My mother always served the Thanksgiving meal in the early afternoon. Some years, I serve the meal in the afternoon -- depending on who's coming and whether or not they're going to their in-laws later that day -- but I prefer serving it in the evening. I like having more time to cook the food plus the ambiance that comes from having candles lit while we eat.
The years I serve an evening meal, I offer an array of appetizers for guests to nibble on during the afternoon while the turkey, dressing and all the trimmings are cooking. Cranberry Delight Spread is one of my favorite seasonal appetizers. Like the previous cranberry recipes I've shared, it's also a combination of cranberries and oranges, but this time in the form of dried cranberries and a fresh orange.
Cream cheese is combined with concentrated orange juice, cinnamon, sugar, chopped pecans, dried cranberries and orange zest. Zest, the outermost layer of the rind, contains aromatic oils which are very flavorful.
The easiest way to remove the zest is with a microplane zester.
Don't scrape the orange too deeply; you don't want to remove the white part -- known as the pith -- because it's bitter. The zest adds a lot of flavor so if you're using a large orange, start by adding part of the zest; you might not need all of it. Taste the mixture to see if you need to add more zest. This is especially important if you're doubling or tripling the recipe.
Dried cranberries can be tricky to cut because they're sticky. A quick and easy way to cut them is with a pair of kitchen shears. If the cranberries stick to the shears, spray the shears with a little bit of nonstick cooking spray. The cranberries will slide right off.
I mix up the spread a couple of days ahead of time so the flavors have time to blend. When I'm ready to serve it, I put the spread in a bowl on a platter surrounded by vanilla wafers and gingersnaps. The friend that gave me the recipe serves it with Triscuits to balance sweet and salty.
After our Thanksgiving meal is over and the leftovers are put up, we play -- what one of my nephews calls a family tradition -- several friendly, but competitive rounds of Taboo. As the evening progresses, the leftover afternoon appetizers are brought out for people to munch on while trying to figure out how to describe cranberry without using the words red, bog, juice, Thanksgiving or Ocean Spray!