Perfect Cranberry Sauce, 2.0 (Thanksgiving Edition)

How do you improve upon perfection? You find a unique occasion and drill down. In this case, Canadian Thanksgiving.

My earlier version of cranberry sauce with maple syrup, orange zest and a tiny pinch of clove for backbone received a lot of love online. The smallest hint of clove really did make the difference, many of you told me. I have now , however, come to think of that version as my Christmas cranberry sauce. For Thanksgiving, I wanted something different.

Very thick consistency, due to a longer boil.

At Christmas, my turkey usually goes in the oven. In October, it’s usually warm enough that we can smoke the turkey outside, and this is the flavour that I wanted to echo in the cranberry sauce, no matter how you cook it.

Once again, just one weird little secret ingredient is going to take your cranberry sauce from good to great. Here it is: Lapsang Souching. smoky Chinese black tea.

I know! I’m tea-obsessed. True! But not just because I love to drink tea. Because like wine, or salt, or best-quality olive oil, some ingredients are really versatile and transformative. I make no apologies for finding several ways to use this all-star ingredient. And wait until you taste it!

Pop a tea bag in after the cranberries have boiled and popped.

This recipe is the cranberry sauce for people who don’t really like cranberry sauce. I am a gravy person myself. I don’t mind cranberry in a sandwich, but this sauce is so good I’m already thinking of other ways to use it: on toasts with chèvre, on roast duck breast (which I sous vide with the same Lapsang Souching for smoky flavour), as a glaze for chicken thighs. This sauce is not too tart or too sweet, and it’s not so dominated by cranberry that it’s a single flavour note drowned in sweetness.

This sauce is the perfect balance of sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. The tannins in the tea as well as the decent dose of salt add a perfect counterfoil to the overwhelming tartness of cranberry, so that the sugar in the syrup is not left to tackle it alone.

Perfect hostess gift. No one will suspect it’s smoky until they taste it!

So when you are making that shopping list for Thanksgiving, add Lapsang Souching tea to the list, along with some good old Canadian maple syrup. You’ll be surprised and delighted, I assure you. And so will your guests!

Perfect Cranberry Sauce, Thanksgiving Edition

Smoky tea and a good dose of salt adds a nice balance to the sweet and sour of traditional cranberry sauce.
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #bestevercranberrysauce, #canadianthanksgiving, #cranberrysauce, #lapsangsouching, #maplesyrupeverything, #thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • 1 bag fresh cranberries (340 g)
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 10 gr loose leaf Lapsang Souching, or 1-2 tea bags
  • sea salt

Instructions

  • Pour your cranberries into a medium-sized pot. Add in cup of maple syrup and bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Boil until all cranberries have popped.
  • Turn off heat, smush the cranberries with a spoon.
  • Immediately add in your tea bag(s). For loose-leaf tea, I use two bags with 5 grams each. For store-bought bags, start with one. The finer grind on the leaf will enhance its ability to saturate the syrup.
  • Let tea bags cool in pot for 10 minutes. Remove tea bags and discard.
  • Add in 4 or 5 twists of sea salt from a shaker, or a big pinch of sea salt.
  • Stir together until texture is jammy with smallish cranberry bits.
  • Enjoy! Your guests will wonder what the difference is. Will you share the secret?

Notes

  • If you prefer a thicker sauce, reduce maple syrup to ¾ cup. 
  • If using store-bought tea bags, start with one tea bag. The tea is not necessarily stronger, but it is finer ground, and will have more surface area to interact with the maple syrup, and so may pack more of a punch. 
  • If using loose leaf tea in tea filters, be sure not to let any leaves escape. Tea leaves can be delicious to eat when prepared correctly, but they don’t sit in the sauce long enough to soften and will bring an unwelcome tough texture. 
  • Make sure you give a good dose of sea salt. No iodised salt here, unless you want to add to the tinniness of the cranberries. 
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Fall Corn Stir-fry

For a little break from tea and cocktails (only temporary, I assure you!), here’s my riff on the Barefoot Contessa’s confetti corn.

