There’s something about vibrant, abundant produce that fills my heart with joy. It reminds me of God’s goodness, provision, and generosity, and I am continually in awe that such beauty grows from the dirt. On Saturday, Dan and I decided to load up the kids and head east to Remlinger Farms in Carnation, WA, and while our sights were set on procuring fruit on the cheap, our expectations were quickly exceeded. Twenty dollars was all that was needed to take home a whopping 15 pound box of local Rainier cherries; we had no thought as to what we’d actually do with them once we got home, but we knew it was a deal we couldn’t resist.
The majority of the cherries ended up being rinsed, pitted, and frozen for future use, and I am thankful to OXO for sending me their cherry pitter right in the nick of time. I recently learned of an effective way to remove cherry pits without an actual pitter, and though that method works fairly well, the OXO pitter made the job cleaner and faster. Historically, I haven’t cooked a lot with cherries, so I’m excited to see what creations emerge from these jewels in the coming months.
Of course, not all of the cherries made it into the freezer. We’ve been snacking on them like they are going out of style, and since I’ve been adding fruit to almost every meal I make lately whether sweet or savory, pairing them with grilled chicken was a natural choice. The meat was marinated ahead of time to help maximize flavor, but after that was done, we had a scrumptious and satisfying dinner on the table in no time at all.
Grown in the Pacific Northwest in abundance, Rainier cherries are distinct from the more common Bing cherries in several ways. First and most obvious is their exterior color, which is a lovely combination of yellow and red. The flesh also has a lighter hue, and the taste is simultaneously milder and sweeter than one might traditionally associate with cherries. Their subtle flavor allows them to be the star in this dish, alongside the fresh ginger, without being overpowering. Sauteed onions, tart cranberries, and brown sugar round things out, and the result is a meal that has the perfect balance of smoky, tangy, salty, and sweet.
(By the way, the folks at OXO are having a cherry recipe contest, and this post is my entry. I hope they like it!)
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced yellow or white onion
- 1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 large clove fresh garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup medium diced yellow or white onion
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 2 teaspoons finely grated ginger
- 1 yellow bell pepper, medium diced
- 2 1/4 cups fresh Rainier cherries, pitted and halved
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board, one at a time, cover with a layer of plastic wrap, and use the smooth side of a mallet to flatten the chicken to a uniform thickness (this will ensure even cooking on the grill). Next, place the breasts in a gallon-size storage bag and add the marinade ingredients. Refrigerate and allow the flavors to infuse the meat for at least two hours or overnight.
- Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 20 minutes prior to cooking. While the chicken is resting, brush the grill grates lightly with oil to prevent sticking, then preheat the grill on the highest heat setting. Place the chicken breast on the grill, then immediately turn the heat down to medium. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes on each side, keeping the cover closed as much as possible. The chicken is done when the juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.
- For the compote, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, then add the diced onion, dried cranberries, and grated ginger. Season with a bit of kosher salt, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally (reduce the heat slightly if needed). Add the diced bell pepper and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Lastly, add the halved Rainier cherries, red wine vinegar, brown sugar, and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring to combine. Season with additional salt to taste and let simmer for 2-3 minutes until the cherries are heated through and just becoming tender.
- Spoon the warm compote over the grilled chicken and serve with brown rice if desired.
Tips and Tidbits
- For a variation on this recipe, try grilled pork instead of chicken. Bing cherries or even mangos can be substituted for the Rainier cherries for another twist.
- I’m still learning my way around the grill, but Dan has been becoming quite the pro ever since we purchased one for our new place. His advice? Start with a high temperature to get a good sear (which imparts that tasty smoky flavor whilst also locking in the juices), then reduce the heat until the meat is cooked through. Oh, and don’t mess with it – turning once is sufficient. The more the chicken is handled, the higher the chance that all those delicious juices will be lost.