29 June 2009

Drunken cherries with orange blossom chenna

The classic dessert to serve with a bbq brisket is pie. And I do appreciate classic combinations. But I've never felt restricted by them.

I've been fortunate to work with people from all around the world. As a result, I've been exposed to all kinds of fun food that I might not have sought out otherwise. I've become a fan of Asian-style desserts. They're not super sweet. They often accomodate quite different flavours from European desserts. Rice cakes. Mochi. Sticky rice. So recently, I purchased The Sweet Spot: Asian-Inspired Desserts by Pichet Ong. It's full of all kinds of fun stuff, including some pretty creative desserts.

With my most recent brisket, I served drunken cherries with orange blossom chenna from this book. Chenna is an Indian-style cheese curd. And as a cheese curd, I expected it to be relatively bland, and an excellent base to paint flavours on. I couldn't find chenna in the Indian markets in San Diego, so I chose to make it. Basically, you mix acid with milk to precipitate the milk while heating.

I combined two recipes I found out in the wilds of the internets. I wanted the milk to be relatively neutral flavoured, so I didn't use vinegar or lime juice as the acid. I used buttermilk.
2 quarts milk
1/2 quart buttermilk
Heat the milk to 170ºF. Add the buttermilk, and heat to 185ºF. Hold at 185 for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.

Milk to chenna

The milk will curdle, forming large chunks. At the end of the 15 minutes, pour the mixture over a colander lined with cheesecloth. Let drip dry.

This is chenna. In Canada, it would be called dry cottage cheese. In Pennsylvania, farmer's cheese. But basically, it's an unflavoured cheese curd. Now we're going to flavour it.
1 1/3 cups chenna
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp orange zest plus more for garnish
2 tsp orange blossom water (you can get this in Middle Eastern markets for about $2 - an in places like Whole Foods for $10)
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all these ingredients together and place in the fridge to meld.

Orange blossom chenna

Meanwhile, make the drunken cherries.
2 lb cherries, stemmed and pitted
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup sake
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
Scoop out the guts of the vanilla bean, and rub that good stuff into the sake. Drop the bean in, as well. Mix everything. Shake it up a little, and put it in the fridge to soak for 4-6 hours.

Drunken cherries

Now you'll have a delicious cherry goop.

Toast the pistachios for a few minutes. Split the chenna into 8 bowls. Fish the vanilla bean out of the cherries. Spoon the cherries on top, and toss the toasted pistachios on top of that. Sprinkle the garnish orange zest. Serve immediately.

Orange blossom chenna with drunken cherries

This. Was. Delicious.

The cherries were crazy good. The over-powering perfuminess of the orange blossom water has mellowed down to a beautiful, mellow citrus flavour that melds beautifully with the cherries and vanilla. What a fantastic dessert.

My only complaint - and a complaint of the folks I had over for dinner - the texture of the chenna wasn't a fabulous dessert texture. I'll be reinterpreting this as an ice cream in the future. It's truly an amazing dessert. Stay tuned for that.

2 comments:

onlinepastrychef said...

This sounds Wonderful! The name alone got me, but the description?! Oh, mama!

Bbq Dude said...

It was pretty great. Wait a few weeks, and I'll work up an even better ice cream!

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