I love corn on the cob so much I rarely do much else with it, but I had Confetti Corn at a friend’s house and was astonished that the beautiful simplicity of corn was not diluted by the other ingredients. Basil and corn may sound weird, but think of polenta with pesto. So I went with a different but equally delicious combination that is great for fall.

Basically, this is sautéed corn with ginger and garlic in sesame oil with some soy sauce and green onions. If you’d like an actual recipe, I’ve done my best below, but any competent cook can wing this one. It’s meant more as a suggestion than a recipe.

I did try it with (lightly) pre-boiled corn and fresh corn sliced from the cob. I thought that undercooking the cobs would make it easier to remove and shorten the process, but it just added an unnecessary step. If you have leftover cobs and you’d like to use them, it’s a great way to repurpose the extras. But it’s pretty easy and really fresh tasting sliced off the cob before you cook it. More tender, too.

Peppers and green onions add colour, texture and flavour. I had some purple cauliflower, so I threw that in too. Of course I don’t expect you’ll have that, but if you do, it absolutely can’t hurt!

Cooking the onions until they are nicely caramelized can be done while chopping the rest of the vegetables.

If this looks time consuming, it’s not really. There’s a bit of chopping and grating, but chives can be used instead of green onions, the peppers dice up pretty quick, and everyone loves it so off you go. Reheats easily.

Lovely with teriyaki salmon or ginger chicken. Throw cubed tofu in it if that’s your thing.

ginger garlic corn sesame

Fall corn Stir Fry

Fresh local corn sautéed with ginger, garlic and sesame oil. Green onions brighten it right up.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Canadian, Chinese
Keyword: #corn, #cornonthecob, #fallfood, #freshcorn, #gingergarlicsesame, #localcorn, #soysauce, #warmingherbs, ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 6 cobs fresh corn
  • 6 green onions, chopped

Instructions

  • Heat pan and add two oils. Add finely dice onion and cook on low, stirring occasionally while you chop the other vegetables. Add more oil if needed.
  • Dice pepper and cut corn off cobs. Set aside.
  • Grate ginger and garlic.
  • Once onions are softened, add ginger and garlic and sautée briefly.
  • Turn heat up tp medium. Add red pepper and sautée for about 3 minutes, until starting to soften.
  • Add corn and sautée for a minute, then lower heat. Add soya sauce and reduce until mostly evaporated.
  • Once the corn is cooked through (just!), top Witt fresh green onions and serve.

Notes

This pairs beautifully with teriyaki anything: steak, chicken or salmon. Or grilled shrimp. Perfect on rice. 
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Earl Grey in Moscow

Fall is here and not a minute too soon. The best of summer is behind us, but there are many beautiful nights ahead. But what to drink? You don’t always want something super-fruity and tropical, but neither is it time for hot buttered rum. (Have you ever tasted that, actually?)

Without the simple syrup, this is a lovely, light cocktail.

Here’s a lovely cocktail for shoulder season. You can make it alcohol-free, too, but the alcohol in this is so subtle, it melds into the other flavours. I used vodka as a blank slate upon which to blend them: you want more of the bergamot, the orange, and the tea leaf against the milk, with the alcohol just barely there.

This is my idea of a White Russian but with tea. I start with a cup of my Iced London Fog recipe, which is basically Earl Grey tea cold-steeped in milk overnight with honey and vanilla. Then I add the vodka (plain is fine, but Grey Goose orange is delightful here), orange liqueur and my special Earl Grey Simple Syrup. I often keep this tea-milk in the fridge, using it as a host for protein powder as often as for vodka.

Make an instant iced Earl Grey Tea Latte with this super-strong
simple syrup.

