Warning: I was having a slight Mel Brooks moment when I wrote this.
I grew up thinking gravy was a goyishe (non Jewish) food. The only reason I can think of is that we never ate gravy at home. Not on our turkey, not on our roast beef. Oh, there was usually some natural gravy, that is to say, the delicious cooking juices, but they were never thickened with a slurry, or a roux, or some beurre manie. That was something that only non Jewish people did. Of course that makes no sense, but I've been known to jump to conclusions on a lot less evidence than that.
As a result, I was well into adulthood before I even tried to make a pan gravy, and you know what? I couldn't do it. When I cooked a roast, I got so little in the way of pan drippings, there was nothing to work with. Same thing with turkey. I never buy kosher meat or poultry, but maybe the turkeys themselves were Jewish.
About ten years ago, I discovered that Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, makes gravy ahead of time, not bothering to rely on pan drippings. I've made her gravy for turkey several times, and it really is delicious, but that got me to wondering if Ina Rosenberg Garten, born in Brooklyn, New York, was actually hiding the fact that she was as pan gravy challenged as I was! Was it really her concern for the cook's convenience, or rather our shared genetic predisposition that caused her to come up with a gravy recipe that could be prepared ahead of time and without reliance on any pan drippings?
Does it matter? Of course not. Well, maybe a little. I mean, what if you serve mashed potatoes with your turkey? How can you ignore gravy under those circumstances?
Cranberry sauce, though, now that always matters. You can eat it on the side or on the turkey or on your mashed potatoes. From a can or from a pan, cranberry sauce must appear on the Thanksgiving table. Cranberry sauce crosses all ethnic and religious barriers. Cranberry sauce is an American as apple pie. Open a can of Ocean Spray's best, plunk it on the table and everybody's happy. Make it from scratch, and you are likely to get an invitation to compete on "Chopped" or "Cutthroat Kitchen".
For years, I prepared a cranberry kumquat relish to serve with the rest of the Thanksgiving fixings. I used to get a cheap thrill being able to walk outside to my backyard on Oconee Lane, to pick a big handful of ripe, juicy kumquats for this recipe. Sadly, I had no luck with citrus trees at our new home in Flora Vista, and while you can find fresh kumquats, for a very short season, in the produce section at Publix, they were never as bright and sweet as the homegrown variety. Still made a fairly decent relish, however, and I would recommend you try this at least once before resigning yourself to the canned stuff (which I love, by the way. No such thing as a bad cranberry in my world).
CRANBERRY KUMQUAT RELISH
One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
10-12 fresh kumquats (try to find the longer, rather than the rounder variety)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Kumquats are eaten whole, so don't worry about trying to peel or seed them. Cut them in half crosswise. Put into a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, and chop with an on-off turn. Add the cranberries and sugar. Process the fruit mixture until finely chopped, using on-off turn. Do not overprocess. Transfer the relish to a medium bowl, and stir in the chopped walnuts. Let stand at room temperature for at least an hour. This can be prepared several days ahead, just cover and refrigerate.
You can substitute pecans for the walnuts or just leave them out altogether. The goodness is in the combination of cranberry and kumquat. Who needs gravy when you've got this relish? Huh?
If you are not a fan of raw cranberry relish, or the kumquats are out of season, try this cooked cranberry sauce recipe from Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman. This is cranberry sauce I made for yesterday's dinner, and trust me, it's a keeper.
EASY CRANBERRY SAUCE FROM THE PIONEER WOMAN
One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
2 large oranges
1 cup pure maple syrup (I used Grade B for it's deeper flavor, but you can certainly use Grade A)
Rinse the cranberries under cold water. Zest the oranges. Add the cranberries and zest to a medium saucepan. Squeeze the juice from both oranges into the saucepan. Add the maple syrup and stir it all together. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until it’s nice and thick. If the sauce still seems a little thin, just simmer longer until it’s the right consistency.
Transfer the sauce to a dish, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Can be made up to 2 days in advance.