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Ben Nevis
Jan 20, 2011

So I've been reading along with these (N)ICSA things for awhile, and generally enjoy them, but have never done one. I saw Cranberries come up this time though and I just couldn't resist. I love cranberries. Even a plain sauce with just cranberries, water, and sugar is one of my favorites on the Thanksgiving table. And I had bags in the freezer, since they freeze well and can sometimes be hard to find outside of the holiday season. After all, you never know when you'll get that cranberry craving. So, on to 3 crantastic dishes.

A Bright Red Drink
Cranberry Short Ribs with Cranberried Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry Clafouti

1: A Bright Red Drink

If you want a descriptive name it's brandy with a spiced cranberry honey syrup and a dash of Campari. If you want a name, I'm going with Christmas Stocking, since it's bright red and has an orange in the bottom, metaphorically.

First the syrup.

My plan was to go for something more syrupy than cranberry sauce. So I pared down a basic recipe of 12 oz cran to 1c water to 1c sugar to 2.5 oz cran to 1/4 c water to 1/4 c honey. I figure the less cranberries and extra liquid from the honey would help this be more syrupy than thick. I was not entirely correct.

First I combined the water and honey with a handful of allspice berries and some cinnamon and let it sit on low for a bit in my tiny pot.

I kinda forgot about it, and it looked low so I topped it back up to 1/2c liquid. Then I added the cranberries, cooked at a bare simmer until they had popped and strained the syrup. Then I forgot to take a picture. So have the next picture.

I played with the ratio a bit and settled around 1.5 oz brandy, .75 oz syrup, 1/2 tbsp Campari. It's not much, but it does lend a bitter citrus note which is appreciated. On the whole it was good. You kind of got toffee and dried fruit notes with some spice then a sweet tart cranberryness with a bit of citrus followed by the bitterness.

You'll notice the straining job wasn't great. Were I to make a big batch of this, I'd use a coffee filter or something to get it clearer. I'd also not bother with the honey, the flavor of it never really came out in the drink.

I went back and made another the next day and my syrup had sort of set. Not completely, but there were some small cranberry Orbitz floating in my drink. Bug or feature? You decide.

2: Cranberry Short Ribs with Cranberried Brussels Sprouts

So a few years back I wound up with a bunch of extra cranberry sauce after TDay and I tried to turn it into sort of a BBQ sauce. That failed. It was sort of the inspiration for this dish though. Since it's cold and rainy, I'm not smoking anything. I will, however, try to capture some of that flavor by using a stock made from rib bones. That's the green bowl. It has smoky meat jelly. Mmmm...

First sear the short ribs, nothing real tricky here. Just get them to be nice brown blocks of beef.

Then in the beef fat I caramelized an onion. Because I like caramelized onion. I was also hoping for some sweetness to compliment the cranberry.

Then I added rib stock (about halfway up the side of the short ribs) and about a cup of cranberries and simmered for 3 hours.

A brief digression. I am familiar with the habits of including pictures of any relevant children or wildlife so I'd like to do that here while we're braising. Part of the reason I did this was my wife was out of town and I needed something easy to prep that I could set and forget while I was entertaining the baby. The animals on the play gym are not as much fun without dad watching, apparently.

Once this was done, I set aside the ribs and poured the remaining stock, onion, cranberry mix into a glass and threw it in the fridge, because it's like 10:30 and I already ate. This is for tomorrow.

So after mostly defatting the braising stuff from yesterday I threw it in a pot to melt and then tasted it. It was meaty and had a distinct fruity tartness at the back end. Which was nice, but really, you want more fruity tartness in the cranberry battle. Also, while it had maintained some flavor notes from the BBQ rub, a lot of the smoke didn't come through after braising. Boo! So we moved to correct this.

More cranberries and dried chipotle. I seeded and stemmed the pepper and threw it in, along with a lot of cranberries. It was probably twice what is pictured. That's just a picture for the dramatic introduction of the pepper. I also salted it more and peppered. I initially refrained from salting too much just because I wasn't sure how it would be as the stock cooked down.

While that was going I started the sprouts. I like roasted Brussels sprouts. They are delicious. I often enjoy them with just a drizzle of vinegar, often balsamic or sherry vinegar. I thought this drizzle would be a good vessel to add cranberry to the sprouts.

