At this time of year, cranberries are fresh, local, and good for more than just a turkey sidekick or stringing with popcorn. Red as Santa’s suit, they have a tart and vibrant flavor, a great counterpoint to rich, savory, and sweet ingredients. A cranberry infusion gives pure maple syrup new layers of flavor and a brilliant hue (a Mason jar of the combo makes a lovely gift). Likewise, cranberries add a flavor contrast to sauces for quick, pan-seared salmon and oven-fried chicken wings.
Cranberry Maple Syrup
Makes about 1 cup
When it comes to maple syrup, I prefer the darker stuff, but here I think the lighter variety (labeled amber color/rich flavor) shows off the cranberry better.
2/3 cup pure maple syrup, preferably
amber and rich
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the syrup to a simmer, swirling the pan occasionally, about 2½ minutes. Add the cranberries and continue to simmer, swirling occasionally, until they pop and soften, about 2½ minutes longer (see tip on keeping berries and syrup, which may foam, in the pan). Off heat, spoon about half the cranberries into a small heatproof bowl. Set a medium-mesh strainer over the bowl and strain the syrup and remaining cranberries, mashing and working them through the strainer with a spoon or flexible spatula until only skins and tiny bits of pulp remain; discard the solids in the strainer. Scrape the cranberry puree off the underside of the strainer, add to the syrup, and stir to incorporate. Add a pinch of salt and the vanilla, stir to incorporate, and set aside to cool briefly. Serve the syrup warm or at room temperature, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 14days.
Salmon with Fresh Cranberry and Cider Pan Sauce
I put a serving platter into the oven to warm up along with the salmon while making the sauce.
2¼ pounds skin-on salmon fillet, pinbones removed, cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces and patted dry with paper towels
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil, or more, if necessary
¼ cup minced shallot (about 1 medium)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
2/3 cup apple cider
1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup, preferably dark and robust
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 200 degrees. Sprinkle the salmon lightly with salt and pepper. In a very large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the 2 teaspoons oil until shimmering. Add the salmon, flesh side down, leaving at least ¼ inch between the pieces, and cook, undisturbed, until the bottoms of the fillets start to turn opaque, about 3 to 4 minutes. Gently flip the fillets to skin side down and cook, again undisturbed, until they are no longer translucent on the exterior and are firm but not hard when gently pressed, about 3 minutes longer for rare or 3½ minutes longer for medium. Transfer salmon to a heatproof plate, tent loosely with foil, and place in the oven to keep warm.
Pour off all but 2 teaspoons fat from the skillet or add oil to equal 2 teaspoons and return it to medium heat. Add the shallot, thyme, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, until shallot softens, about 2 minutes. Add the cider and chicken broth, adjust the heat to medium-high, bring the mixture to a strong simmer, and continue simmering, occasionally stirring and scraping the bottom of skillet to dissolve the fond, until reduced by a third, about 3 minutes longer. Add the cranberries, maple syrup, any accumulated juices from the warming salmon, and pepper to taste, adjust the heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until the cranberries split and soften (but do not collapse), about 2½ minutes longer. Adjust the heat to medium-low, add the vanilla and butter, and stir constantly while butter melts to incorporate it into the sauce. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Off heat, add most of the parsley and stir to combine.
Arrange the salmon on a warmed serving platter, spoon the sauce and cranberries around and over it, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once.
TIP: SPLATTER SCREEN FOR CRANBERRIES
Cranberry-Hoisin Chicken Wings
In my experience, people can eat a lot of wings, which is why I say this serves 4. The techniques of tossing the raw wings in baking powder to aid in browning and crisping, and baking at dual temperatures, come from Cook’s Country. You can either pour the sauce over the wings or pass it alongside for dipping.
3½ pounds chicken wings, halved at joints, tips removed
1 tablespoon baking powder
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pressed or grated garlic (about 4 or 5 medium cloves)
1 tablespoon minced or grated ginger
1/3 cup orange juice
1 cup cranberries, rinsed
¼ cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, or more, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
With the rack in the middle position, heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, set a wire rack in the sheet, and set aside. In a large bowl, toss the chicken wings with the baking powder to coat. Add 1½ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and toss again to coat. Arrange the wings skin side up on the wire rack and roast for 40 minutes. Adjust the heat to 425 degrees and continue to roast until the wings are golden brown and crisp, about 40 minutes longer. Remove them from the oven and rest for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil, garlic, and ginger, stirring, until the mixture begins to sizzle, about 1½ minutes. Add the orange juice and cranberries and bring to a simmer, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any garlic and ginger stuck there; continue simmering, swirling the pot occasionally, until the cranberries pop and soften (see tip), about 3 minutes longer. Add the hoisin sauce, honey, rice vinegar, and hot pepper sauce and bring to a simmer, stirring to combine. Continue to simmer until the cranberries are very soft, about 7 minutes longer. Using a wooden spoon, mash about half the cranberries against the side of the pan and stir to combine. Adjust the heat to medium-low, add black pepper to taste and the butter, and stir constantly while it melts to incorporate it into the sauce (you should have about 1 generous cup of sauce). Adjust the seasoning with additional hot pepper sauce and black pepper, if necessary, and serve the sauce hot or warm with the wings.
Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.