I cooked two new dishes last night for supper with Chris’s parents: a cranberry compote and an apple crisp, and each one turned out with a problem. Cranberry compote: too much ginger! And apple crisp: too much salt!
Cranberry compote – there were two problems with this one: first, I think it tasted too strongly of ginger, and second, I didn’t have time to cool the compote completely.
I had to try the compote after my friend Linda, who gave me the recipe after I raved over the compote at her daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner, asked if I’d made it yet. “No,” I said. “Why not?” she scolded me. “Well, I wanted to serve it with pork, and we haven’t had pork in a while,” I answered. She shook her head and me, and on the spot I determined to try the cranberry compote with pork chops this week.
The challenge I ran into was time. Reading the recipe ahead of time, I had calculated I could complete the dish in 15 minutes—which is correct, but I had forgotten to allow time for cooling it off. As a result, I rushed. I hurriedly chopped and minced shallots and garlic cloves (very proud of myself for happening to have both on hand—and how wonderful they smelled!), then with both sautéd I added the berries, sugar, water, rice vinegar, and salt as quickly as I could. At that moment, standing at the stove with the half teaspoon in my hand, I realized I had forgotten the ginger. So I filled the half teaspoon four times with powdered ginger for the required two teaspoons, and set the pot to boil.
It took longer than the suggested 10 minutes for the berries to burst and the mixture to thicken. It was 15 minutes before the mixture looked ready, and then I had to pour it into a dish and shove it into the freezer for 10 minutes, the longest I could spare before setting it in front of my guests—my in-laws.
My assessment: it would have tasted better cooled as directed and with less ginger. I probably added too much, using the half teaspoon four times. Ginger is a spicy, warming herb—and such a gingery dish served warm, with my admittedly bland palate, was, for me, too powerful. Chris claims it was good, and so did my in-laws, but neither Chris or his father like cranberry sauce anyway, and his mom is just a very nice lady, so I think they were either being nice or, possibly more likely, just trying to stop my self-recrimination so they could finish their meal.
I did badger my mother-in-law into giving a little advice: “Maybe just a teeny bit less ginger,” she said, after I prodded about a half-dozen times. Then of course she repeated again that it was fine, it really was.
Well, I know that my cranberry compote was just not as good as Linda’s. I’m sure, when she asks me again if I’ve made it, that I’ll launch into a passionate speech about everything I did wrong and will make her wish she had never asked.
Below is Linda’s recipe. Measure the ginger carefully and adjust to suit your taste. If you like your dishes warm and can tolerate ginger—go ahead!
2/3 cup shallots
2 teaspoons garlic
2 teaspoons ginger
1 12-oz bag frozen or fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
¼ cup rice vinegar (or cider vinegar)
½ teaspoons salt
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 8–10 min until most of the cranberries pop and the mixture has thickened. Cool before serving.
Apple crisp – I wanted to use up some Braeburn apples I’d felt were a little too tart for my taste as an eating apple, so I was planning to use apples in some way last night, and once I’d decided for sure to make the compote, I knew I’d do an apple dessert instead of baked apples as a side dish. For weeks, I’d been wanting to try an apple crisp recipe I’d found online; so with visions of baked and bubbling apple-ness in my head and nostrils, I stopped at Russ’s Market on my way home from work and bought some oatmeal for the apple crisp topping.
When I got home and rushed to consult the recipe, knowing my baking time before dinner was going to be short if I didn’t hurry, I realized two important things: (1) the recipe I’d been planning to try didn’t include oatmeal at all; and (2) it did call for two cups of flour, and I am completely out of standard enriched flour.
I did have a bag of white whole wheat flour in the cabinet, but having had at least one unfortunate experience substituting cup for cup with white flour in a cake for my dad’s birthday last year, I wasn’t about to just substitute the whole wheat flour for the standard white. Also, I didn’t want to waste the newly purchased cardboard can of oatmeal. Furthermore, the apple crisp I had been fantasizing of and salivating over in my mind definitely would have oatmeal in the topping.
So, I rushed to the basement to find an apple crisp recipe that would be heavy on the oatmeal and light on the flour—so I could use only a small amount of the whole wheat flour—plus one that wouldn’t have to be cooked very long. That would mean using less apples, and I was hoping for a recipe that wouldn’t call for 6 or more apples and proportionate companion ingredients, because I could easily see myself using just 2-3 apples and then forgetting to cut the rest of the ingredients proportionately. In just a few minutes, I found a recipe that seemed a good fit.
I found the apple crisp to be easy to put together. I wound up using just two large Braeburn apples, because they sufficiently covered the bottom of the baking dish, but in retrospect I would have liked to use one more to make the fruit filling thicker in the finished product. I mixed up the dry ingredients exactly as suggested, adding dutifully, at the end, a teaspoon of salt.
The apple crisp baked like a dream—ready in just 40 minutes, bubbling, and golden brown. I served it out to Chris, his brother Jeremiah, and his parents (but not my boys, who want only chocolate for dessert these days), and then to myself. And in the first bite, I knew—too salty!
This time, I got agreement from my guests. “But it’s very good too,” said my mother-in-law.
After dinner I asked Chris if he thought he would eat the leftovers.
“I’ll have to see how it tastes when it’s cooled,” he said.
Yeah, I’m sure it will be less salty when it’s cooled. Quite likely, salt and ginger lose their potency when ingested at room temperature.
I don’t know why the crisp was too salty. I followed the recipe. Was the amount in the recipe a mistake? Does white whole wheat flour interact differently with salt than standard enriched flour?
Next time I am going to use only one-fourth teaspoon of salt. It should be fine. After all, my brother-in-law, Jeremiah, pointed out last night that when he makes apple crisp at work (he works in the kitchen of an assisted living home), they don’t add salt at all. So I’m going to play it safe.
So I have a plan for the future. But for now—someone, please eat the leftovers. The dish is covered in foil on my stove. You probably won’t taste the salt at all, now that the crisp has cooled …
Oh, who am I kidding. I can still taste the salt now!