In “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol,” one of the brightest animated holiday cartoons ever broadcast, the Cratchit family gathers for a modest Christmas dinner that they dream would be made better by the addition of razzleberry dressing.
Fans of the special, which NBC airs this weekend for the first time in 50 years, have often wondered if there is such a thing as razzleberry dressing and what the sauce tastes like.
Searching the Internet turns up a couple of options, one for salads and the other, well, doesn’t seem to be for folks living England in the 19th century with its inclusion of serranos and cilantro.
What would the Cratchits have enjoyed? We can’t say for sure, but making a sauce in a more traditional style seemed like it would be a good place to start. So, we created a roux with equal parts fat and flour. Goose fat from the holiday bird would likely have been used or leftover suet. Or you could get duck fat from places such as Gaucho Gourmet, 935 Isom Road, or Central Market, 4821 Broadway. If that is too much of a bother, then try butter, as I did, or a neutral-flavored oil.
But what about the razzleberries? What are they? Wikipedia tells us it’s a combination of raspberries and blackberries, as in the razzleberry pie at Marie Calender’s, which perhaps drew its name from Bob Merrill’s lyrics in the show, making the word come full circle.
From there, the rest of the recipe seemed to come together, with a few details allowed for modern tastes and the convenience of getting certain ingredients out of season that Bob Cratchit would not have been able to pick up for the missus from his neighborhood grocer. The way to make this recipe is to experiment with the amounts, adapting it to suit your tastes and what’s in your pantry. Think a touch of nut would add flavor? Try using a little almond flour mixed with the all-purpose flour. Want to keep the sauce vegetarian? Use vegetable stock. Make it your way. Just remember: The blackberries and raspberries will color the dressing a reddish purple.
The point is to make a sauce that would complement what you’re serving it with. It’s also important what the animated Catchits hope for during their Christmas celebration: “We’ll have the Lord’s bright blessing/And knowing we’re together,/Knowing we’re together/Heart in hand.”
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or 1/4 cup fat (goose, duck or pork)
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup fresh raspberries and blackberries
2 to 4 cups stock (beef, chicken or vegetable, to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more, to taste (raspberry vinegar might also work, but in far less quantity)
Salt, to taste
A generous taste of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup raspberry jelly and blackberry jelly
A splash of brandy
Make a roux by stirring the butter and flour together with the fresh fruit, if using, in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly and get the roux to the desired color. Taste to make sure the flour is cooked. Stir in the fresh berries. Add in the stock, at least 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until the desired consistency is reached. (I used 2 cups, which made for a thick sauce, almost like a gravy.)
Season with lemon juice or a splash of raspberry vinegar, salt, and pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. It should be slightly acidic at this point. Shortly before serving, stir in the jelly and taste again to adjust seasonings. It it’s still too acidic, you may want to add a pinch of sugar to the sauce.
Transfer to a serving dish and top with a splash of brandy, calvados or other fruit liquor.
Serve warm with duck, goose, turkey, pork loin or any other meat you’d like to season with razzleberry dressing.
Makes about 4 cups.
From Cecil Flentge and John Griffin