If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking for a family, it’s that you’ve got to have a few shortcuts up your sleeve. And that there is no shame on relying on some quality pantry staples to make food tastier and life easier. A good jarred salsa, for example, is an excellent shortcut to weeknight fajitas, and a tasty (and much quicker) stand in for scratch-made enchilada sauce. And a decent boxed chicken broth is the key to mastering one pot weeknight meals, quick flavourful soups and slow cooker stand-bys.
But I will admit that jam has long been in my kitchen-shortcut blindspot. Sure I spread it on toast or tuck it into a school day sunbutter sandwich. And maybe drop a dollop onto yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast time. But it had never crossed my mind to use it as a flavour base for sweet and savoury meals.
That is until last weekend when my dear friend and food blogger Julie Miguel invited me to share in her festive Bonne Maman Holiday brunch. (That’s me wearing a toque, like the classy brunching lady that I am.)
Even if you’ve not had Bonne Maman jam before, you’ve probably seen it in the grocery store. It’s the one topped with that nostalgic red and white gingham lid. (I.e. look for the picnic blanket and you will know you have found it). The jam is made in France (which automatically gives it fancy cred) and from the same handful of simple ingredients that you (or your Maman) would use to make your own homemade jam: fruit, sugar, pectin and lemon.
In Julie’s kitchen, Bonne Maman Cherry Jam found its way into a salad dressing, the sweetness of the cherries nicely balancing the acidity of the vinegar, the pepperiness of arugula and the rich cream of crumbled goat cheese. And the Cherry Jam also created a flavourful glaze for a quick stove top pork loin.
The Bonne Maman Wild Blueberry Jam was paired with maple syrup and cinnamon, and then drizzled on whipped ricotta crostini. A perfect little shortcut hors d’oeuvre for last minute holiday guests.
Julie also turned Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade (a breakfast table fixture in my childhood home) into an Indian-style chutney by adding pears and fennel, and then served it over little ingenious inside-out samosas.
And then came dessert–a Belgian waffle topped with a bourbon-banana-caramel compote made from Bonne Maman Caramel Spread, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and toasted pecans. If you’ve ever had a snafu-ed attempt to make your own caramel (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything), this pretty little jar is a welcome snafu-free shortcut to a sweet creamy perfect caramel.
I left this brunch with a happy tummy and lots of ideas to shortcut my own holiday entertaining. I’m going to take a page from Julie’s book this weekend and pair a sharp cheese with some fancy crackers, fresh fruit and a little Bonne Maman Cherry Jam.
For more information about Bonne Maman and recipe suggestions for some of their products, visit the Bonne Maman website. For Julie’s own recap of the brunch, some super helpful tips for holiday entertaining, and the recipe for those inside-out samosas, visit her blog Daily Tiramisu.
**This post was created in partnership with Bonne Maman, but I only ever write about products that I enjoy and can stand behind, and this is one of them. As always, all writing and opinions expressed here belong to me.
**Photography by Jeffrey Chan, courtesy of Bonne Maman.