I say special because unlike most Earl Grey simple syrups, which are made from an infusion of tea leaves that are strained out, this sweet goo is made using microground tea. Tea leaves ground down into a silty, fine-grained powder made for tea lattes. Except here they are suspended (mostly) in sugar syrup. This provides viscosity and texture for a full, smooth mouthfeel, and intensity of flavour moderated by the sweetness.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to soak some loose leaf tea in milk overnight, then just use plain milk. This syrup will bring you up to speed real quick. Simply add an extra spoonful. Just remember that you are ingesting the tea leaves, not drinking an infusion, so while it will hit you a little more slowly, both the caffeine and theanine will arise in your nervous system with greater intensity. In a delightful, blissful, mellow manner. A drop of vanilla wouldn’t hurt, either, since that’s in a London Fog. Or better yet, throw a spent vanilla bean in the syrup when you make it.

The recipe for the Earl Grey Simple Syrup is found here. Five minutes to a fabulously versatile and full-bodied ingredient!

Earl Grey in Moscow

An iced London Fog with vodka and orange liqueur, with a special syrup for extra flavour.
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #londonfog, #microgroundtea, #teacocktail, #teacocktails

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Iced London fog or plain whole milk (see below)
  • 1 ½ oz. vodka
  • ½ oz. orange liqueur
  • 1-4 tsp. Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup (see below)

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to a cocktails shaker filled with ice. Shake until frothy.
  • Pour over more ice.
  • Garnish with orange of any kind.

Notes

Iced London Fog recipe here
If using Iced London Fog for a base, add 1-2 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup. 
If using plain milk, add 3-4 tsp. Earl Grey simple syrup, to taste. 
For Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup, go here
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Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Simple Syrup

Hello Darlings. I trust you all know what a simple syrup is, yeah? And with very little imagination, it is easy enough to conceive that an Earl Grey simple syrup might mean the addition of some tea leaves to boiled sugar water, right? So far, so good.

I’ve decided that more is better and have used microground tea in my simple syrup. You’ll get more tea flavour, more caffeine, more texture and mouthful, and more intensity in every possible way. Because who wants weak stuff? We want every ingredient to have an impact, and this certainly does.

Microground tea dissolves very easily in warm liquid, as it was meant to do. It still leaves some residue at the bottom of the cup; it is not clear like a typical tea infusion. It’s more like cocoa powder. (They could be friends!) So you are actually ingesting tea leaf, but in most recipes we’ll make with this syrup, we won’t be using much, just a little FYI for the very caffeine-sensitive among us.

Milled in the same style as matcha, microground tea is a fine powder that is meant to dissolve easily, while delivering flavour and texture.

This super-strong, slightly silty syrup is fabulous in anything cream based. Like cream-cheese frosting, or whipped cream (perhaps an icebox cake with poached apricots?), ice-cream, etc. It was designed for a hot Earl Grey tea latte, but once it’s in syrup form it blends equally well into cold liquid. Which is perfect for my delicious cocktail, an Earl Grey in Moscow. (Recipe coming soon!)

Not pretty, but pretty potent!

This cocktail starts with my Iced London Fog, an Earl Grey tea cold-brewed in milk. Well, why bother with that, when you can get straight to it with the strong syrup? In fact, no need at all. I do like to double down, and I do like the clarity and slight thickness that comes from leaves steeped in milk. This is fine-tuning and layering, but if you don’t keep a jugful of my Iced London Fog in the house in warm weather (which you should), then by all means grab the blunt instrument and have at it. You’ll have a fabulous cocktail either way.

Other uses? A little oomph to some caramel sauce. Drown that syrup with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice in water to make lemonade, or better yet, in some beer to make an Earl Grey shandy. (Not in champagne, though. Too cloudy!) Use it in a custard, or a meringue, or with some freshly squeezed and zested orange for a dressing on fruit salad….

Have fun with it! And let me know what you get up to!

