Jubilee Time

Walk fast but don't run, cherry season in North America has finally arrived! This very short season, which only lasts about one month, makes way for endless sweet recipes. Simply, enjoy cherries fresh-out of the bag; just soak cherries in ice-water for five minutes for a refreshing chilly snack. Or, incorporate fresh cherries into shortcakes, clafouti, or savory sauces for duck, chicken and pork.

Today's recipe is a cherry show stopper. You can put on quite a live demonstration for your guests by whipping up this a la Escoffier classic, Cherries Jubilee. Auguste Escoffier prepared Cherries Jubilee for Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebration in the late 1800's. 

Here are a few good-to-know tips on cherries:

- Removing pits is easily accomplished with OXO's new Cherry + Olive Pitter - a Good Stuff pick.

- Cherries are a very delicate fruit and do not ripen further once picked.

- Choose cherries with stems still attached, this helps them maintain their freshness.  Cherries with plump, bendable stems have recently been picked and are at the peak of freshness.

- Select cherries with firm, smooth, unblemished skin, and buy only as many as you plan to eat within a couple days.

- For best results, store refrigerated in a plastic bag with holes in it, and wash cherries only when you're ready to use them.

Cherries Jubilee
Recipe by Chef George Hirsch | Makes four servings 
Adapted from Gather 'round the Grill Cookbook, 1995

2 Tablespoons sweet butter
1/2 cup Turbinado (suger in the raw) or pure cane granulated sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
Juice from half a lemon
2 cups Bing or other dark, sweet cherries, rinsed and pitted
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground allspice
1/4 cup Kirschwasser
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier or Cointreau
2 cups vanilla ice cream

In four small bowls, pre portion ice cream and return bowls to freezer prior to preparing cherries and until ready to serve.

Pre heat a sauce pan over a low temperature. Add butter and sugar and stir until melted. Continue cooking over a low flame until sugar begins to turn a light brown color. Stir in the orange and lemon juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until slightly thickened. Stir in the cherries, cinnamon, allspice and orange zest, return to a boil, then reduce heat, and add the Kirschwasser (cherry brandy). Pour in the Grand Marnier, and ignite with an igniter. Gently shake the pan and stir with a large spoon until the blue flame has extinguished itself. Receive applause from your guests.

Spoon the cherries and the sauce over the bowls of ice cream and serve immediately. 


I am reminded of an episode from the TV show Frasier; when Frasier and Niles open an upscale French restaurant called "Les Frères Heureux", meaning "The Happy Brothers". The uber pretentious budinski brothers can't keep their hands out of the kitchen. When opening night arrives, everything that can go wrong, does - the waiters go to the emergency room and the chef quits, with Niles taking over the chef position and Daphne helping him. Martin becomes a bartender and Roz becomes a waitress. Frasier and Niles, throughout the night keep enhancing the amount of brandy in the batch of cherries jubliee. Well, you can imagine how this turns out; as Roz the ever faithful producer bails Fraiser out of yet another jam. She assists to serve the cherries jubilee in the dining room. As she ignites the cherries jubilee in the dining room it explodes with cherries embedded into the restaurant ceiling.

Lesson here - First, don't open a restaurant unless you know what you are doing. And, VERY importantly, the flames can get quite high when flambeing, so give your full attention to anything flammable above and around the area where you ignite the cherries. Lastly, NEVER add liquor straight from the bottle into the pan directly over a fire.