You know how cranberry sauce is the perfect accompaniment to turkey? So much so that gourmets and novices alike add cranberry sauce to the sides of their plates at Thanksgiving so that they can take a bite of turkey on the end of their fork, dip it slightly in the little mashed potatoes, and mix it in with that delightfully red and tart concoction? Okay, well, I'm one of those people that doesn't do this because I'm not big on mixing my food, but LB is an avid "mixer," so I know they exist out there. In recent years, I've been seeing lots of recipes for what to do with that King of Leftovers: Thanksgiving turkey. Recipes for stews, dumplings, casseroles, and more made from leftover turkey abound, but one cannot forget the pure simplicity of a leftover turkey sandwhich...add a little cranberry sauce to one of the slices of bread, and you've got yourself a bit of heaven. Especially if it's homemade cranberry sauce, slightly tart and absolutely delicious.
But why would I be going on and on extolling the virtues of cranberry sauce and leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer? We're still 19 weeks away from that (Yikes! Is that all???)...woah, need to recover from that one...now I wish I hadn't counted. Anyway, back to the question: why would I be going on and on extolling the virtues of cranberry sauce and leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the middle of the summer? Because I recently discovered a summery version of this fabulous comfort food! Red currants! Pickled red currants with roasted chicken, to be precise.
If you've never had the tart, lovely taste of red currants, then you should definately snatch them up next time you see these beautiful, piquant berries gleaming back at you. Most often, red currants are used to make jams, syrups and other cooked dishes, as I discovered last year when my favorite vendor at the Farmer's Market offered them up to me for the first time, and I found myself at home with a bunch of red currants and nary a recipe in sight. Black currants are also fabulous - they make a truly exquisite jam, and are even quite delicious raw. I, however, did not have enough red berries to make a jam (although now I think I would have combined them with strawberries or another sweet berry to the mix), so I made a syrup. It did not turn out very good, and I think instead ended it's short life in the garbage can after only a single pancake and spritzer-type drink (ie. I did try to like it...).
But, I was not to be outdone! This year, when these pretty little berries showed up at the market, I confidently grabbed myself a basket, confessed that I had no idea what I was going to make, but something great for sure, and took my prized purchase home.
It sat in the fridge for 2 weeks.
Now, since I HATE wasting food, I was determined to use these berries up. I searched around, remembering some magazine article about unique berries, and came upon a prize: Pickled Red Currants. I quickly mixed up the ingredients since I had them on hand, and let them stand in the pickling juice until they were sufficiently "pickled." These were meant to go on top of a salad with a shallot, dijon, pickling juice vinaigrette served with duck mousse on a sliced baguette. No poor graduate student has duck mousse in her fridge (although she might wish she did), so instead, I served the pickled currants with a salad (and the requisite vinaigrette), and some slices of skin-on roasted chicken.
MMMMmmmmm....perfect. The savory pickled currants cut through the delicious salty-greasiness of the roasted chicken skin, and gave you that "just-right" combination of flavors...like cranberry sauce and roasted turkey. Loving Boyfriend and I even found ourselves picking the currants off of the salad just to have a bite with the chicken...and then digging into the jar for more. And if you don't want to heat up your kitchen to make a roasted chicken, grab one of those rotisserie chickens from the market and you're set (I did)!
Pickled red currants, from MSL
1/2 pint red currants (you could use red, white or a combination)
1/2 cup of champagne vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
1/3 inch of peeled, fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 strips of fresh orange zest (about 1 inch long)
Wash currants and place into a non-reactive bowl. In a medium saucepan, stir together 3/4 cup of water, vinegar, sugar, coriander seeds, ginger, and orange zest. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stiring occasionally for 10 mintues. Let cool 10 minutes. Pour through a fine sieve over the currants in the bowl. Stir gently so that all are submerged, then let stand at least 30 minutes, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.