Monday, July 12, 2010

Retro Desserts, Part V: Cherries Jubilee . . . with Pomegranate Juice & Grand Marnier

Last year, I did a little series of posts focusing on retro desserts. My desire was to zero in on a few of the more definitive desserts that Americans typically associate with the mid-20th century. Sweet and enduring dishes that, despite their lack of modern fashion sense, have managed to avoid full admittance into the dreaded Halls of Obsolescence. How did they escape that fate? By embedding themselves deeply into the treat-loving American psyche, that's how. We don't give up our heroes without a fight, and we obviously feel the same way about our best desserts.

In 2009, we talked here about banana cream pie beneath a snowy drift of whipped cream, triple-layer devil's food cake cloaked in chocolate buttercream, dark chocolate bread pudding, and well-stuffed faux Oreo cookies. It's been quite a while since the last retro post, so I figured it was time to add to the list. No time like the present!

Now, one could argue that cherries jubilee, though having enjoyed a decade or so of wild popularity in the U.S. about fifty years ago, doesn't really fit into the retro American category very neatly. I don't know about you, but my mom sure never made this stuff at home when I was a kid. Flaming food? If food ever caught on fire in our kitchen it didn't happen by design. That was too much pseudo-sophistication for a traditional Midwestern household in the 1960's.

But that's okay. I'm admittedly stretching my own guidelines a bit here. Though it's true I never ate this back then, it seems like every major cookbook I ever peeked into contained a recipe for it. Cherries jubilee, along with its sidekick baked Alaska and its exotic cousin crepes Suzette, popped up constantly and, if not necessarily on middle-class dinner tables, then in TV shows, in movies, in magazines, and on fancy restaurant menus. Somebody out there was eating it, and with good reason.

Of course, cherries jubilee is not at all American in origin. We have the legendary French chef and restaurateur Auguste Escoffier to thank for this beautiful, elegant, and relatively simple dish. He whipped it up in honor of Queen Victoria's "golden" or "diamond" jubilee celebration (exactly which event it was seems to be in question). Whether or not he ever served it over vanilla ice cream is sketchy at best, but that's the form in which it entered our culinary vernacular.

This particular version, which I've taken the liberty of calling my own, is . . . well . . . jubilant. Usually made with cherry brandy, aka kirsch (kirschwasser, literally translated as cherry water), or sometimes with the almond liqueur Amaretto, I instead used Grand Marnier, the bitter-orange based liqueur; it's an interesting alternative to kirschwasser, which doesn't seem to be easily accessible/affordable, in my neck of the woods.

Frequently augmented with almond extract, I left that out of my jubilee recipe entirely. Usually including cherry juice or a cherry juice blend, I chose to use POM Wonderful brand pomegranate juice instead and that worked really well. (Thanks very much to the POM Wonderful company for kindly sending me a free case of their superior juice! I love it!) Pomegranate juice looks and even tastes similar to cherry juice, so it was a natural choice.

Use the nicest, sweetest, ripe black cherries you can find in your jubilee--fresh vs. frozen if at all possible. If you use bad cherries in a recipe that features them, then all will be for naught, so be sure to taste those babies first!

My jubilee did not "flame" in the classic fashion, sadly. Maybe because I didn't add in the full recommended amount of brandy. I got just the tiniest flame out of mine, then it fizzled. Pfffftt. Like that. It seems that the flame concept is mostly for show and not much else, or so I am telling myself, but no matter. Flame or no flame, cherries jubilee is still wonderful.

Oh, and before I forget, this was made using the finest homemade vanilla ice cream recipe I've ever run across. Not unexpectedly, it's from David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop. If it can be improved upon, I just don't know how. The texture is right on target in every way, and the flavor is exceptional.

I've made some sorry dud ice creams in my day, but this one was a huge hit here. My 17-year old son, Charlie, gave me a solid fist-pound directly upon tasting it. He said something like, "Mom, you may have finally cracked the ice cream code." I know it must be a blazing success if that kid will actually eat it with gusto.

The ice cream recipe below makes one scant quart and no more; it's very rich and ultra creamy. If you're serving a crowd, plan to make more than one batch!

Cherries Jubilee . . . with Pomegranate Juice & Grand Marnier

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

For the cherry sauce:

1 cup pomegranate juice (I recommend POM Wonderful brand)
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 pinch ground cinnamon
About 4 cups of whole, sweet, fresh black cherries--pitted
2 Tbsp. to 4 Tbsp. Grand Marnier liqueur (Use up to 1/3 cup if you love this stuff; I used the lesser amount  because I didn't want to overwhelm the flavor of the cherries.)

In a medium sauce pan, stir together the sugar, cornstarch, and cinnamon. Add in the pomegranate juice and, on medium heat, stirring constantly, bring the mixture just to a boil. Immedately lower the heat. Simmer the sauce for a couple of minutes, still stirring constantly, just until it thickens enough to easily coat a wooden spoon. You want it to be about as thick as gravy, and no thicker; it needs to remain pourable.

Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir in all the cherries, to coat them. Set aside.

In another smaller pan, carefully warm the liqueur. It doesn't need to be hot--just warm. Now, pour the liqueur over the cherry mixture and immediately light it with a long match. If you time this well, and have your dishes of ice cream scooped and ready, the  cherry sauce can be spooned over the ice cream while it's still flaming, for a classic presentation. (I have yet to achieve this, so don't be discouraged!)

For the vanilla ice cream:

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
yolks from 6 large eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and the salt. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the hull of the bean, into the warm mixture. Cover the pan and remove it from the heat; let it steep like that for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl; set a fine mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly, then pour this all back into the medium size saucepan. Over medium heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, heat the mixture until it thickens enough to coat a spatula. Pour this custard mixture through the strainer over the bowl of cream; stir it into the cream thoroughly. Put the vanilla bean into the custard and add in the vanilla extract. Cool it in its bowl, set over an ice bath (a larger bowl filled with ice).

