She leans over the edge of the world. Bold, beautiful and brave. The first light of day gently lays its lips on her saffron-hued cloak. A hushed whisper of a kiss, casting its golden reflection over Oceanus. Rippling triumphantly over seas, rivers and lakes. Lighting up the world. From East to West.
Eos, the goddess of the dawn, rosy fingered and perpetually in love with the first taste of a new day, rises.
Khanoum, we keep selling out of them. It’s not just Iranians. It’s everyone else. The Americans. I have no idea what they’re doing with the pounds upon pounds of albaloo they’re buying. They are fanatics about them.
I smile and nod politely at the grocer at my local Iranian market, as I fill my own bag with pounds upon pounds of fanaticism.
In the blink of an eye a single word turns on its head, claiming a new, delicious path. A path dripping with rosy red juices announcing the arrival of summer.
Albaloo – sour cherries – can turn the best of us into fanatics.
The Iranian love affair with sour cherries is hardly surprising. It speaks to and satiates the Persian palate and love for all things fruity and tart. A bright burst of early summer in every bite. Sour cherry season is maddeningly short (usually here between mid-June to early July). And when it arrives there is a frenzied rush to enjoy them as much, as quickly and fanatically as possible. The girls and I love picking at them just as they are on the stem, or sometimes sprinkled with a dash of salt. Savoring every bite, as if it’s the first, as if another season might somehow cruelly elude us.
Traditionally in the Persian kitchen sour cherries are enjoyed sweet, sour and savory. Be it in a thirst quenching and perpetual love inducing Sharbat-e Albaloo (sour cherry cordial), the crowd favorite savory rice dish Albaloo Polo, macerated with sugar and rose water for a sweet and sour preserve – Morabba-ye Albaloo (fantastic draped over yogurt), pickled – Torshi-ye Albaloo or reduced down to a syrup to be drizzled over sweet noodle sorbets (Paloudeh) for added tang and color.
Inspired by rosy fingered Eos and her saffron-hued cloak, I celebrate the arrival of summer with this Sour Cherry Chicken Rosé Roast. Whole chicken legs are marinated in saffron, cinnamon, honey and that other muse of summer: a crisp, dry rosé. A bottle that will dance with you straight from the kitchen to the table. twirling and dipping along the way. A wine that will inspire raising your glass to summer, sour cherries, and to Eos.
After briefly marinating the chicken legs I gently stuff a handful of pitted sour cherries under the skin. The natural acidity and juices of the cherries flavoring the chicken as it roasts. The rest of the cherries are cooked down on the stove, lightly sweetened with a hint of honey, cinnamon and another splash of rosé. Drape the sour cherries over the roast chicken when serving for a stunning feast for all senses.
Sour Cherries can be elusive to find. I can always count on my local Iranian grocers, or other Middle Eastern markets. You can also try Farmer’s Markets or online. If fresh sour cherries are not available you can use frozen, unthawed. Jarred cherries in light syrup is also another option. But, be sure to drain these well, and taste before adding honey. They might not need any sweetening at all.
It’s unexpected. And takes you by surprise.
Your first taste of a sour cherry.
Like your first kiss.
Not the sloppy first kiss where you’re just trying to find your bearings. But the one where the ground gives, making your head spin, and your heart drop. The first, that every other kiss will be measured up to, compared to, longed for, dreamed of. A young lovers’ whisper of a kiss, sitting atop abandoned train cars on a warm summer’s night. Leaning into each other, leaning over the edge of the world. Gazing over Oceanus.
In anticipation of Eos and the rising dawn.
In anticipation of love.
In anticipation of that first taste of albaloo.
When the ground gives, making your head spin, and your heart drop.
SOUR CHERRY ROSE CHICKEN ROAST
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling the sheet pan
- 4 large garlic cloves, crushed
- juice of 1 large lemon, about 3 tablespoons
- 1/4 cup dry rosé wine, plus 2 tablespoons
- 4 tablespoons honey
- 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron
- 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 whole chicken legs, about 3lbs total
- 1 large onion, cut into eighths
- 1 pound sour cherries, pitted
Heat the oven to 425F.
In a small bowl make the marinade by combining the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, wine, 2 tablespoons honey, saffron, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, salt (if not used earlier on chicken) and pepper. Place the chicken and the onions in a large bowl and cover well with the marinade. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
Drizzle the sheet pan with a little olive oil. Place the chicken on the sheet pan without over lapping. Grab a handful of sour cherries and very gently run your finger under the skin of the chicken (without tearing the skin) and stuff each leg with 3 or 4 sour cherries. Pour the marinade and the onions over the chicken. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken roasts place the remainder of the cherries in a small pan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle with a little a salt and stir in 2 tablespoons honey. Bring to a very gentle boil, splash in 2 tablespoons rosé wine, and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes , until the cherries soften and the syrup thickens slightly. Set aside.
Drape the chicken with sour cherries and its juices and serve with a crisp glass of rosé.