Friday, November 2, 2007

Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns

Fresh unadorned pineapple is a juicy treat all on its own, but there are some very simple ways to embellish the tropical deliciousness of this fruit.

Browsing through some of my cookbooks the other day, I refreshed my acquaintance with The Last Course by Claudia Fleming, who enjoyed quite a run as Pastry Chef at Gramercy Tavern. And I know it’s November, but reading through her prescription for roasted pineapple, with its glorious floral notes, warmed me up considerably. Roasting this acidic fruit brings out the tenderness of each slice. Bathing it in a caramel sauce redolent of herbs, spice, rum, and a fresh vanilla bean really takes this dessert into the realm of a languorous lazy day on a fantasy tropical island. So join me in this flight of fancy. I highly recommend you hang up your raincoat and set sail for the nearest pineapple grove. And please! Don’t forget to send a post card.

Bench notes:
- One very important note: the recipe starts with making a caramel. It gives good instructions for cooking the sugar, but whenever you make caramel you must always include a way to stop the cooking process or it will likely burn. In general, this means either adding a liquid to cool it down or immediately placing the pan in cool water to stop the cooking. Fleming’s recipe simply says to add the pineapple once the caramel reaches the appropriate color, but this alone may not stop it. So be sure to have another pan with an inch or so of cold water in your sink so you can take the pan off the heat and place it in a cold water bath if necessary to immediately stop the caramel from burning. It will hiss and bubble, but just stand back and let it unwind. The other thing you can do is quickly and carefully pour the caramel into another metal bowl and place the bowl in the cold water. Don’t worry if the caramel seizes a bit. It will quickly melt once it goes into the oven.
- Remember, burns from hot caramel are very painful, so be extremely careful about handing the pan. Add the pineapple slices slowly and carefully so they don’t splash hot caramel your way.
- Fleming says to use a 10” oven proof skillet for 8 slices of pineapple, but I could only fit 3. You’ll need to use a roasting pan large enough to fit 8 slices and then pour the caramel sauce over all, basting every ten minutes.
- The bay leaf, vanilla bean and pink peppercorns are what lift this dessert to utter greatness. Don’t leave them out! And be generous with the salt, tasting as you go to see how salt can really improve a dessert.
- The most commonly available vanilla beans are Madagascar (sometimes called Bourbon) and Tahitian. Both are wonderful, but if you can get Tahitian, they are the most floral and aromatic and the favorite found in fine dining pastry kitchens.
- This dessert is stupendous on its own, but I can see you’re already thinking about vanilla ice cream, so follow your bliss. As for me, I think this might make an interesting element in a dessert cheese course and would be really delicious with a good Manchego or an aged goat cheese like the Spanish jewel, Garrotxa.
- Leftovers will keep for several days and can be gently reheated. I’m already starting to think about ways I can replicate this stupendous sauce in other desserts…………yes, I will.

Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns
adapted from The Last Course by Claudia Fleming

1/4 C water
1 C sugar
1 t light corn syrup
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced into 8 pieces
1 vanilla bean
1 bay leaf
2 oz (1/2 stick) butter
2 T dark rum, preferably Myers’s
1 T pink peppercorns
pinch of salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat 1/4 C water in a 10” skillet. Add sugar and corn syrup and turn up the heat. Cook the sugar mixture, swirling occasionally, until it turns to an amber color, about 7 minutes. Watch carefully. Once sugar starts to color it accelerates very quickly and will darken to a burnt and bitter stage very fast. Be sure to take it off the heat before it gets to a dark amber stage. Once it has reached the right color and before it starts to smoke, quickly place the caramel pan in another pan that has about an inch of cold water to stop the cooking. Carefully add a couple of pineapple slices using tongs or a long-handled fork to slow the cooking further. Stand back as it sputters. Once it has subsided and stopped steaming, carefully lift the pan out of the water bath. Stir and add vanilla pulp, vanilla pod and bay leaf. Place all the pineapple slices in a roasting pan and pour the sauce over all, coating each slice. Bake about 40 minutes until pineapple is tender and translucent, basting every 10 minutes or so and turning slices to coat as necessary.

Remove pineapple to a platter and cover to keep warm. Add the butter, rum, pink peppercorns and salt to the hot caramel sauce and whisk until smooth. Spoon over pineapple and serve. Prepare for total pleasure overdrive.


Lunch Buckets said...

That's just stunningly beautiful! Have to admit that it's a recipe I'd probably pass over without a second thought if I hadn't seen the photograph.

op99 said...

Are those things that look like berries the pink peppercorns? Do they taste like black pepper? Inquiring minds want to know. I can't tell from licking my monitor.

leslie in ca said...

LOL, op99.

What an education this place is! I didn't even know there was such a thing as pink peppercorns ... but what a delicious-sounding (and -looking) treat.

Anonymous said...

My mind keeps trying to find the pork--lol--early Chinese food training associates pineapple and pig--but this looks like a beautiful unusual dessert!

Love your photos!

lotus said...

If that isn't THE most alluring panful of beauty!

Okay, what's your method for getting the pineapple from intact to these nice ROUND, small-cored horizontal slices? I whack the ends off then quarter the fruit vertically -- easy to trim the shell off each quarter that way, but it wouldn't produce discs like these.

Do you have a special tool, or just buy the fruit in shelled-cylinder form?

'Twould taste just as good in chunks, but not look so elegant . . .

pastry studio said...

Hi lotus! Years ago when I finished pastry school, I kinda went crazy buying tools. So I happen to have an apple corer that I used on the pineapple slices. But quartered slices would be beautiful, too. It's that gorgeous yellow that pops no matter what the shape!

pastry studio said...

op99, the pink thingies are the peppercorns! They aren't nearly as strong as regular pepper. Not much heat but rather more floral in flavor. Since they can be quite hard to find, I would recommend this dessert anyway. The combination of bay leaf, vanilla bean and caramel are really inspired.

I'm still laughing about your monitor!