A couple of years ago, I babysat for the most adorable little boy a couple of years ago at a family friend's wedding. I'd arrive early in the morning before the family went off for the day's activities, leaving me and the munchkin just in time for his morning snack: crackers and cherry-raisins.
Cherry-raisins, you ask?
Yes, clearly kid-speak. At the time, I didn't quite understand what these morsels that he loved so much were. But, this little munchkin was quite generous and shared many cherry-raisins with me. One for him, and one for me. Watching me take my first taste was priceless -- his face just lit all up and he grinned from ear to ear, beaming with pleasure as he saw how much I too loved these bits -- and I learned what the secret snack was. Dried Montmorency Sour Cherries!
Ever since then, I've had a thing for dried cherries. And not just any dried cherry -- they have to be dried sour cherries, so there is a bit of tang for all that cherry-berry goodness. I'd put cherries on my salads, cherries in my oatmeal, cherries in my granola, cherries on my toast with chunky PB in the morning. I'd even put cherries in a nutty-fruity brown rice concoction I wrote about.
So, earlier this year, when I was sorting through files as I was moving houses, I came across a recipe for Lamb Chops with a Dried Cherry Sauce. Though it was just after lunch, I started having visions of lamb chops and cherries dancing in my head. They were persistent, too.
Finally, after a couple days of an intense meat craving, I decided to play around with this cherry sauce recipe and try it out on my own. No, didn't have a grill, or even my favorite All-Clad pot to properly sear the lamb in (um, for all you out there, don't recommend searing meat in a non-stick pan...unless that is the only pan in your house. In which case, I'd go shopping if I were you). I considered it an adventure, and though it might not have looked overly beautiful (what is it about a seared piece of meat that makes you salivate?), but it DID taste good. Really good. Even a couple of days later.
So, the next time you're at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, grab a container of their dried sour cherries. Then pick up some lovely lamb rib chops, loin chops, or even tenderloins (which I used) and give this easy meal a try. The perfect complements? Sauteed swiss chard, or as I made, roasted asparagus. Plus polenta, minted wild rice salad, potato gratin, or simply a hunk of bread. And, of course, a lovely fruity red wine.
Lamb with Dried Sour Cherry Sauce (serves 4)
2 tsp olive oil
8 loin chops/rib chops/tenderloins
Salt and pepper
1/3 c finely chopped shallots
1/2 c chicken stock
1/2 c dried cherries
3 tbsp cherry jam
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Heat the a stainless steel saute pan til very hot. Generously season the lamb with salt and pepper. Add the oil to the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sear on all sides. Remove meat and set aside to keep warm (or, if it is a larger cut of meat and needs to be finished in the oven, you can transfer it to a 450 degree oven until cooked as you like).
Add the shallots to the hot pan, lightly season and saute til translucent. Deglaze with the chicken stock and carefully stir up any dried bits of lamb stuck to pan. Then add the dried cherries, cherry jam, balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce til full flavored and syrupy.
Plate the lamb as you wish, making sure to add any lamb juices to the cherry sauce. Et voila!