Wash, trim, halve, oil, and generously salt the sprouts before throwing them on a pan into a 450 degree oven.

All the while, throw the tiny pot from the first recipe on the stove with some balsamic vinegar and cranberries.

A note on doneness and roasted sprouts. I like mine quite well done. Quite dark brown. So that's when I took them out. You can do it earlier if you like. I prefer a distinct crispness to the outside leaves and that really roasty flavor.

I also tasted the cranvin (needs a better name) sauce and decided it needed a pat of butter. I stirred that in. I drizzled it over the sprouts. It was a little thicker than expected, but nice and tart with those balsamicky notes.

While the sprouts were cooking I split my short ribs in half to make sort of beef logs. I set them in the reducing braising liquid to warm through. Once it was suitably reduced, I was going to put a bit on the beef logs and broil to get that grilled look/flavor thing. But I'd over reduced and it had turned into sort of a cranberry meat onion jam thing. I still put on top, still broiled, and then I served a pile of it under the ribs.

And I'd produced a big pile of brown. I should have thought this through better, colorwise. At any rate the sprouts were tasty. I liked the fairly tart cransalmic sauce (that name is no better). This would have been really great with some sort of cheese. Even something simple like a queso blanco, but I bet something more flavorful would have been awesome. Stilton, perhaps. The short ribs were good. nice and tender. The jam thing was super tasty. Meaty and fruity and tart with an oniony sweetness. It was a nice counterpart to the rich ribs. It is definitely a condiment though and not a side on it's on. I got way too much there, which led me to notice that as it cooled it set into a weird, unappealing consistency. So... keep it warm and use not more than you need. On the whole, I'm planning to revisit the cranberry short rib pairing, though I'll be doing it differently. Probably more as a glaze.

3: Cranberry Clafouti
People who've been paying attention have seen small spoilers of this. The recipe is more or less straight from my Joy of Cooking. I've made it a few times before, mostly in the summer with blueberries or peaches. I like clafouti because it's simple, I almost always have the ingredients for it on hand, and it has a silly name.

Mix together 4 eggs and 3/4c sugar until "frothy". Add 1c milk, tbsp brandy (optional), 1tsp vanilla, and 3/4c flour. I added the zest from a clementine. It didn't really come through so I wouldn't bother if I were you.

Now the recipe calls for 1 lb of pitted cherries. I've found with smaller fruit, I like it better just covering the bottom of pie plate. Oh yes, also this is a buttered 9.5in deep dish pie plate. Recipe calls for 10 inch, but whatever. All told this is about 11oz of cranberries.

Add in your custardy mixture.

Put it in the oven on 375 for 10 minutes, then lower to 350 and bake for 35 minutes more. It rises in the oven and then settles as it cools.


This was fairly tart. Which is good, I like tart desserts. Tart things go well with custards I think. If you're not inclined towards fairly tart desserts, you could take that zest we did not add in the mixing step, add it to some caster sugar, and dust the top with that mix. That'd be nice. What I think I'm going to try next time (or with leftovers when I get home this evening) is adding some sort of dark chocolate. It's not at all traditional but it'd be awesome. If it were not cold, vanilla ice cream would also be great here.

So that's dinner. Cooking was spread over 2 nights, and you'll be happy to hear I delayed dessert a night to share with my wife when she got back. Also I was full. Despite it not all quite turning out as planned (not very BBQy, a little thick on syrup, meatberry jam thing) it was quite tasty. There are elements I'll be incorporating into future meals. And I still have some cranberries leftover as a treat.

Despite the effort that went into this, the cats were not impressed.


Jun 29, 2010


Well done (like your brussels sprouts)! I can't believe you made all this amazingness on electric burners. A+ for overcoming that nightmare. I would nom all of that.

Jul 13, 2004

Come play my CYOA!

Save your reality from the Constructors... then save all the rest of them.

Good-looking cake!

Braised short ribs are so delicious, I hope that cranberry added something interesting to the profile!

And seconding the electric burners, I hate those shits

Mar 31, 2009

Oh god, I want the ribs and jam in my mouth. Great entry!

Nov 4, 2009

hello i am your heart how nice to meet you

That clafouti is gorgeous! I envy your custard skills.


Jan 27, 2013

The war goes on.

Clafouti is great! I like the traditional cherry kind (sometimes I add almond paste, too) but I'll have to try your version.

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