Really, Really Strong Earl Grey Tea Simple Syrup

Simple syrup made with microground tea rather than tea leaves or bags. Potent and with a lovely thick texture.
Cuisine: Canadian
Keyword: #earlgrey, #earlgreysimplesyrup, #microgroundtea, #simplesyrup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tbsp microground Earl Grey tea

Instructions

  • Bring water and sugar to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the powdered tea, stirring until smooth.
  • Turn off heat and let cool to room temperature.
  • Store in the fridge.

Notes

Feel free to add a spent vanilla bean to the syrup as you make it. Won’t hurt one bit! 
I used Tea Squared’s London Really Foggy Micro-Ground Tea Latte
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Pistachio Cake

This is the simplest, best cake that you can make. It’s based on David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake. I’ve been making it for years, with a simple swap of the almond paste for pistachio paste. I’ve recently taken it to the next level by elevating the quality of pistachio paste, which is the star of the show. Suddenly, it’s a whole new creation.

One thing? Unless you’re going to dump a whole bottle of actual champagne into a cake, this is likely the most expensive cake you’ll ever make. But will you be the most beloved of cottage guests? I assure you, you will.

I used to buy American Almond brand pistachio paste, but at 30% canola oil, I was dumbing down the flavour of my cake unnecessarily. A homemade pistachio paste can be lovely, but the best quality pistachios are so expensive that I just cave and buy the best store-bought I can find, which here in Toronto is Soma’s Manjoun-Pistachio Butter. Stella Parks suggests you make your own, using cheaper California pistachios, and pump up the flavour with pistachio oil and orange water, but there is nothing like the real thing. For this cake, it truly is go big or go home.

This pistachio paste contains a lot more fat and a lot less sugar than the Odense almond paste that I use when I make the almond version of this cake. And yet it rises much higher and has a finer crumb, and is unbelievably moist. It will still sink a little in the middle, as per the original, but not be greasy or heavy. It’ll keep for days and is ideal for afternoon tea. It’s so full of eggs that I think you can call it breakfast in good conscience.

For those who want it as dessert, I reserve a little of the paste to add to whipping cream for a not-too-sweet topping. Perfect with sliced strawberries. I have a jar of candied cumquats that I used for cocktail making that work well spooned onto the cake. That same syrup is also a perfect addition to the whipped cream. Top this cake with plums, apricots, berries, poached pears, peaches, or a white chocolate ganache. Heaven.

Pistachio Cake

The simplest of cakes, based on the famous Almond Cake by David Lebovitz. The pistachio version is expensive as all heck but truly sublime.
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: American, Canadian, French
Keyword: #afternoontea, #pistachio, #pistachiocake, #pistachiocream, #pistachiopaste, #teacake, #teatime

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cup sugar (265 g)
  • 8 oz best quality pistachio paste (225 g) For SOMA pistacio paste, this is two jars minus one tbsp
  • 1 cup flour, divided (140g total)
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ rounded tsp fine ground sea salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed (225g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp pistachio extract or liquor (or ¼ tsp almond extract)
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 325ºF (160ºC). Grease a 9- or 10-inch (23-25 cm) cake or spring form pan with butter, dust it with flour and tap out any excess. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.
  • Using a food processor, grind the sugar, pistachio paste, and 1/4 cup (35g) of flour until the almond paste is finely ground and the mixture resembles wet sand. The pistachoi paste is much more liquid than almond paste, so if you're used to a drier mixture at this point, fear not.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3/4 cup (105g) of flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the cubes of butter and the vanilla and almond extracts to the sugar mixture, processing until the batter is smooth. It will be still fairly runny and vivid green. It gets better, I promise.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, processing a bit before the next addition. Scrape the sides down if necessary.
  • Add half the flour mixture and pulse the machine a few times. Add the rest, pulsing the machine until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Do not overmix. (You can also transfer the batter to a bowl and mix the dry ingredients in, which ensures that you don’t overbeat it.)
  • Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake the cake for about 60 minutes, or until the top is deep brown and feels set when you press in the center.
  • Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp or serrated knife around the perimeter, loosing the cake from the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. It will sink in the middle a little. This is nothing to worry about.
  • Once it's cool, remove it from the pan. It stays fresh for four days wrapped tight or in a cake dome with parchment paper pressed to the cut side.
  • This cake is wonderful wiht summer fruit. It woudl also be incredible with a white chocolate pistachio ganache, or a rose and strawberry flavoured whipped cream, or an orange sauce.
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Smoky Mustard Triple Onion Potato Salad

