Monday, January 27, 2014

Blackberries Three Ways

Blackberries are more available than they used to be but if you don’t see fresh ones that look good, you can make these recipes with frozen blackberries.

Blackberries are great on their own.  We love them with a touch of cream on top for a really simple, pure dessert.  But did you know that blackberries (and berries) can add a sweet-tart element to roasted chicken or pork? Think of a plum sauce but even more colorful.  In fact, if you have a child who loves blue and purple food, this is one to try that uses actual food rather than food dyes.

We also seen berries in all types in bottled salad dressings and there is no reason why they cannot be made from scratch.  You will know exactly what is in every pure ounce.  And blackberies can star in really old-fashioned desserts like the one below adapted from Scotland's famous oat-stippled creamy classic, Cranachan.

Blackberries pack in the vitamin C,K plus folate and manganese.  They are also proportionately high in fiber. 

Strain the seeds or leave in for  extra fiber.
Blackberry-Glazed Chicken Thighs
Serves 2-4

4 boneless chicken thighs (skin-on or skinless)
½ cup blackberries
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

    1.    Place chicken thighs in a resealable bag.
    2.    Mix together blackberries, balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon of the honey and lemon juice.  Pulse mixture in a small food processor or crush berries using the back of a fork to release the juice. 
    3.    Place half the mixture in the bag and add olive oil. Marinate chicken for at least one hour (or up to 5 hours).  Add the two teaspoons honey to the remaining berry mixture and refrigerate.
    4.    Preheat oven to 425˚F.  Place a rack on a roasting pan that will fit all four chicken thighs.
    5.    Remove chicken from marinade and discard used marinade.  Let remaining blackberry glaze come to room temperature while chicken cooks.
    6.    Roast chicken at 425˚F for 20-25 minutes until thighs reach an internal temperature of 165˚F.  (If you are using bone-in thighs, you may need to cook them a little longer depending on their size.)
    7.    Remove chicken and brush cooked chicken with reserved blackberry glaze.  Allow chicken to rest five minutes before serving.
    8.    Serve with extra blackberry glaze and cracked black pepper.

Cranachan is a Scottish dessert made with double cream flavored with toasted oatmeal, whisky and raspberries.   It is hard to replicate stateside—whipped heavy cream is as close to double cream most people can get here and pinhead oats are not in everyone’s pantry either.

Click on photo for a close-up
This version uses either rolled oats or pinhead and substitutes bourbon for Scottish malt whisky.  To bring it further over the Atlantic we mix in blackberries macerated in maple syrup instead of raspberries in honey.  To give the whipped cream some rustic heft, a little plain yogurt is added in after whipping.  Finally, for a non-alcoholic version, apple cider replaces the wee dram of whisky or bourbon.

American Cranachan
Yield 4 servings

2 tablespoons pinhead oats or rolled oats
1 pint blackberries
2 Tablespoons maple syrup (or honey), divided
1 tablespoon bourbon or ¼ cup apple cider+ dash vanilla extract, boiled down to 1 tablespoon.
¾ cup heavy cream, very cold
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt

    1.    Toast oatmeal in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Swirl and watch carefully.  If using rolled oats, be very careful not to burn them.  Remove from heat as soon as the color has darkened and you can smell a toasted oat scent.  You can leave them as is or chop them finely to absorb more of the cream when mixed in.  Set oats aside. 
    2.    Rinse and drain blackberries.  Place half of the berries in a small bowl and mash them with a fork.  Add maple syrup and set aside.  Berries will macerate and create a sweet berry syrup. 
    3.    Meanwhile, whip cream to a stiff peak.  Fold in yogurt. Add whisky or boiled down cider.
    4.    Set aside 2 teaspoons of oats for garnish.  Stir together remaining maple syrup and toasted oatmeal.  Fold into cream-yogurt mixture leaving most unmixed. 
    5.    Next fold in half the macerated berry mixture, again leaving large sections unincorporated. 
    6.    Place a layer of berry-maple syrup mixture in the bottom of a clear vessel—one bowl to share or four individual glasses—add a few whole berries.  Cover with a thick layer of the cream mixture.  Continue to layer until all ingredients are used.  Top with a few whole berries and sprinkle reserved oats on top.
Bonus: Heat up a little extra maple syrup to serve alongside American Cranachans.

Easiest Berry Salad Dressing There Is
Add pureed berries—raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, mixed berries—to any vinaigrette.  You can even add the pureed berries to a store bought oil & vinegar based dressing.  This is a great use for frozen berries mid-winter.  Use about 1/3 cup washed berries for each 1/2 cup of dressing.

Berry Vinaigrettes are nice on either plain salad greens or mixed salads with red onion, avocado, carrots and  spinach.  They really shine when any fresh fruits are added to the salad plate like pears and apples, dried fruits, tropical fruit and of course, berries.