carrots. If any of the baby carrots are especially huge, slice them in half length-wise.
~ In a large bowl, toss the parsnips and carrots with the melted SmartBalance Light (or butter) and the rosemary. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
~ Scatter the carrots and parsnips in a single layer across a large baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with aluminum foil, sealing the edges well.
~ Bake, covered, for 15 minutes.
~ Remove the aluminum foil covering, and bake for another 15 minutes.
~ Stir gently, and bake for 15 more minutes - until the veggies are very tender and golden brown around the edges.
~ Serve warm!

Cranberry Sauce with Blueberry Lager

(Adapted from Cooking Light November 2010)

12 oz Wild Blue blueberry Lager
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries

~ Bring the blueberry lager to a boil in a medium saucepan.
~ Stir in the sugar, orange zest, and cranberries, and adjust the heat to a simmer.
~ Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened but the cranberries are still somewhat intact - approx 15 to 18 minutes.
~ Transfer the mixture to the fridge, and serve chilled!


Johanna GGG said...

happy thanksgiving- looks like a feast - I much prefer my veg roasted than mashed so I would love your carrots and parsnips - hearing about your irish obsession makes me laugh - esp as the irish don't celebrate thanksgiving

Gina; The Candid RD said...

YYYYUM!!! I love parsnips, I love carrots, and I love rosemary. Most of all, however, I love blueberry beer :) My favorite is the Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale. You MUST try it sometime!

Lena Rashmin Raj said...

woww... its a colorful treat for my eyes.. :) cranberries gave a beautiful color for the dish.. :)

MelindaRD said...

Haha, I think I am headed to your house for Thanksgiving next year! everything looks great. I love the cranberry sauce idea. Nice work.

mangocheeks said...

Happy Thanksgiving. Love the sound of your menu, esp. your cranberry and blueberry beer,which intrigues me. I'd love to have a go at making some, but have never ever seen blueberry beer here. Actually I am still waiting for pumpkin beer too.

Take care.

Joanne said...

I love how daring you are with that cranberry sauce! That makes me wonder what it would taste like with some pumpkin ale....hmmm...

So glad to see you had a happy thanksgiving!

Jacqueline said...

I was thinking that was an odd flavour for a beer for a moment there. hehe :D
The meal looks gorgeous. Oh, what I would give to be tucking into that right now :)