Nothing says summer like plain old potato salad with mayo, hardboiled eggs and green onions. Sadly, fewer and fewer people love this old-style summer dish. Vinaigrettes on potatoes are more in vogue, and power to them. A lovely way to add some flavour to a potato salad, and certainly safer than mayonnaise on a sunny day.

For this recipe, I have rudely gone back to my smoky onion pickles, like a mantra that I can’t stop chanting, a recipe I can’t stop spinning. Or a song stuck in your head, that you must get out by singing and driving everyone around you nuts. Except I can’t sing (or so I’ve been told). However, no one ever complains about the smoky onion pickles. Go on and make a batch. Super easy and really worth the effort for their versatility and strong umami hit.

If you don’t want to be bothered, just use the old trick of softening your onions by fine chopping them and adding them to the vinegar as the water is boiling for the potatoes, and add a bit of Lapsang Souching to the vinegar. You can fish it out afterwards, using a teabag or fine chop it and leave it in. Either way, you’ll achieve that lovely smoky, malty flavour without having to do the extra step of making the pickles. I just always have them on hand.

I also have the benefit of always having a selection of Kozlik’s amazing mustards handy, so I doubled down on the smoky flavour with their Sweet & Smokey Mustard.

I quickly brown some shallots or thin sliced onions in simmering oil, (à la Barefoot Contessa style) and then top the whole mess with chives, or green onions, or garlic scapes – whatever is handy.

Now, if instead of the frizzled onions, you wanted to caramelize some instead, and then top your potatoes with some Gruyere or Jura, well, no one would object! Reheat those on the bbq in a cast iron pan or brulée them in the oven and you’re a star. But the point is, these potatoes have plenty of flavour cold and can stand up to anything else just on their own.

SMOKY MUSTARD TRIPLE ONION POTATO SALAD

This potato salad is infused with the flavours of mustrad, onions and smoke for a new summer staple.
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American, British, Canadian
Keyword: #lapsangsouching, #potatosalad, #smokyonions

Ingredients

  • ½ cup smoky onions, minced fine Or plain onoin, minced fine
  • 1 cup smoky onion vinaigrette Or plain white wine vinegar, with lapsang souching
  • 2 tbsps onion powder
  • ¼ cup dijon mustard, preferably Kozlick's Sweet & Smoky
  • 1 tbsp salt, fine ground
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 3 lb bag of yellow or red potatoes
  • ½ cup fresh chives
  • 2 shallots (or 1 onion)
  • vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Cut potatoes in quarters, then boil in a generous amount of well-salted water.
  • If you are using the smoky onion pickles, fish out the pickles from their vinegar, chop them fine with the tea leaves, and mix them in a bowl with all of the other ingredients.
  • If you are starting from scratch, place 4 tea bags or ¼ cup of lapsang souching in the vinegar. If you want to place the loose tea in a tea filter, you can remove it later. If you like to eat tea leaves, as I do, leave them in, breaking them first into tiny bits. Fine chop the onions and let both the tea and onions sit in the vinegar for at least 15 minutes. Then add the onion powder, salt, pepper and mustard.
  • When the potatoes are just cooked through, drain then. Add the vinaigrette while they are hot.
  • Thinly slice two shallots or one onion in simmering oil. Cook them, watching all the time, until they turn brown and crispy. Quickly drain them on paper towel.
  • Add chives or green onions right before you serve.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!