This year’s Thanksgiving was another huge success. Held at Chez Poor Girl, it was just mom and me celebrating (well, us and my three turkey-obsessed furbabies). But that’s the way we like our Thanksgivings: casual, low-key, without a lot of stressing & fussing about wearing the perfect outfit or setting elaborate table settings. The way my family has always approached Thanksgiving is that it’s a time to reflect upon all the good things in our lives and enjoy the company of loved ones. The fact that an amazing meal happens to go along with all that was a much appreciated bonus.
The food is still a very big deal, though, and we tackled our feast with great aplomb. After all, Mom’s been perfecting her recipes since the dawn of time (or at least the late 60′s, lol). Now that I have several of my own solid recipes in my arsenal, I thought it might be nice to add some to our menu this year. And so did Mom! Between the tried & true dishes we’ve been enjoying since I was a wee tot and the new ones we had this year, we had an incredible spread. On our menu…
~ Turkey ~
~ Herbed Stuffing ~
~ Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette ~
~ Candied Orange Yams ~
~ Homemade Mashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy ~
~ Cranberry Jelly ~
~ Dried Fruit & Apple Compote and cheese ~
~ Sweet Potato & Carrot Purée ~
~ Green Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Peppers ~
~ Pumpkin Pie ~
~ Cheesecake ~
~ Ambrosia Fruit Salad ~
Yeah, yeah, it’s a lot of food for just two people, but we’re big on leftovers and now that we have much smaller Thanksgiving gatherings, we scale down the portions quite a bit. We caught up on news & gossip while we feasted like queens, then sank into the type of food coma only a meal like Thanksgiving dinner can induce.
Of the new additions this year, the one I had nothing to do with was the dried fruit compote with apples. My mom had been playing around online and found Chef Michael Chiarello’s Winter Fruit Compote recipe, so she decided to give it a try this year. It. was. PHENOMENAL! Made with your choice of dried fruits, apples, pears and a little help from some wine, this compote was originally meant to be served over a nice selection of cheeses for a nice hors d’oeuvre spread. It complemented sharper cheeses like cheddar beautifully and when served with a bit of my favorite honey-chevre from trusty ol’ Trader Joe’s, the compote is pure decadence.
We found it also pairs well with a variety of other dishes. Over the weekend I’ve used it as a cheesecake topping, spooned it over turkey – you name it! Honestly, though, if it weren’t for the fact that I’d become an instant diabetic, I’d be content just eating this sweet, sinful compote right out of the jar.
At first it may seem like this sort of recipe would be a wee bit on the expensive side; after all, dried fruit isn’t always priced affordably, and not everyone will have cooking wines in their pantry. But it’s a such a flexible recipe that you can certainly adjust it to fit the ingredients you have in your own kitchen. We didn’t have Marsala wine on hand so we used a bit of red wine in its place, and since I didn’t have pears, we just used the apples I had. Only have regular raisins and some dried cranberries handy? No worries! Even those two fruits combined with the apples and other ingredients will yield fantastic results.
Remember, it’s okay to adjust certain recipes not just to fit your personal tastes, but your budget, too. As one of my Facebook fans mentioned recently, “Recipes are never written in stone; you can take on the idea and create something tasty that is your own.” While some folks may balk at that statement, it’s a liberating cooking philosophy to embrace, especially when you’re trying to eat well on a limited budget. If you don’t have a certain ingredient, see what you can substitute in its place before you run out and spend more money at the store. Shop your own kitchen first; not only will you save money you might not have for some swanky ingredient, you’ll be surprised at how creative you can get – even if you’re adapting an existing recipe.
And speaking of which…
Dried Fruit & Apple Compote (makes 4-6 servings; total cost per serving: $1.50)
Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s Winter Fruit Compote recipe
1 c dry white wine
1/4 c red wine (or Marsala wine if you have some on hand; a sweet sherry or port will also work)
1 c raw sugar
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c golden raisins
Pinch of salt
2 c chopped Granny Smith apples
1 T lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
1. In a large saucepan, combine the wines, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves completely. Add the dried fruits, chopped apples and lemon zest, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow the mixture to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the fruits are tender.
2. Remove the mixture from heat and add the lemon juice. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fruit and set aside in a separate bowl. Return syrup to the stove and simmer until it slightly thickened (you’ll know it’s ready when it coats the back of a spoon). Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes.
3. When syrup is cool, pour over the fruit and mix together. Serve over sharp, pungent cheeses or use as an alternative to chutneys over meats or whatever else your heart desires, and enjoy! (Compote can be stored in jars in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.)