Once cool, chill it completely in the refrigerator. When you're ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean. Churn and then freeze the ice cream according to the manufacturer's instructions for your ice cream maker.

* * * *
(Hey--do you love POM Wonderful? Here are a couple of other great food bloggers' recent posts showing how they used their free POM juice! These are two of my favorite blogs . . . )
Day Dreamer Desserts
More Than a Mountful

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Susi's Kochen und Backen said...

I'm a huge fan of The Perfect Scoop and we had the same reaction when we made the ice cream for the first time (it has since become a staple in my freezer). The Cherries Jubilee as a topping sounds truly amazing and what a wonderful post to read along :o)

faithy said...

I saw the Pom juice at our supermarket and they were promoting it. I was wondering how it will taste like..but didn't buy any in the end. Now looking at your gorgeous cherries..i have to go check it out tonight!

Katrina said...

You're so right. Cherry jubilee is a classic dessert! I love it so much, and love your recipe for it!

Paula said...

My daughter is nuts about fresh cherries. I'm sure she would love this recipe. I know her husband would. Great photos by the way.

kitchen flavours said...

Hi Jane, I'm your new follower! You have a really great blog. The bread making classes must be really interesting! Your cherries jubilee looks so tempting, cherries are extremely expensive over here! I will definitely be hopping to your blog often! Thanks for visiting and stopping by! Have a nice day!

Mags @ the Other Side of 50 said...

This wasn't something ever made at our home either, but I can remember people ordering it at restaurants. Your photo is lovely!

Unknown said...

Gorgeous cherries! Congratulations on getting your 17 year old son to declare your icecream such a success!

Juliana said...

Wow, what a nice all the stuff in it :-) Beautiful presentation as well.

Christina of Form V Artisan said...

What a lovely blog. I just went cherry picking last week and surprisingly it didn't take me very long to use them all up! They're so great to bake with. However, I have yet to try some cherry muffins. Your recipe looks wonderful.

Check out my blog if you get a chance and would like to learn some great Food Science tips!

Unknown said...

I love the perfect scoop. I wish POM were available here. These cherries look delicious!

Stella said...

Hey Jane, I'm so tired that I must admit that I haven't read this post-I normally do though. The Jubilee looks so wonderful, and your photography is really catching.
p.s. I got some Pom too, and I'm having a 'block' on what to do with it...

Amy B. said...

Cherry jubilee!!! Classic indeed! thanks for sharing by the way, I wanna share your vanilla ice cream recipe to my friends in Foodista , just if you won't mind adding the foodista widgetfor ice cream at the end of this post. The widget will direct readers to this post when they go looking for an ice cream recipe. Keep on posting! :-)

Jane said...

Hi Susi,
I am now a huge fan of the book too. This week I made, for my hubby, the basic chocolate ice cream and I added in toasted almonds. He adored it! So, just more proof to me that The Perfect Scoop deserves to be my go-to ice cream book from now on.
Thanks Susi!
Jane :)

Hello Faithy!
Pom juice, on its own, isn't all that impressive as a plain drink, but mixed with other things it's pretty darn good. It's relatively pricey here, but is still a nice item to try nonetheless. It's also super duper good for you! Thanks again.

Hi Katrina,
I'm a sucker for classic desserts! I have a long list of them that I'd like to try. Thanks, as always, for your nice comments. I appreciate them always!
:) Jane

Hello Paula,
Thank you so much! I'm glad you liked the recipe and photos. I am crazy about fresh cherries. My supply is all gone now, but that's okay. On to the next summer fruit crop!
Many thanks,

Dear Kitchen Flavours,
Your blog--speaking of blogs--is beautiful! Cherries are expensive here too, and even in season I wouldn't say they ever get to be all that cheap. But good ones are worth it! Thanks very much for visiting and becoming a follower!
:) Jane

Hi there Mags,
Thanks for stopping by. Hey, even if we didn't get to have cherries jubilee as kids, at least we can enjoy it now and no one can stop us! Ha! ;)

Hi Marcellina,
Thank you! You know, I congratulated myself when that happened too! He (my older son) is a very picky eater indeed and I'm always stunned when he just loves something new that I've made It feels like a victory!
:) Jane

Hello Juliana,
Thanks very much for your comments!

Dear Christina,
You bet I checked out your blog and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it! I expect to visit it repeatedly in the future. Maybe I'll head there again right now!
:) Jane

Dear Avanika--
Always wonderful to hear from you! :) The Perfect Scoop must be selling millions of copies because everyone has good things to say about it. If there's one thing I love, it's a cookbook that is completely reliable with incredibly well-tested recipes. This is one of those--thank heaven! I've tried some bad ice cream recipes in the past. But no more!!
Jane ;)

Hi Stella,
I was having that very same "POM block" you mentioned!! I searched around for recipes in other blogs and I had a hard time trying to come up with something even remotely original. Did you see Chef Dennis's gorgeous POM mousse cake--oh my!! I knew I couldn't top that so I didn't even try to do a cake. The POM juice was nice to have around but we've scarfed it all down. I wish it wasn't expensive--I'd buy it all the time.
(Now, Stella, go get some well-deserved sleep!)
Jane :)

Dear Amy,
Thanks very much for such nice comments! I will definitely check into your Foodista suggestion about the ice cream recipe. Many thanks to you!
Jane :)

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Retro Sweets said...

It's a amazing post you punched all the points well and it is looking delicious here. great work

Anonymous said...

This is a great suggestion for my current Brazilian summertime!