Friday, April 11, 2008

Chocolate Covered (Dried Tart) Cherries with Vanilla Cream

I love chocolate, I love cherries, and I love vanilla, but I'm not a big fan of them all thrown together into chocolate covered cherries, at least not the cheap store-bought ones with that day-glo red cherry and the sugary goop inside. I decided to try making a version with dried cherries, dark chocolate, and a thicker vanilla creme. They were really simple to make and turned out delicious. Next time I'm going to try soaking the dried cherries in brandy first (yum!).

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream
1 T butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 bag dried cherries (I like Sunsweet's Sweet & Tart Cherries the best)
2.5 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 oz milk chocolate, chopped
1 tsp light corn syrup

Sift powdered sugar into a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat in cream, butter, and vanilla extract, adding more cream if needed to give the mixture a smooth but firm consistency. Using the dried cherry as a scoop, cover half of it with the vanilla creme mixture and place it on a small baking sheet lined with wax paper. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, or until the vanilla creme has solidified.

Melt the chocolate and light corn syrup over a double boiler with barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove the top part of the double boiler and allow the chocolate mixture to cool slightly. Keep the water simmering in case you need to rewarm the chocolate as you cover the cherries. Remove the cherries from the refrigerator and working one at a time, drop the cherry into the chocolate mixture and lightly roll until covered. If the vanilla creme melts or becomes runny let the chocolate cool a bit more before proceeding. Use a fork to extract the cherry from the chocolate dip, shaking off excess chocolate. Place chocolate covered cherry on another baking sheet lined with wax paper and once completed, refrigerate until chocolate is solid (at least 1 hour).

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Yukon Purple Sweet Potato Gratin

I had a surplus of purple potatoes from last week's Purple Potato Soup, so I used them with sliced sweet and Yukon gold potatoes to make a tasty and visually pleasing gratin. I like to add Gruyère to the traditional nutmeg-laced milk sauce for a richer, cheesy flavor.

6-8 Yukon Gold Potatoes
3-4 Purple Potatoes
2 Sweet Potatoes
2 cups milk
2 sprigs sage
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 T salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/8 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup Gruyère, grated
2 T butter

1/4 lb bacon

1 cup cream

Preheat over to 400 degrees.

Peel scrubbed potatoes and slice thinly using mandoline. Butter 13x9 baking dish. Place potatoes in single layers by color: starting from the bottom, Yukon, Purple, Yukon, Sweet, Yukon.

Bring milk, garlic sage, nutmeg, salt & pepper to boil in medium saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup grated Gruyère until it melts. Pour over potatoes in dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 50 minutes, until milk is almost evaporated.

While the gratin is baking, cut bacon into lardons and cook in medium pan until crisp. Drain on paper towels and reserve.

Remove gratin from oven and remove foil. Bring cream to boil in saucepan, pour onto gratin, and sprinkle top with remaining cheese and crispy bacon lardons. Bake uncovered until top is slightly browned, about 20 minutes. A quick blast under the broiler might be needed.

Let cool slightly before serving.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)