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Friday, 13 May 2011

Cherrees..! Cereees..! Kirscheeen....! (

Cherrees..! Cereees..! Kirscheeen....!

Cherrees..! Cereees..! Kirscheeen....!
There are certain periods in the year when the saliva runs riot, at least with me, and we’re almost there right now!
In the area, to round of their lowly income, little old women open their doors, install a set of scales (probably useless) and start selling (totally illegally, but “tolerated”) their own produce.... tomatoes, lettuce, fruits such as peaches, apricots and many others....straight out of their gardens.....Right’s:
Cherry season.....others prefer the strawberry season, and although I like them as well, for me, the cherry is the fruit number 1.....especially when it’s a good season, and the things are just hanging there in abundance, waiting to be popped into the mouth and explode with such ferocity that you positively get a cramp.. the salivary tracts....!  
I simply can’t help it, it’s my 7 mortal sins, all rolled into one little round red thing!
Many years ago, I was the proud owner of a cherry tree, and to my utmost disappointment, in the whole period of 4 years uninterrupted care and attention, I obtained 1 cherry!
My roses were the talk of the road, my “English” lawn (rare in the South of France) was admired, my Mimosa was regularly attacked by passing nightly visitors, but my cherry tree didn’t want to know....I was doing something not right....and I never got to see the magnificent sight - like this!....I tried everything, and finally found out that the reason was simple. 
Cherry trees (at least mine) didn’t like being associated with English lawns, and their need for so much water!...Well....I just had to settle for the normal purchase, locally, and although excellent - somehow it wasn’t just quite the same. Now this was a shame, because since living for some years in the “Baden-Wurtemburg” area of Germany, in the famous “Black Forest” area, I had developed a whole series of “special” culinary treats dedicated to this little fruit, from little “ entrées” -  through sauces for main courses - to delicious delectable desserts, all intertwined just with the simple pleasure of cracking the fruit, “a la nature” in my mouth - almost incessantly, whilst working!
Here is the entry for this wonder according to Wikipedia, and you’ll find all the varieties listed.....
Apart from cracking all the types in my mouth, my efforts in the kitchen were generally directed towards the type of cherry found the most in the “Baden-Baden” area. 
They had experience over centuries, and I learnt avidly, whilst “mouth-popping”!
These cherries are mainly the very dark, almost black ones, generally called “sour cherries” although I never really found them so sour. 
Some of the varieties, whilst being almost totally black, were highly sweet, but possessed that little touch of acidity so much needed in the kitchen. 
All cherries can be - and are - used for all these dishes, but somehow, for me, the black, sour ones are just perfect.Probably the first encounter people will have in the area of Baden-Baden with this fruit is in the form of a “Streuselkuchen’ - a kind of tart - pastry based - topped with a sort of “crumble”, sold in all the local cafes..delicious,  and often the generous portions are  ...served with a ball or two of vanilla ice cream
The “tartness” of the fruit and the sweetness of the pastry and ice cream is quite simply “marriage made in heaven”!
Normally, in the case of a professional Chef, it is a small step from there to working out how to produce little “ entrée” courses, using these little black balls of unlimited power, and although the choice is rather limited in the classical cuisine, for such occasions, it is permitted to allow the imagination to run riot. “Clafoutis”, or little sticks with the stoned cherries mixed with other fruit segments are amongst the “starter” course, and I’ve even attempted “cherry beignets” (a cherry coated in sugared deep fry batter and deep fried to get a crispy outside and a succulent inside). 
They were good, but it was obvious that the invited guests were rather taken aback by this invention! 
It only works because of the acidity of the black cherry, acidity being something which tends to provoke the appetite!
The acidity also lends the fruit to excellent “tarty” sauces mainly to accompany richer, fattier meats, or meats generally of a stronger taste than the usual pork or veal. Typical in the French cuisine is .."Magret de Canard aux cerises”, (Breast of duck with cherries), but many other meats can be substituted, in particular the “Game” meats, which have stronger flavours. 
