Friday, August 6, 2010

My currant affair

started many years ago, when I was little, during summer vacation at my grandma's house. She had currant bushes scattered all over her backyard, growing so tall, that my sister and I could play our favorite, hide and seek. We also loved eating those sweet-tart berries straight from the vines or holding them up toward the sun and pretending, we'd just found some highly valuable jewels and then, let them pucker our mouths. If I remember this right, my grandma wasn't particularly fond of those shrubs, complaining about them taking over the whole garden, steeling light from other plants and hosting hoards of snails. Luckily for us she wouldn't dare to remove them, out of, what I like to think was, respect for their old age. So summer after summer was filled with delicious currant compote and jelly making.
Somehow in my adult years, I have forgotten those little gems, partially, because I had no idea how to use them in my cooking and partially because, they are rather hard to find, unless you grow them yourself. So few weeks ago, when I spotted them at the market, in beautiful shades of white and red, I couldn't resist. I had to rekindle my love affair with those sweet-tart berries.

From just a handful of currant recipes I could find, I wanted to share with you two, I really liked. Sweet: Fresh Red Currant Scones(which you will have to tune in for sometime next week) and savory: Shallot-Cassis Marmalade, spread over fresh baguette and paired with goat cheese, simply delicious!!!

Shallot-Cassis Marmalade by Amanda Hesser via NYT
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups peeled and thinly sliced shallots
1 teaspoon salt
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
4 tablespoons créme de cassis
1/4 cup red currants, fresh or frozen, or 2 tablespoons red currant jam
1 round Chaource or Chevrot (or any other goat cheese that has a rind but is still soft inside, I used Humboldt Fog)
1 baguette

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan and spread the shallots over the bottom. Sprinkle with salt. With the heat on low, allow the shallots to caramelize. It will take about 30 minutes, stir from time to time so the shallots don't burn. In the meantime, pull the leaves from the thyme.

Mix the thyme with shallots, then transfer into a bowl. Place the pan back on the stove, add the vinegar and over medium-high heat stir to deglaze the pan. Pour the contents of the pan over the shallots and stir to mix. Add the crème de cassis, a little at a time, to taste. Allow the shallots to cool, then stir in the currants. Refrigerate.

Before serving, bring the cheese and shallots to room temperature. Slice a baguette and serve with a dollop of marmalade and a generous slice of cheese, for garnish you can use leftover berries or sprinkle with thyme.
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