May this week before your Thanksgiving feast be a time of good-natured debate regarding the propriety of the presence of a turkey on the table, whether you’re discussing that dinner in 1621 or this year’s. While you consider whether to brine or not to brine, we’re moving on to the sides. —The Editors
In our house we disagree on which elements of Thanksgiving are best. We divide into camps for light or dark meat, pumpkin or pecan pie, wild rice or mashed potatoes, dressing versus stuffing. But we all agree on this: the National Dog Show is a must.
Even when we aren’t together in person, we gather online to keep our color commentaries in sync. Over time, our noontime ritual got a name: “Coffee Cake and Corgis” has become a tradition in our house. (“Bagels and Beagles” would work, too.)
We’re also loyal to cranberries. They’re perfect in a coffee cake that can be made a day ahead and sustain a houseful of guests until dinner, no matter what time we serve it.
Cranberry sauce of some kind is a given, of course, but there are many schools of thought on this sweet-tart accent to the bird. We’ve gone both smooth and chunky, done an upright jelly and a quivering one, and tried both spiced-up salsa and that shocking pink sauce blended with sour cream.
“Cranberries are currency at this time of year,” said a friend who dropped by with 3 pounds from a bog in Orleans. I’ll make a compote with them, this time with star anise and fresh ginger. The star anise adds a warm, earthy note to the tart berries and combined with ginger’s spice is a great complement to roast turkey.
Star anise is the anchoring flavor of Vietnamese pho and one of the spices in Chinese five-spice blends. It is also a digestive, a welcome addition to the feast. Star anise holds spiritual significance in many cultures. Burning the spice as incense is thought to dispel negative vibes as well as enhance psychic abilities, intuition, mental clarity, and healing — all good things to have on hand around the Thanksgiving table.
CRANBERRY-PECAN-ORANGE COFFEE CAKE
Makes one 9-inch cake
For the topping:
¾ cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Generous pinch ground ginger
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
For the cake:
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour plus 1 Tbsp.
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. fine salt
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 Tbsp.
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. milk
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup whole cranberries
- Heat oven to 350° Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment and butter it generously. Prepare the topping: toss the pecans in a bowl with the white and light brown sugars, flour, and ground ginger. Stir in the melted butter until the nuts are coated with moist crumbs. Set aside.
- Prep the cake ingredients: Whisk the 2 cups flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and ginger together in a bowl until evenly combined. In another bowl, toss the cranberries with 1 tablespoon each flour and sugar and set aside. Rub the sugar and orange zest together with your fingers to release the oils from the zest. Whisk together the sour cream and milk until smooth.
- Beat the butter and orange-zest-flavored sugar together with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla.
- While mixing slowly or folding by hand, add the flour mixture in 3 parts to the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream mixture in 2 parts, to make a thick batter. Take care not to overmix.
- Spread about half the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with half the coated cranberries. Spoon the remaining batter on top and spread it out with a spatula. Scatter the remaining berries and the nut topping over the top of the batter. Bake the coffee cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
- Cool on a rack, in the pan, for 15 to 20 minutes, then turn the cake out, flipping so the crumbs are on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
RED WINE CRANBERRY COMPOTE WITH GINGER AND STAR ANISE
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup red wine
3 whole star anise pods
2 Tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 wide strips orange zest, plus juice of one orange
2/3 cup light brown sugar
3 cups fresh cranberries (12 oz.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Put the wine, star anise, 1½ tablespoons of the ginger, and orange zest in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat until liquid reduces by half, about 5 minutes.
- Add the light brown sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Add 2 cups cranberries and cook, stirring occasionally until the berries burst and the liquid thickens, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the rest of the cranberries, cooking until they pop but hold their shape, about 2 minutes.
- Cool slightly and add the orange juice and remaining minced ginger. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
As when cooking with cinnamon sticks, you can leave the whole star anise in the finished compote but it is not eaten.