Thanksgiving dinner is not complete without cranberry sauce. And while I have nothing against the traditional sugary cranberry combination, I crave an extra depth of flavor in the standard sauce -- and so I devised this chutney. What I like about chutney is it's a combination of fruit and savory ingredients, and not timid about incorporating herbs, spices and even a kick of heat. In other words, it nails many of the flavor senses (sweet, sour, salt, bitter, heat) that, to me, yield a more satisfying mouthful.
In this chutney, dried figs add a mellow, nutty sweetness, and fresh ginger and orange add perfume and zing, all of which balance out the cranberries' natural astringency, while allowing them to remain the star of the show -- after all, we're talking Thanksgiving here.
The good news is that this chutney is not exclusively for Thanksgiving. It also makes a great condiment for other fruit-loving proteins such as pork, duck and lamb. I also like to serve it as an accompaniment on a cheese platter or dabbed on goat cheese-smeared crostini.
Cranberry Fig Chutney
Active time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: makes about 2 cups
18 dried black mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup port wine
12 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
Juice and zest from 1/2 orange
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig
Place the figs in a small bowl and pour the wine over the figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
Combine the cranberries and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan and heat over medium until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Add the figs and wine, the ginger, orange juice and zest, pepper, salt and the rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, until the cranberries burst and the chutney has thickened, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and cool completely. Discard the rosemary sprig and serve. (The chutney may be made up to three days in advance. Cover and refrigerate. Serve at room temperature.)
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