Classes were cancelled the entire week of Thanksgiving. I thought I’d have lots of time to catch my breath and work on The Otium. But having brought a pile of work home, run a Turkey Trot, and cooked our annual South Indian-style Thanksgiving dinner with the S.O. [our menu leaned Tamil Nadu this year], by Sunday, I felt like I’d just finished an 80-hour work week. I didn’t have the energy for anything — especially with the guilt of procrastination looming over me because of a neglected research proposal.
I finally got the proposal submitted today. And as a way to relax from my week off, I finally got back into the kitchen and made something of my Thanksgiving leftovers.
I know I’ve previously talked about my hatred of leftovers. My S.O. hates ’em too. This is one of the main reasons we always cook South Indian on Thanksgiving — we’re not left with 15 extra pounds of turkey sitting around. But we did have leftover cranberries. So I stuck with the South Indian theme and whipped up this easy semolina skillet cake.
Semolina cakes are common treats across South Asia — Burma, India, Thailand, Bangladesh. This isn’t a fluffy Western-style cake, but a denser, almost pudding-like spoon bread. The cake batter is first cooked on the stovetop, then finished in cast iron (or a heavy glazed skillet) in the oven. Coconut milk provides a velvety canvas that contrasts the sharp, tart cranberries. I turned most of my leftover cranberries into this cranberry-maple sauce — an amazing autumn Native American recipe that I’ve spiced to complement the skillet cake.
I love the unique combination of South Asian with autumn flavors. It’s warming and comforting without being too heavy. Because it’s rather delicate, it’s best eaten straight from the skillet — so it’s a perfect dessert for sharing around a table with a friend, your S.O., or another couple.
Cranberry Semolina Skillet Cake
Serves 4-6 | Cook Time 90 mins (35 inactive)
- 1/2 C semolina (a.k.a. cream of wheat)
- 1/2 C packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 C coconut milk (1/2 C coconut cream + 1/2 C light coconut milk is ideal)
- 1 C lukewarm water
- 1/4 C olive oil
- 1/4 C fresh cranberries
- 1 recipe of cranberry-maple sauce, below (for serving)
- 1/4 C roasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped (for serving)
- 1 C fresh cranberries
- 1/2 C maple syrup
- 1/2 C water
- 1/2 inch peeled and grated ginger
- 1/3 T ground cardamom
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Toast wheat in a heavy skillet over medium heat until it becomes aromatic, then immediately remove from heat. Do not allow it get too brown.
- In a mixing bowl, combine toasted wheat, sugar, salt, coconut milk, lukewarm water, and olive oil. Stir until well-incorporated, then let batter sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 6″ cast iron skillet.
- After 30 minutes, pour batter into a second heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir batter frequently until thickened to almost Play-Doh® consistency, about 20 minutes. Add 1/4 C cranberries, and stir to incorporate.
- Pour batter into cast iron skillet, and bake 25-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- While cake is baking, prepare cranberry-maple sauce by combining cranberries, maple syrup, water, ginger, cardamom, and cinnamon stick in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 20 minutes. Mash cranberries for a thinner sauce, or keep them whole for a chunkier sauce. Discard cinnamon stick before serving. [Note this sauce can also be made ahead. Can also double the recipe and reserve the extra as an accompaniment to pork or poultry.]
- For serving, let cake cool about 10 minutes after coming out of the oven. Spoon cranberry-maple sauce over cake, and sprinkle with roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts.