The other day Mike came home with this:
The day after, he came home to this:
(Isn’t it amazing what flowers can do? ;) )
Truth be told, I had a chicken thawing in the fridge and cherries that needed to be used in the freezer (I don’t want frozen cherries around when the fresh ones hit the markets!) and I would have made him this meal anyway. But the roses added a beautiful, romantic element that we both really appreciated.
My inspiration for this dish was a Persian dish called Albaloo Polow (Persian Rice Pilau with Saffron & Sour Cherries), which is frequently served with chicken. Instead of adding the cherries to the rice pilau, I decided to reinterpret the dish. I roasted my chicken, made an exotically-spiced cherry sauce to adorn it, and served it with a very pretty yellow and white rice.
Recently, the very kind people at POM Wonderful sent me some of their Pomegranate Cranberry juice to sample. I love the sweet/tart flavor of this juice and I thought it would be the perfect addition to my sweet and savory cherry sauce. It really was.
Just a quick note about POM, since they really are a fantastic company. I was pretty impressed to learn that they grow, harvest, process, and ship their own pomegranates, and that they employ sustainable business practices like using the latest drip-irrigation technologies, using every single part of the pomegranate (the leftovers are used as cattle feed!), and manufacturing their bottles right next to their filling plant. And their line of delicious juices is expanding to include some amazing flavors, such as POM Blueberry, POM Cranberry, POM Cherry, POM Mango, POM Kiwi, and POM Nectarine.
A Cooking Suggestion: I realized this after the fact; otherwise I would have done it myself. If you have an extra 10 minutes once the sauce and chicken are done cooking, I recommend adding the chicken to the sauce and letting them simmer together for a bit. The flavor of the sauce will seep in and the chicken will turn a lovely mahogany color.
(Yield: 4 servings)
1 smallish (about 2 1/2 to 3 lb) whole chicken, quartered and trimmed of excess fat
1 tablespoon olive oil
Generous pinch coarse salt and fresh grated black pepper
1 1/2 cups sweet black cherries, pitted (fresh or frozen; thawed if frozen, with juices reserved)
1/2 cup pomegranate juice (I used POM Wonderful Pomegranate Cranberry juice)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
Pinch each ground cloves & nutmeg
2 pods cardamom, crushed
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 of a chicken-flavored soft bouillon cube
White & Yellow Rice, for serving
For chicken: Preheat oven to 350F. Pat chicken pieces dry and transfer to a baking sheet. Top with oil, salt, and pepper and rub in with your fingers. Bake until fully cooked (about 45 minutes). (Chicken is fully cooked when the juices run clear and it registers an internal temperature of about 165F on an instant-read thermometer. More info on the temperature at which chicken is fully cooked can be found here.)
For cherry sauce: In a blender or food processor, combine 1/2 cup cherries (reserving the remaining 1 cup for use later) and the juice and process until completely smooth; set aside.
Add oil to a medium saucepan over medium heat; once hot, add onion and cook until softened (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and ginger and cook another 30 seconds, then add bay leaf, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom and cook another 30 seconds.
Add white wine and vinegar and turn heat up to high; cook until liquid is almost all evaporated off, stirring constantly. Add honey and cherry juice mixture and bring up to a simmer. (Once the sauce simmers, you can strain it if you want a smooth texture; I don’t mind the pieces of onion so I don’t strain it, but I do remove the bay leaf and cardamom pods.)
Add the 1 cup remaining whole cherries and simmer about 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened.
To serve: Serve chicken topped with the cherry sauce, alongside White & Yellow Rice.
Disclaimer: I received POM Wonderful Pomegranate Cranberry juice to sample for free; as always, opinions stated are my own.