Cooking Through Alton: Cranberry Sauce

The dish: If you're looking to step up the typical canned cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, Alton Brown offers this nice, simple version of the classic. Made with fresh cranberries, honey, and orange and cranberry juice, this sauce is destined to be dumped over accompanying dishes.

The difficulty: Surprisingly, another easy Alton recipe. No complaints from me. Start by thoroughly washing the cranberries and making sure there are no softies in the mix. If so, toss them. Just get your juices and honey boiling for a few minutes and then add the cranberries. Check back every few minutes and give the mixture a good stir. Remove from heat and then place in a mold of your choice. Transfer the mold to the fridge and you're done. I left my cranberry sauce in overnight and plated the next morning. There was absolutely nothing difficult or time-consuming about this recipe. Start to finish, the entire thing was done in 20 minutes.

The presentation: Have some fun with this one. I did. I spooned my mixture into a muffin pan. This makes for individualized portions and enhances the overall presentation. Also, consider adding some fresh orange zest, as well as some uncooked cranberries. The zest adds another color to the dish and the cranberries add a little visual pop to the plate. A long, white plate will also allow the cranberry sauce to really stand out.

The slim down: Alton does it again with another tasty dish that's easy on the waistline. I wouldn't touch this one. It's not bogged down with sugar, and the honey provides a natural low-calorie sweetness.

The tips: I suggest using the muffin tin and adding the zest. I got these little nuggets from reader comments on the link. The sauce never quite molded like I expected, but this didn't detract from the taste or appearance. The zest not only looked great, but provided an extra flavorful punch to the sauce. I also used ¾ cup of honey, instead of the recommended one cup. Also, you may want to consider making this a day or two before Thanksgiving. It's just one less thing to worry about.

The verdict: Another week, and another Alton hit. This recipe isn't much more difficult than popping open a can, and it's far better. The cranberry flavor overpowered the honey and orange flavors, but if you add the zest it will certainly bump up that orange component. The tartness and sweetness levels were just right for a Thanksgiving plate, and the gelatinous consistency was where it needed to be.

Are you not a fan of cranberry sauce? Try this recipe below, discovered by my wife via the Nancy Drew Cookbook in her elementary school days. We make it every year, and it's always popular.

Spiced Cherry Relish

2 cans of cherries (in water) ½ cup white vinegar 3 cups sugar ½ tsp cloves ½ tsp allspice

Put cherries in a pot. Combine with vinegar, sugar, cloves, and allspice. Cook over low heat for 3-4 hours. When syrup thickens, the relish is ready.

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