Sponsored by the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
While blueberries are a natural fit for breakfast and dessert, Chef George Duran is a fan of using this popular berry in unique savory applications.
In fact, the chef wowed the hosts and audience of Fox and Friends when he prepared Blueberry Chipotle Chicken Wings live in honor of National Blueberry Month (July). No stranger to TV, Duran, a native of Caracas Venezuela and alumnus of the École Supérieure de Cuisine Française, Groupe Ferrandi, has hosted numerous shows, including award winning Pop Cuisine in France, the Food Network’s Ham on the Street, The Secret Life of…, TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off, and culinary segments for The Better Show and AllRecipes.com.
Now, Duran shares his thoughts on why blueberries are such a special fruit prime for savory applications.
1. When experimenting with savory applications, did anything about blueberries surprise you in the kitchen?
I was surprised how the flavor profile with blueberries was similar to jams and jellies. It had a sweet and tart component that seemed versatile enough to integrate with practically any recipe.
2. During the Fox and Friends segment, you amazed the hosts and audience with Blueberry Chipotle Chicken Wings. From chipotle to cinnamon, nutmeg to ginger, how did blueberries stand up to these intense flavors?
Blueberries compliment these flavors. When you combine savory and sweet, the palate sends a message to the brain that says “Yum!” It wasn’t too difficult to think of a few recipes that would impress the hosts. For example, quite often you see chipotle combined with honey, so why not chipotle with blueberries?
3. “Sweet & spicy” is becoming a popular flavor duo. What makes blueberries a good ingredient for these sweet heat dishes, similar to the wings?
Blueberries not only provide a sweet component to spicy foods, but also tart. It’s those three elements that truly make a recipe shine—and even offer a “surprise and delight” for people who might not expect blueberries in a spicy dish.
4. Why do you think blueberries transition so well between sweet and savory dishes?
The small but mighty blueberry has so much to offer on sweet and savory dishes. A blueberry cobbler is what everyone expects and loves for dessert, but integrate those blueberries into a grilled cheese sandwich and now you are wowing your guests! It’s the sweet and tart profile that allows you to use blueberries for desserts as well as main courses.
5. People don’t often think about using blueberries in center of the plate applications. Were you surprised with the versatility of using blueberries with a variety protein, such as pork, chicken, beef, and more? What is your favorite protein to pair with blueberries?
I was already in love with blueberries, but when I saw how easy it was to combine with a protein, I fell in love all over again. I believe we eat with our eyes first, so a bright blueberry glaze on any protein is not only surprising but quite mouth-watering. I always love mixing blueberry sauces with chicken—it’s the perfect flavor combination.
6. While some chefs might pigeonhole blueberries into dessert or baked goods, you used your new summer cooking technique with blueberries—grilling. Share why you think blueberries are a great addition to summer grilling.
I’m a big fan of sweet and tangy barbecue sauces and blueberries offer this flavor combination. I’m always in search of original ingredients to up my grilling game, and I think I’ve found it.
7. Do you find that the smokiness from grilling, roasting, and barbecuing complements the sweet, tanginess of blueberries?
Absolutely! There is always a sweet factor in outdoor cooking, but blueberries offer even more. Not just nutritionally, but taste-wise. When I topped it on a grilled pizza, the blueberries popped out beautifully and offered a sweet component like no other.
8. Thinking outside the box, how else could you see yourself using blueberries in a different or dynamic way?
I think freeze-dried blueberries would be great used in a rub. I’m a huge fan of barbecue rubs, and dry rubbing is the easiest way of integrating flavor with meats. If someone ever comes up with a ready-to-serve blueberry rub, please have them call me ASAP.
9. What advice would you give chefs considering adding blueberries into savory items?
Experiment with blueberries, fresh or frozen. These small berries will add a whole new dimension to your recipes. Plus, the color pops in your dishes too. Remember, when someone says “blueberries” it only conjures up mouth-watering thoughts.
10. Aside from the wings, what is your favorite way to enjoy blueberries during the summer?
We are blueberry addicts in my home! All year long, we constantly have a bowl of fresh blueberries to pop into our mouths throughout the day. It’s sweet and satiating and only has around 80 calories per cup. What else could you ask for?
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