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Brighten Up Savory Dishes with Tart Cherries

tart cherries in bowl

Cherries are a natural fit in desserts and beverages. But creative chefs are increasingly finding ways to add Montmorency tart cherries to the non-sweet side of the menu as well.

“Using tart cherries in savory dishes is something very suited to autumn,” says Chris Curren, executive chef at Chicago’s Fulton Market Kitchen. “I like to use them with game meats such as venison, wild boar and lamb. A key element of any well-rounded flavor profile is acid. In a lot of cases, you add acid through citrus juice or vinegar, but I find that using the tart cherries adds a nice element of tart and sweet to the dish. This creates a really nice balance with the game meats.”

Sour flavors are winning over consumers—especially younger ones, according to Technomic’s recent Flavor Consumer Trend Report. Some 31% of millennials like the spicy-sour flavor combination and 28% of them are fans of the salty-sour flavor combo, the report found.

Sour foods with health benefits are a particular draw, and studies suggest the local, North American-grown Montmorency varietal of tart cherries offer many potential health benefits ranging from recovery to improved sleep and more.

So, it’s time to think of tart cherries in a wide assortment of mealparts and uses. Here are some ways to incorporate them into the savory side of your menu:

Protein Pairing

As Curren says, tart cherries lend much-needed acidic notes to a variety of grilled meats. The pairing works especially well with the earthy flavors of wild game. Log Haven restaurant in Salt Lake City features a Bacon-Wrapped Elk Strip Steak with fingerling yams and a tart cherry gastrique. At 12 Restaurant and Bar in Wichita, Kan., the protein option is seared Atlantic salmon with a farro risotto, tart cherries, crispy kale and beurre noisette.

Dressings and Drizzles

The pleasing acidity of tart cherries makes a welcome addition to dressings and condiments. Swap in Montmorency tart cherry juice or a cherry reduction in your favorite vinaigrette for seasonal variety. Or, add the fruit to pan sauces. The award-winning Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee tops a chargrilled loin of elk with a tart cherry reduction. At Angeline in New Orleans, chef Alex Harrell creates a tart cherry mostarda to pair with smoked pork cheeks and toasted hazelnuts. Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Grizzly Peak Brewing Company serves an autumnal Cherry Pecan Salad with mixed greens, dried cherries, blue cheese and a tart cherry vinaigrette.

Savory Starches

Add a pop of tartness in carb-heavy dishes with Montmorency tart cherries. This versatile fruit adds visual interest as well as flavor contrast. Pair housemade soups with a simple focaccia topped with tart cherries, rosemary and sea salt. Menu a seasonal pizza of goat cheese, peppery arugula and tart cherries. Or, temper the richness of risotto with a healthy handful of dried tart cherries. 

This post is sponsored by Cherry Marketing Institute

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