The grape salad wrath seems to have calmed down since the New York Times revealed its United States of Thanksgiving list last week. But that doesn't mean you won't see some cheeky bastards slipping a dish full of the stuff onto the buffet table this Thursday.
If you're a grape salad novice (i.e. a Minnesotan), we're here to help you decide whether or not this "signature dish" is worth the Thanksgiving plate real estate -- even as a joke.
First, the ingredients. As a Minnesotan, you're likely too busy fending off wild moose and digging yourself out of spontaneous snowstorms to keep more than three or four ingredients in your head at one time. The New York Times gets it. Grape salad calls for a manageable larder of grapes, sour cream, brown sugar, and (optional) pecans. Three ingredients if you're fending off a moose while shoveling snow while preparing the salad. Four if you're feeling a surge of Midwestern can-do spirit.
Rinse two pounds of grapes and pat them dry. Use your calloused pioneer hands to pluck each grape from its stem and collect in a large bowl.
Measure out two cups of sour cream and indelicately plop each blob into the grape bowl. Mix well. Think to yourself, "Holy shit, that's a lot of sour cream."
Transfer this painstakingly prepared blend of grapes and sour cream to an oven-safe dish. Ask yourself, "Am I about to put grapes in the oven?" You betcha.
Cover the top of the grape-sour cream mixture with a cup of brown sugar. Do your god-fearing Minnesotan best, as some of the granules won't stay on top. They will fall through the cracks, much like Minnesota when the Times was "scouring the nation" for examples of each state's beloved cuisine.
Put the dish in the oven as far away from the broiler as possible to avoid burning the sugary top. You'll want it caramelized, not blackened. The recipe will say "about 5 minutes" but the recipe is a damn liar. Budget 20 minutes of sitting on your kitchen floor next to the oven, carefully tending to your caramelizing sugar like it's a newborn Minnesota loon.
Meanwhile, toast some pecans on your stovetop. Take it from us: If you burn them, throw them away and start over. Don't think people won't notice. Don't think people will confuse the char for toastiness. They won't. Start over.
When the sugar top starts to brown and a bit of golden syrup is pooling in the bottom of the dish, take the salad out of the oven. Pop it in the fridge for at least an hour (really, more like two hours) and set the pecans aside for people to sprinkle on at their leisure.
Once the serving has begun, you may notice that the salad has little clotted clumps of sour cream and what looks like dumpster juice collecting in the bottom of the dish. It's not pretty. Occasionally scoop that up and drizzle it over the remaining salad like you're basting a turkey, which is apparently the signature dish of Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, New Hampshire, and New Mexico, but not Minnesota even though we're the nation's biggest producer of turkey.
#Grapegate verdict? The flavor isn't so bad. If you can get past the presentation and the shame of being the New York Times' drunken afterthought, you might even enjoy the juicy grapes and the creamy, caramel sauce. It's a sugar bomb, for sure, but in small amounts, it's a tasty little joke. Good one, NYT.
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