Admittedly, I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to cranberry sauce. Nonetheless, I can’t help but think there is something seriously disturbed about people who claim to not like it.
Because what is there to dislike? Whether shplopped (that’s the official sound) from a can or homemade with loving care, cranberry sauce is sweet and tangy and just a little spicy and mouth puckeringly luscious in every way. I don’t actually care about the rest of the Thanksgiving meal. Just give me a bowl of cranberry sauce, a spoon and leave me alone.
Many years ago — in a bid to win over the faithless, including my son — I spent a good deal of time perfecting what I then considered to be the Platonic ideal of cranberry sauce. It was chunky and sweet with just the right amount of tart. It had fresh cranberries and dried cherries, chopped pears and candied ginger, golden raisins and apple cider. And the secret ingredient? Cardamom.
It was heaven.
And yet it still didn’t win over my son. Or, it would seem — based on the number of cranberry sauce naysayers I encounter around this time each year — plenty of others.
So I shall try again. This time, I shall deploy a new weapon. I’m going to enhance my cranberry sauce with the one food most people are powerless to resist. The one food that can improve anything it touches. The one food that adds savory and sweet and rich and bold and chewy and crunchy all at once.
This time, I’m calling in the bacon. See if you can resist.
Bacon and Fried Onion Cranberry Sauce
1 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup orange juice
12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 large or 2 small apples, peeled, cored and diced
1/2 cup sugar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium-high, cook the bacon until lightly crisped, 10 to 12 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate and set aside, leaving the saucepan and bacon fat over the heat. Carefully add the onion and cook until lightly fried, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onions to the plate with the bacon.
Dispose of the fat in the pan, but don’t scrape the pan. You want any browned bits on the bottom.
Return the pan to the heat. When the pan is hot, carefully add the orange juice and bring to a simmer while using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to scrap up the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cranberries, apple and sugar, then bring to a simmer. Cook until the cranberries pop and the juice thickens, about 6 minutes. Return the bacon and onions to the pan, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Cool. Serves 12.
Per serving: 210 calories; 15 g fat (5 g saturated fat; 67 percent calories from fat); 15 g carbohydrates; 11 g sugar; 25 mg cholesterol; 290 mg sodium; 5 g protein; 2 g fiber.
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