red wine and fig cranberry sauce
It’s been pretty quiet here on Pixelated Crumb over the past several months, but I assure you, it has not been quiet in my home. The last recipe I shared with you was written at the end of March. Exactly one week after I shared my favorite pizza recipe with you, my daughter was born. My life turned inside out, the world seemed to spin simultaneously faster and slower, and sleep became elusive. Days and nights ran together. I spent my days pinned to a chair feeding Melanie, the only steps on my Fitbit coming from pacing around the apartment, rocking her, desperately trying to quiet her cries and lull her to sleep. I never expected motherhood to be easy, but nothing prepared me for the reality of being so depended upon. Who knew such a tiny little thing could be so incredibly demanding? Who knew a baby could cry for hours on end? Only every parent before me, I suppose. How did everyone make it look so easy?
I think Emily at Five and Spice described the “utter bliss combined with total desperation” of being a new mom so perfectly. Being a mom is hard. Honestly, much harder than I ever could have imagined. But to look at your child – this tiny little human being that you made – is unparalleled. There are times when I’m utterly exhausted with so much to do, but I still find myself just sitting there looking at Melanie sleep. It’s like a campfire that you just can’t look away from. She makes this sucking noise when she’s sleeping that is music to my ears. I love that sound just as much as her shrieks of laughter. And her smile is like an ocean that swallows me whole. One flash of that gummy smile and I almost forget the hours that I was up with her in the middle of the night the night before. Almost.
In the early weeks after Melanie was born, I often wondered how I had managed to eat all week without either my husband or I cooking (answer: lots of wonderful food from my mother-in-law and frozen Tikka Masala from Trader Joes). Melanie will be eight months in just over a week and we still haven’t resumed our old life of cooking. Our meals are simple and prepared as quickly as possible. We make lots of panini, quesadillas, and homemade pizza. Anything that requires minimal prep and cooking time. My baking has been limited to a few batches of banana muffins and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I miss cooking and especially baking so much, but we never seem to have enough time and our new apartment has maddeningly little counter space (oh yes, did I forget to mention that just a few months after having a baby we moved 400 miles away to Maryland for Joseph’s new job?).
I was talking to my friend, Lisa, about Thanksgiving the other day, and we ended up talking about cranberry sauce. Cranberry sauce is one of my favorite things to make. It’s so rewarding to see a pile of nearly inedible berries turned into a beautiful sauce and all with so little effort. And watching the berries pop in the pot is just as mesmerizing as a campfire. My sister-in-law, Jordan, makes an incredible port and fig cranberry sauce that just makes a Thanksgiving meal. With all the rich overload of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and all the other usual suspects, you really need some bright acidity to cut through the indulgence and round everything out. Cranberry sauce is a necessity at Thanksgiving, and the wine here adds depth and refinement.
Inspired by Jordan’s cranberry sauce, last year I set out to make bring a new cranberry sauce to my family’s Thanksgiving table despite a very good family recipe of our own. I was intrigued by David Leibovitz’s cranberry sauce with figs which uses Beaujolais Nouveau. If you’re not familiar with it, Beaujolais Nouveau is a very young red wine made in France that’s released the third week of November. To be honest with you, it’s sort of like the Kool-Aid of wine. It’s light and very fruity. Perfect for cranberry sauce!
My sister wasn’t so sure about this new recipe, so we served this red wine and fig cranberry sauce alongside our more traditional recipe that we’ve been making for years. Now, I’m not going to say it was a competition or anything, because it wasn’t, but my cranberry sauce was the first to run out. Just sayin.’ It’s neither too sweet nor too tart, and though it is studded with lovely dried figs plumped up with wine, it is still very much about the cranberries. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers (may I suggest doubling the recipe?), spoon it over some good quality vanilla ice cream or buttermilk belgian waffles and pat yourself on the back for making such a fine, versatile dish.
This year, more than any other year, I know how much I have to be thankful for. I’m thankful not just for Melanie, but for all the moms and dads in my life (especially my own) who have supported me and taught me so much about being a parent. I am especially grateful for my wonderful husband who couldn’t be a better father and without whom I couldn’t possibly get through each day. And I’m thankful that I’m finally beginning get back into the kitchen. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!