“Cerf” (Venison) for example   is an ideal choice, although even the little domesticated Quails one can buy almost everywhere nowadays, or the French domesticated (but still findable in the wild) “Pintade’ are excellent....then the more normal game items, such as Pheasant, Boar, other venison or deer cuts, duck - as suggested, including the wild ones, and even more normal meats such as lamb all lend themselves to service with the acidly tasting cherry sauce. 
Mutton, it should be said, can be used, the taste is strong enough to support the sauce, possibly even rather too pungent in taste, and it’s not a favourite with people.
The procedure is always the same, simple and relatively quick, the meat being cooked in the fashion preferred - grilled, shallow fried, roasted....and the pan being “rinsed” (swilled with water or wine) and then allowed to reduce to concentrate all those delicious meat juices. ...The Germans (and others) also “ flambée” the juices of these dishes (sprinkle an alcoholic drink and ignite it to burn off the alcohol and leave just the taste) , doubtlessly because they produce a very strong liqueur called “Kirsch” (it also is very popular in Alsace-Lorraine in France) which lends itself to this procedure, as well as being an  EXCELLENT “digestif”...........after the meal!
These juices are then added to some cherries, stoned, crushed and cooked in their own juices, lightly, just to give some liquid. 
Arrange the meat on a serving dish, and garnish it with some stoned and roughly cut cherries, then finally pour the sauce over the whole thing. 
You can also get additional effect by “flambiering” (setting light to the whole dish - at table - in front of your guests) if you wish!
Although these dishes are best using the acidy black cherry, all cherry varieties can be used. The fruit is naturally “tart” in any case - some more than others, but tastes vary as well, as do the colours!...........Just try each one, but NEVER put any additional sugar in......!
For those unfortunates amongst us, who don’t have access to our own little treasure trove of cherry trees.....all is not lost!
Cherries are available,  fresh,  at most places in the season. 
True they do tend to be one of the more expensive fruits, but …’s a special occasion!
In fact, all year round, and particularly well prepared for instant use in the kitchen, I find - happily - in most stores of the groups “Lidl” and “Aldi” in France and elsewhere, jars of stoned, in their own juice pre-cooked black cherries - exactly those required for all these dishes, and they’re not even expensive, with no waste at all! 
Both of these shopping groups, it must be said, are German owned, so maybe that’s why one finds these cherries there all year round........This is what they look like.
I mention this now, because “la pièce de résistance” is coming up......! 
The dessert...and if you try none of the fore-going dishes - please do try won’t regret it!
“Glace Baden-Baden”..........I developed this dish as a combination of the famous “Gateau Baden-Baden” - or “schwarzwälderkirschentorte”   ... it consists of simply stoned cherries with hot cherry sauce, cold vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce poured over, all surrounded by whipped cream nuggets...
Just right for any diat......but don’t turn your back when it’s been disappears so quickly you risk not getting any!
The procedure is simple, and doesn’t need much explanation. 
Warm the cherries in their own juice, you can “flambier” them at this stage, if you wish, with Cognac or Kirsche, then exceptionally (because I’m not keen on the use of arrowroot or cornflour), thicken the sauce and the cherries with a little juice mixed with the product chosen (arrowroot, mondamin, cornflour), just enough to allow the cherries to sit correctly in the sauce, on the ice cream.
....You should have prepared your chocolate sauce, preferably from dark chocolate, simply melted down over a bain-marie, with very little liquid, and smoothly mixed to a pouring consistency.... it must also be nice and hot......
At the moment of service, spoon a little of the hot sauce over the cherries, which are in turn covering the ice cream. 
Quickly decorate with “ crème Chantilly” (whipped cream) and serve immediately, with or without wafers or little “langues du chat” or even little “ rosé” biscuits de Rheims....
Sit down and eat your share, because it otherwise risks disappearing.......!
Well - what else - a rosé Champagne - “demi sec” or just a simple vin Mousseux...also “demi-sec” - but COLD, COLD, COLD....! Obviously port or Muscat. Madeira or other sweet dessert wines are also acceptable, maybe a little too heavy.
Black Forest Faux CupcakesImage by Creative Abubot via Flickr
So - there you all their glory, and don’t forget to crunch a few, just in passing...... they aren’t fattening......!


iwmpop(mrlemarquis)        -        30600, Vauvert, France     -   Mai 2011

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