You already know I’m an ice cream girl. To clarify, when I say “ice cream,” I mean it in the broadest sense, including sorbets, frozen yogurts, semifreddos, popsicles, granitas and mostly any other soft, scoopable, meltable, spoon- or lick-worthy frozen treats.
So when it was hinted that maybe I could bring a dessert for Thanksgiving dinner, in addition to my updated, real cheese-including, non-“cheese product” version of my family’s traditional cheesy broccoli dish, which I totally botched because it turned out way more mushroomy than cheesy in flavor; although I love mushrooms, so that’s not entirely a tragedy; in fact, I’m using the leftover cheesy, mushroomy sauce, which I made four times too much of, for a lasagna this week … anyway, where was I?
Oh, right! I had a dessert brainstorming breakdown.
And a totally unjustified sobbing fit. I wouldn’t normally cry over a lack of dessert ideas, but I was sick! And I had a feeling my standard, easy go-tos – toffee and fudge – were out because my mom was likely to make a surprise batch or two.
I might have settled on baked goods. But the weekend before Thanksgiving, we had Friendsgiving, and I had baked some incredible butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting. For some reason, I didn’t feel like baking more of them for Thanksgiving – probably because I had eaten the handful of leftover cupcakes over the past few days.
They were rich. They were savory-sweet. And I was a horribly selfish person because I didn’t think any other baked good could ever top them, and yet I refused to make them for Thanksgiving. They could have been perfect for it – they were so chock full of Fall flavors that they were practically made for Thanksgiving. But in retrospect, after a day of feasting and several platefuls of stuffing, cupcakes would have been way too much.
But sorbet was juuuuuuuuust riiiight (à la Goldilocks and the Three Bears).
I selected a bold, fruity bottle of Zinfandel – two, actually, because I doubled the recipe – and boiled it with a little water and sugar. Then, I dumped a few bags of frozen raspberries into the hot, sweetened wine, and let them soak.
An hour later, I strained out the raspberry seeds, and chilled the remaining pulp and liquid in the fridge. Once cold, I ran half of the raspberried wine through my ice cream machine to freeze up, and after re-freezing the bowl for a day, did the same for the remaining half. Stored in the freezer, the sorbet was done way ahead of time, and all I had to do was wait for Thanksgiving to roll around. And then have my sister Cassie make room in my mom’s freezer once we arrived for turkey dinner prep.
After snacking on chicken curry with crackers, shrimp cocktail, and a pickle tray, and then feasting on a deep-fried turkey, a roasted turkey, stuffing, cheesy-mushroomy broccoli, roasted butternut squash, bourbon cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls, my entire over-stuffed family unbuttoned their pants – most proverbially, some physically.
About an hour later, we reconvened for dessert. Christina (my future stepsister-in-law once my mom gets around to planning her wedding) had made pumpkin bundt cake and a crumb cake; my mom, just as I had guessed, pulled out some homemade fudge and toffee; I warmed up my easy, 6-inch upside down pear cake. We all stared at the impressive homemade dessert selection with puffed cheeks and uncomfortably protruding bellies.
Slowly, each person cut a small sliver of this cake or a small square of homemade fudge. Everything tasted amazing; we were just too full to really appreciate it or eat more than a few bites.
And a few minutes later, Cassie graciously retrieved my raspberry Zinfandel sorbet from wherever it was hidden in a second freezer – the only one that had storage space. The festive sorbet was bright red and cold. Its deep fruity flavor was complex but refreshing, almost as if it cleansed away the heaviness of the Thanksgiving dinner.
The sorbet was a perfect end to a wonderful holiday meal that brought together my original family (mom and sisters), my chosen family (husband Jay), my new family (parents-in-law), and my future family (mom’s fiance and his son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren). And since I overdid it a bit by making a half gallon of the stuff, I had about half of it left to serve at our friends Katie and Justin’s Leftovers Party the following evening.
Raspberry Zinfandel Sorbet (adapted from David Lebovitz’s Red Wine Raspberry Sorbet in Ready for Dessert)
Makes 1 quart
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1 750-ml bottle zinfandel (or other fruity red wine – e.g., merlot)
1 lb. (16 oz. or about 3 c.) raspberries (frozen are fine; no need to thaw)
In a medium pot over high heat, bring sugar, water and wine to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat. Add raspberries, cover, and let steep for an hour.
Puree the berries and remove seeds by pouring the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl, and using a spatula or back of a spoon to push the liquid through. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
Freeze in an ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s instructions (mine had me freeze the bowl for 24 hours, then process the chilled raspberry-wine mixture for 30 minutes). Transfer to shallow dish, and cover top with plastic wrap, pressing down so the plastic wrap is in contact with the surface of the sorbet. Freeze for another hour or two to harden the sorbet up a bit more before serving.