Breaking The Cranberry Mold: New Ways To Savor This Seasonal Berry : The Salt Cranberry sauce is a Thanksgiving tradition. But if you're ready for a fresh take on this staple, why not try cranberries in chutney or cake? America's Test Kitchen founder Chris Kimball offers ideas.
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Breaking The Cranberry Mold: New Ways To Savor This Seasonal Berry

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Breaking The Cranberry Mold: New Ways To Savor This Seasonal Berry

Breaking The Cranberry Mold: New Ways To Savor This Seasonal Berry

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


You might have noticed this show has a thing for cranberries, most notably Mama Stamberg's shocking, pink concoction that makes an appearance every year. And this Thanksgiving, Chris Kimball, founder of "America's Test Kitchen," joined Renee Montagne with a box full of cranberries and the intention of going beyond the cranberry mold.

RENEE MONTAGNE, BYLINE: And that's how it happened that we gathered in my kitchen around a glistening, jiggling cranberry mold right out of the sixties. Chris brought it as a reference point, meaning I had to take a bite.

It tastes exactly like I expected it would.

CHRIS KIMBALL: Well, since I brought it for you as a housewarming gift, I guess it was the perfect choice, Renee, because I'm leaving it for you.

MONTAGNE: OK then, on to tips on how to use cranberries in new and different ways, like adding a bit of salt or a touch of Cointreau.

KIMBALL: You might say cranberries should be the quietest person at the party because it's all about the turkey and the mashed potatoes and the gravy. But if you want, you can dress up the recipe that's on the back of the bag of fresh cranberries in the supermarket, and it's great. I mean, it's simple. We added a little orange zest and a little orange liqueur as well.

MONTAGNE: Oh, wow.

KIMBALL: I know, well...

MONTAGNE: Here we go.

KIMBALL: Forget about the orange. You can tell with the salt - I know it sounds stupid, but it's quarter-teaspoon - it really enhances the flavor.

MONTAGNE: Next, Chris tackles a recipe with a long history of showing up on an autumn table - cranberry chutney.

KIMBALL: As early as 1796, the first American cookbook, Amelia Simmons' "American Cookery," they had cranberry sauce. And don't forget they had a lot of game, so they used the sauce for everything. They made relishes, chutneys. They'd made jellies out of it or jams. And cranberry sauce goes great with game, so it was perfect.

MONTAGNE: For his chutney, Chris sautees ginger, mustard seeds and shallots in a saucepan then adds cider vinegar, a cup of brown sugar along with the segments of two oranges. There are three cups of cranberries, but Chris saves half of that for later and adds only half now.

KIMBALL: First half we're cooking almost as a base. And we often do this in cooking. We'll take half of a fruit, for example, or vegetable, cook it down, and then add the raw stuff a little bit later so it retains more of its texture, because you want some texture. It is a chutney, after all. I know I shouldn't be excited about my own food, but this is a huge upgrade over the back of the bag. I mean...

MONTAGNE: This is...

KIMBALL: ...It's really good.



MONTAGNE: And it's also very tangy.

KIMBALL: I mean, I would say it doesn't look as good as the Jell-O mold. I mean, the Jell-O mold's definitely got it going visually. I mean, we have to give it credit.


KIMBALL: But, you know, this tastes about 10 times better.


MONTAGNE: Up next, Chris goes wild. He's planned something that is rarely seen on a Thanksgiving table - a salad with fresh greens.

KIMBALL: We've completely lost our minds. So this is watercress, some dried cranberries, some pecans and orange and grapefruit segments.

MONTAGNE: And here's a tip - Chris sprinkles salt and sugar over the orange and grapefruit segments to draw out the excess juice.

KIMBALL: Otherwise, you end up with a pool of liquid at the bottom of your salad bowl or platter.

MONTAGNE: Which is always yucky.

KIMBALL: Yucky, yes. We - great minds - yucky. That's the word of the day.

MONTAGNE: After draining the juice, Chris spreads the orange segments out on a platter, then drizzles them with good olive oil. This is the base of the salad. And then he makes a quick dressing using the drained juice with some ingredients we've already been using this morning - minced shallots and mustard.

KIMBALL: Now, mustard is an emulsifier, which means it will help keep the ingredients together. So the mustard, as you can see, makes a creamy dressing.

MONTAGNE: Chris pours that dressing onto the watercress along with toasted pecans and dried cranberries, all of which gets piled on top of the citrus.

KIMBALL: Light, tasty. You want something - one thing, at least - that's fresh.

MONTAGNE: At least one thing.

KIMBALL: No, no, just one thing. I don't want more than one thing.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter).

KIMBALL: I mean, Thanksgiving's not about fresh, right? I mean, it's about long cooking, except the simple salad. There you go.

MONTAGNE: There you go.


MONTAGNE: Now for dessert. Surprise - a cranberry upside down cake. For this recipe, butter and cranberries go into a skillet, then add sugar and raspberry jam.

With all that sizzling there, do you want - do you want an apron?

KIMBALL: I'm the only person wearing, you know, a Brooks Brothers suit and a bowtie cooking for Thanksgiving, but these are going to start popping any moment.

MONTAGNE: After I grab Chris an apron, he finishes cooking that cranberry mixture. Now for the batter - flour, eggs, milk, vanilla and almonds finely ground, all put into a mixer.

Can I take a taste of the batter?

KIMBALL: Sure. It has raw egg in it.

MONTAGNE: I'll just live dangerously. Mm, the batter is so good.

KIMBALL: So now, you take the better, and you pour it on top of the cranberry mixture, which has been chilled. And a good trick is you just take the cake pan, move it back-and-forth, slam it down a little to get rid of some of the air bubbles.

MONTAGNE: All right.

KIMBALL: It's good to go into the oven. So 35, 40 minutes. Let it cool, then it flips out, and you have a right-side-up upside down cake.


MONTAGNE: That's very elegant and super delicious.

KIMBALL: You notice that both of us are actually eating the whole slice?

MONTAGNE: That's right. This was not a mere taste. This was an inhalation.

KIMBALL: Cranberry inhalation - maybe that's - yeah.

MONTAGNE: (Laughter).


MONTAGNE: This will shake up the cranberry tradition of my Thanksgiving this year.

KIMBALL: From the frontlines of the cranberry revolution, reporting from Renee Montagne's kitchen, have a great things giving.


WERTHEIMER: And not to worry if you weren't writing all that down - Chris Kimball's cranberry recipes are at our website,

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