GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 6, 2012

Countdown to Thanksgiving and Cranberry Chutney two ways

Pat's Kitchen Patricia Altomare
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — I find this guide helpful in remembering the many details during this busy time of preparing for Thanksgiving.

For me, it means fewer “To Do” lists taped to my refrigerator. And it might give you some ideas as well.

Six-Day Countdown

(Helpful if cooking for a crowd)

6. Clean china, silverware, tablecloth to ready for use. Clean out refrigerator and freezer, you will need the space. Make place cards; decide on centerpiece

5. Write shopping list; purchase non-perishables, wines. Arrange for rented or borrowed chairs if needed.

4. Make pie dough. Form into discs, tightly wrap in plastic and refrigerate in covered container. If cooking a frozen turkey, pick it up now as defrosting can take up to 3 days in refrigerator depending upon size.

3. If possible, set table now. This frees up time on Thanksgiving Day and helps you to have it just the way you would like it. Assemble serving pieces; gravy bowl, vegetable bowls, platters, spoons, etc. Buy any remaining ingredients. If making, prepare cranberry sauce or chutney. Prepare cheese ball. Considering your menu and recipes, save time by chopping ahead onions, celery, nuts, and the like, and keeping in tightly covered containers in a cool place.

2. Finish anything not done from above. Last-minute cleaning.

1. Day before: early in day make pies. Peel vegetables such as sweet potatoes, butternut squash, turnip, and keep in cold water in a cool place. Prepare any dishes that can be cooked today and reheated tomorrow (such as stuffed acorn squash). Prepare stuffing for turkey and keep refrigerated.

Thanksgiving: Stuff turkey and get into oven at decided time. Peel and cut potatoes; keep in a pot of cold water. Prepare appetizers and side vegetables. Make gravy.

Finally, relax and enjoy the day!

This chutney was in my Thanksgiving column several years ago. According to the many emails I received, it is one of the most well-liked recipes. Several readers have let me know that it is now an annual tradition and included in their holiday menus.

What is new for my Thanksgiving column this year are the two recipes using the chutney as a highlight ingredient. The Chutney Cheeseball makes an appealing appetizer and a great homemade gift. I wrap it in tissue paper, secured with a colorful ribbon, and place it in a small basket with a sleeve of crackers and a cheese spreader.

The Stuffed Acorn Squash makes a festive, pretty side vegetable that can be prepared and baked the day before.

Cranberry Chutney

Even if you are die-hard fans of cranberry sauce, as many in my family are, serve this also. It’s because it’s homemade and spiced just right that this chutney is so good. It’s easy to make, and can be made a few days ahead.

Makes about 4 cups (1/4 cup is average serving)

Ingredients:

1 (12-ounce bag) fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup chopped granny smith apple

1 cup raisins (mix dark and golden raisins if you like)

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup sugar

1 cup white vinegar

3/4 cup chopped celery and 3/4 cup water

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Combine all in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for at least 30 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring occasionally. It will take longer if you double the recipe.

Best served slightly warm or room temperature, and keeps well in the refrigerator.

Chutney Cheeseball

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup cranberry chutney

1/4 cup scallion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

dash of salt and pepper

1/2 cup Colby cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese, finely shredded

1/2 cup pecans, chopped finely

Mix well cream cheese, chutney, scallion, garlic, salt and pepper.

Fold in the shredded cheeses.

Form mixture into a ball and roll it into the chopped pecans.

Double wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator. Good made 2 to 3 days ahead to meld flavors.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 8

Take 4 acorn squash. Cut each in half, remove seeds. Take thin slice off bottom of each half so they will sit flat. Lightly brush each half with melted butter and lightly season with salt and a small sprinkle of sugar.

Stuffing:

3/4 cup cranberry chutney

1/2 cup melted butter

2 tablespoons sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup half & half

2/3 cup pecans, chopped

1 (16-ounce) loaf raisin bread cut into 1-inch cubes

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together chutney, butter, sugar, eggs, and half & half; fold in bread cubes and chopped pecans. Lightly pile stuffing into squash without packing down.

Baked stuffed shells on a greased pan or baking sheet for about 40 minutes or until squash is fork-tender. Cover loosely with foil if stuffing browns too quickly.

A personal note

Our Thanksgiving dinner is rich in tradition, and every year I find it still inspires me and awes me.

Whether one person or 50, enjoy your Thanksgiving.

Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at patakitchen@yahoo.com, or write care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.