(Editor’s Note: The Breakfast Casserole recipe was inadvertently left out of the print edition of last week’s column. The recipe is included with today’s column.)
Cranberries are bombs of tartness.
A bite into a raw cranberry releases an explosion of astringent flavor that makes my face crinkle and ignites a tingling sensation from my jawline to my ears.
That abrasiveness has some culinary value, however, when tamed with a judicious pairing of sweet ingredients, such as sugar and/or fresh and dried fruit.
American food traditions most often associate cranberry sauces and salads with turkey for Thanksgiving, but cranberry mixtures can brighten just about any grilled, roasted or braised meat.
The following recipe for Cranberry, Cherry and Walnut Chutney strikes the perfect balance between tart and sweet. Chutneys are a chunky condiment original to India and usually include a blend of fruits, vegetables and/or nuts combined with spices, vinegar and honey or sugar.
A dab of chutney usually is served with a meat, but it also could be used as a sandwich spread or atop a brick of cream cheese for an hors d’oeuvre served with sturdy crackers.
The recipe is adapted from one in “Great Good Food: Luscious Lower-Fat Cooking” (1993) by Julee Rosso. The 574-page softcover cookbook is packed with more than 800 recipes with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. “Great Good Food” is my go-to cookbook when I find unfamiliar produce at farmers markets.
True to the era, the cookbook focuses on low-fat but high-flavor dishes. Sometimes, those dishes have more sugar than what we know today to be sensible.
I halved the sugar in the original recipe, and the chutney was sweet enough to charm the tartness of the cranberries. My other changes include adding a pinch of salt, specifying yellow raisins and replacing red pepper flakes with cayenne powder.
One final note: Don’t skip the step of toasting the walnuts. Sometimes my cut-to-the-chase, that-will-do cooking style leaves some nuanced flavors out of a dish. Taking a few extra minutes to toast the walnuts releases natural oils that improve the flavor and diminish the bitterness that is more noticeable when left raw.
Share your favorite recipes or food-related historical recollections by emailing Laura Gutschke at [email protected].
1 pound breakfast sausage
1 small onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
Optional: 1 (8-ounce) package white mushrooms, sliced and chopped
Optional: 1-2 cups fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
1 (8-count) can crescent rolls
8 large eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Colby Jack, Cheddar or other favorite melty cheese, shredded
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, using a cooking spoon to break the meat into crumbles. When the meat is cooked about halfway through, stir in the onion and bell pepper (and optional spinach and mushrooms) and continue cooking. When the meat is fully cooked, remove from heat and set aside. The meat mixture can be cooked and refrigerated up to a day ahead of assembling the casserole.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Spray a 9- by 13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently roll out the crescents dough into the bottom of the pan, carefully pinching the seams together to prevent gaps.
4. Pour the eggs over the dough. Season with a little salt and pepper.
5. Evenly spread the meat mixture on top of the eggs.
6. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the meat mixture.
7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until top is just brown and bubbly. Wait about 2-3 minutes before cutting into 8 servings.
Cranberry, Cherry and Walnut Chutney
2 cups dried, tart cherries
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup yellow raisins
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
6 tablespoons apple juice
Dash ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt
1. Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart pot over medium heat. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring well.
2. Cool the chutney to room temperature; cover tightly and refrigerate. The chutney will thicken as it cools and will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator. Yields 12 servings.
Laura Gutschke is a general assignment reporter and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.