I don't have many family recipes.
In fact, I really only have one. When I finally started to fall in love with cooking in my mid-20s, this realization really bummed me out. I found myself deeply saddened by the fact that there was nothing that had been passed down through the generations in my family. No special sauces, no baked goods, no holiday staples...
Except, of course, for Spiced Fruit, which is sort of all three of those things.
When I was very little, my mother hosted Thanksgiving for a while. I don't remember much from those days, except that cooking Thanksgiving dinner was apparently an Olympic-level feat that only the most experienced of cooks should attempt. I remember this because on that day the kitchen in our house was Ground Zero... enter at your own risk.
But after a while, Thanksgiving moved to one of my aunts's houses. No longer responsible for the main dishes, my mother tried to find interesting sides to contribute. And when she was tasked with bringing the cranberry sauce one year, she decided to instead look for a unique alternative.
Cue: Spiced Fruit, a baked fruit dish that more or less functions as cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
The dish ended up being a hit that first year and eventually became my mother's "thing" from there on out. To this day it is the only recipe that has been passed down to me, surviving 20+ years on a stained magazine clipping, the publication source of which has long been forgotten.
Today, of the three Thanksgiving dinners I've cooked over the course of my six Thanksgivings in California, I have made this dish at every one of them. It doesn't hurt that it's one of those dishes that only tastes better as leftovers.
On this year's Thanksgiving morning, I woke up, took Brewer to Dog Beach, then came home and got my 19-pound turkey lathered with homemade herb butter and into the oven.
Since this was my first Thanksgiving cooking at my house in OB and the first Thanksgiving I'd spent with my dad in over 18 years, I was thrilled that it ended up being a gorgeous clear day so that I could set up the table outside on the front patio.
Planning to have dinner on the table in time for sunset, I started prepping and cooking the rest of my sides around 2pm. I was lucky enough to have the world's best sous chef and friend, Makena, there to help me through crunch time. Together, we peeled and diced apples and pears for the Spiced Fruit Bake, which went into the oven the minute the turkey came out.
With Makena's help, everything came out perfect and was all on the table at the same time, resulting in the most relaxed and delicious Thanksgiving dinner ever. I couldn't have been more grateful for the company, the weather, or the food!
Spiced Fruit Bake
- 2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1 11oz can mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 12oz bag of cranberries, rinsed and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup of firmly packed light-brown sugar
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 cup apple cider
1. Heat oven to 375° (I actually had the oven at 365° to compromise with another side I was making at the same time). Place fruit in a 2 1/2-quart shallow baking dish and toss to mix.
2. Stir together brown sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir dry mixture into apple cider.
3. Pour over fruit and bake 30-35 minutes uncovered until fruit is tender.
4. Let cool at least 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with lemon rind if desired!
Not only did she help with the main course, but Makena made a pecan pie and raspberry apple pie from scratch! #thebest