Bryan Voltaggio nearly ruined Thanksgiving for hundreds of people. True, he was only 16, but when he slow-cooked dozens of turkeys to the perfect point of underdoneness, he was nearly fired. Instead, young Voltaggio was given a second chance, and for that he is thankful: He probably wouldn't have continued working as a cook if he had been booted. These days, Voltaggio always brings his saucy, fresh cranberry compote to the Thanksgiving table. The secret to its bright flavor is orange juice, sweet Riesling and a low, slow simmer with lots of stirring to ensure the cranberries don't scorch.
Recipe adapted from Bryan Voltaggio, Range, Washington, D.C.
Yield: 4 cups
Cook Time: 40 minutes
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup sweet Riesling
2 pounds fresh cranberries, cleaned and picked through (any wrinkled or discolored cranberries discarded)
1 medium whole orange, quartered and deseeded
½ cinnamon stick
2 whole allspice berries
1 dried bay leaf
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1. Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the sugar and wine. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer and cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture simmers with thick, slow bubbles, 6 to 8 minutes (the temperature will be between 234° and 240° on an instant-read thermometer).
2. Add the cranberries, stir to combine and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 3 minutes, then squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the pan and add the squeezed orange quarters along with the cinnamon stick, allspice berries, bay leaf and salt. Cook, stirring often, until the cranberries begin to burst and the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the orange quarters, cinnamon stick, allspice berries and bay leaf, and set the compote aside to cool completely. The cranberry compote can be left as is or transferred to a blender and puréed until smooth. Store the compote in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.