Last year around this time, legendary chef Jacques Pépin dropped by the Rachael Ray TV show to help prepare some traditional holiday fare. “Thanksgiving is the biggest holiday for me,” the courtly Pépin said in his untamed French accent. Then a hint of frustration crept into Pépin’s voice as he admitted that, even though he makes a sumptuous cranberry relish from scratch, “my wife wants this.”
He was pointing to a can of cranberry sauce.
It is the culinary enigma of the winter holidays. Though this is arguably the one time of year when home cooks go the extra mile in the kitchen—turning out toilsome turkeys, picture-perfect pies and all variety of side dishes made from scratch—cranberry sauce from the can not only gets a pass, it usually gets a prominent place on the table, where it sways and waggles in all of its can-shaped splendor.