4 Ways to Cook With Cherries

Pan-Roasted Duck with Cherry Agrodolce by Michael Laiskonis
Pan-Roasted Duck with Cherry Agrodolce by Michael Laiskonis 

It’s  last call for cherries this summer – and if you’re anything like us, you’ve snacked on pounds of them by now. But if another bowl of fresh cherries is no longer exciting, take the fruit for a savory spin with any of these recipes. Cherries are surprisingly diverse and technique will go a long way towards releasing unexpected tangy, savory and even umami-like flavor. “A little heat brightens them,” says Chef Michael Laiskonis, the Creative Director of the Institute of Culinary Education and former Executive Pastry Chef at Le Bernardin in New York City. “And smoking the cherries takes advantage of the final days of outdoor grilling season.”

Before you get started, you’ll need to remove the pits from the cherries. A cherry pitter works fine, but will destroy the shape of the cherry in the process. Laiskonis suggests running a paring knife from pull to pull of each cherry, lightly twisting each half and then popping out the pit with your finger. “It takes a little longer, but you preserve two nice looking halves of the cherries.” 

Cherry Compote with Black Pepper and Thyme by Michael Laiskonis

Here is a simple way to preserve the bright taste of summer cherries. Sweet and savory all at once, the compote is versatile enough to be paired with dessert and main dishes like pork and game. “It makes for a great topping on French toast, too,” says Laiskonis. 

Makes about 2-3 cups.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh cherries, washed, halved, and pitted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions:

  1. Place the cherries in a medium-sized saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the sugar, black pepper and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the cherries’ juices have released. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency, about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and adjust the flavor if desired. Store refrigerated in a closed container for two weeks, or frozen for two months.

Ricotta and Cherry Toast by Katzie Guy-Hamilton

Katzie Guy-Hamilton, Director of Food and Beverage at Max Brenner, twist on ricotta crostini is dead simple. Try grilling this toast as an appetizer before the rest of your meal hits the grill. 

Ingredients

  • 4 slices rustic white sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • ½ cup whole milk Ricotta
  • ¼ tsp Sea Salt flakes
  • ½ cup cherries (pitted) and halved

 Directions 

  1. Cut each slice of bread in half and drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Grill the sourdough one to two minutes until crispy and grill marks appear; flip to the other side.
  3. Spread ricotta on top of the toast and sprinkle with sea salt, topping with halved cherries.
  4.  

Pan-Roasted Duck with Cherry Agrodolce by Michael Laiskonis

Rather than pair duck with the traditional mixture of chopped herb, garlic and lemon zest, this interpretation brings out flavor through olive, dried cherry, apple, fennel, celery and sage. The recipe includes a sauce built on just a little caramelized sugar, white wine and cherry – resulting in an umami quality dish that is surprising and complex.

Serves about six.

For the cherry-ginger ‘Agrodolce’

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 whole tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • ¼ cup tablespoons fresh cherries, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 cups chicken stock (or duck stock)
  • Salt, as needed

Directions

  1. Place the sugar and the water in a small saucepan and cook to a light caramel color. Remove from heat and add the tomatoes, ginger, dried cherries, and vinegar.
  2. Return to medium heat and add the chicken stock. Continue to cook, reducing the liquid by approximately one-third. Strain the sauce, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible and season to taste with salt. Set aside and re-serve warm.

For the seared duck breast:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 medium duck breasts, trimmed and skin-side scored
  • Salt, as needed
  • Sage leaves, as needed
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Season the duck breasts on both sides with salt and place them into the pan skin-side down. Continue to cook over medium heat to gently render the fat without burning the skin.
  2. As the duck cooks, occasionally drain some of the excess fat and reserve it for other preparations.
  3. Once the skin has nicely browned (after about 5 minutes), flip the duck breasts over and remove from heat. Place the cinnamon stick and a few sage leaves into the pan and place in an oven pre-heated to 400?F/205?C to continue cooking the duck to desired doneness (for medium-rare, about 5 minutes).
  4. Remove the duck from the oven and rest for 5-10 minutes, while preparing the mushrooms.

 

For the chanterelle mushrooms 

Ingredients:

  • 18-24 medium chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • Reserved fat from seared duck breast
  • Salt, as needed

Directions:

  1. While the seared duck breast rests, gently sauté the mushrooms in the reserved fat until lightly browned.
  2. Remove from heat and season with salt, to taste. Re-serve warm.

To assemble the dish: 

  • Apple, cut into a fine dice
  • Apple, thinly sliced
  • Celery, cut into a thin cross sections
  • Olives (Niçoise or Kalamata), cut into a fine dice
  • Dried cherries, finely chopped
  • Reserved fat from seared duck breast
  • Maldon salt, as needed
  • Basil leaves
  • Fennel tops
  • Celery leaves

Directions

  1. 1. Combine the apple, celery, olives, and cherries – this is your gremolata – and toss to combine, then set aside.
  2. Brush the rested duck breasts with some of the reserved cinnamon-infused duck fat, season with salt. Slice the duck breasts on a long diagonal bias and arrange on warm plates.
  3. Place the gremolata mixture on the top of the slices, followed by the herbs and the sautéed mushrooms. Finally, spoon the agrodolce around the duck breast. Serve immediately.

Smoked Cherries and Vanilla Ice Cream by Michael Laiskonis

Nothing beats handmade ice cream with the real vanilla bean, says Laiskonis. You’ll need an ice cream machine for this one, and good quality vanilla pods that are moist, flexible and aromatic. Lightly sweetened smoked cherries echo flavors in the vanilla bean itself, making this a savory dessert that is over the top. But if making ice cream isn’t your thing – grab a pint of your favorite vanilla and simply top with the smoked cherries instead.

Serves approximately 4-6 portions

For the smoked cherries:

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint cherries, halved and pitted
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place the cherries in an uncovered shallow heat-proof pan and place on a relatively cooler area of a charcoal or wood fired grill, away from the center.
  2. Apply soaked wood chips made for smoking to the grill and cover, allowing the smoke to infuse the cherries – about 5 minutes for a nice subtle flavor.
  3. Remove the cherries from the grill and, while still warm, toss with the granulated sugar. Set aside to cool.

For vanilla ice cream: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1 tablespoon nonfat dry milk
  • 10 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Place milk and vanilla in a saucepan. Whisk in dry milk to rehydrate and gently bring to a boil.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks.
  3. Slowly add hot milk into yolk mixture. Return to low heat and cook, stirring, until slightly thickened, reaching 185ºF/85ºC.
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream. Discard vanilla bean and chill the mixture in an ice water bath for at least 12 hours.
  5. Process in an ice cream machine and transfer to a covered container, allowing it to harden in the freezer. Top with smoked cherries.