After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years—La Cuisine: the Cook’s Resource, in Alexandria, Virginia—Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.
I HAVE TRIED to force myself to like cold cereal since childhood—and failed. Instead, I make a fruit salad almost every morning, loosely following what’s available seasonally. I allow a few additions to the usual bowl of mixed diced fresh fruits—including at least one dried fruit such as apricots, cherries, raisins or figs. The real lift, though, is the addition of a candied fruit like ginger or pineapple. In the winter, Cara Cara oranges, apples, pears, and grapes are regular players; in spring, strawberries and then later blackberries, blueberries, raspberries. Whenever I can find Ataulfo mangos, those get added. In summer, of course, local peaches and nectarines, and then usually a teensy tipple of Triple Sec. But the one constant is pineapple. It seems to be seasonless and successfully so, at least from a grocery-store point of view. We go through two or more pineapples a week, and I now look for interesting desserts featuring fresh pineapple slices. Although I enjoy a couple of unusual pineapple upside-down cakes, I make these two pineapple desserts more often, in both hot weather and cold.
Around 40 types of pineapple are grown commercially in various tropical climates around the world. But what is normally available to us non-tropical citizens is the Smooth Cayenne or Cayena Lisa. While we associate Hawaii with pineapples, primarily due to the rapacious history of Dole, the fruit originated in Brazil and Paraguay. The weird little diamond-shaped sections are referred to as berries, and they have fused together around the core. The pineapple itself is referred to as a collective or multiple fruit.
On ripeness, I have followed the generally available rules. Pick pineapples that are more gold than green; if the leaves pull easily, that also indicates ripeness. Always smell near the base for an aroma, and the fruit should feel heavy in your hand and have a little give when you press into the side. I was intrigued by this video on how one is really supposed to pick pineapple “berries.” I did try this method—may I say valiantly?—once. I am curious to know if any KD readers have had success with this method of eating pineapple!
Bobby Flay asked for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas when he was 8 years old, which may be the reason he includes cake with his presentation of this terrific little recipe. We thought after the first time we made this that the cake was too much and diminished the combination of the grilled fruit and sauce. Coconut, hazelnut or pecan ice cream works as well as the standby vanilla with this pineapple dessert. I grill the slices (in this case with the core) on a carbon-steel ridged grill pan on top of the stove. Grill on each side, flipping twice to get cross-hatch grill marks; just give a quarter-turn for each slice on the second grilling. It should be about 2 minutes on each side.
Try this sauce with true Muscovado sugar (in this case I used the Dark Muscovado from India Tree) rather than brownulated sugar or brown sugar. Muscovado sugars have much more molasses in them and are tastier and more fragrant. The brown grocery-store versions are white granulated sugar that has had the molasseses added back in. The process to create brownulated sugar, which is drier than traditional brown sugar and thus doesn’t clump, apparently is a closely held secret. A food magazine staff guessed that white sugar is melted with some added molasses and then sprayed, dried and ground. It becomes a much drier sugar and thus is easy to pour. A lot of manufacturing trouble for a meh product, in my opinion. You can make the sauce and grill the pineapple slices ahead and then put the dessert together right before serving.
Grilled Pineapple With Caramel Sauce
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup (156gr) dark brown sugar or Dark Muscovado
- 2 tablespoons dark rum (such as Gosling’s)
- ½ cup (125ml) heavy cream
- 1 small pineapple, peeled, sliced ½-inch thick and cored (you can get this already sliced and cored at most grocery stores)
- ¼ cup canola oil (I use sunflower seed oil)
- 1 9-inch loaf of vanilla pound cake, sliced
- Vanilla ice cream
- To make the caramel-run sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan over high heat, add the brown sugar and rum and cook, whisking until the sugar has melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream and cook until heated through and slightly thickened. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, keep warm.
- Heat your grill or stovetop grill to high.
- Brush the pineapple on both sides with the oil and place on the grill.
- Grill until golden brown and caramelized on both sides, about 6 minutes.
- While the pineapple is grilling, place slices of the pound cake on the grill until lightly golden brown on both sides, about 20 seconds on each side.
- Remove the pineapple from the grill and, when cool enough to handle, either slice or cut into chunks.
- Top each piece of pound cake with some of the pineapple and drizzle with the caramel-rum sauce.
- Top with more pound cake, vanilla ice cream—and a maraschino cherry, if desired.
- I don’t serve with the cake as I think it takes away from the dessert, and I think the maraschino cherry is useless.
- I don’t cut the pineapple into chunks; rather I leave each as a whole slice and place the ice cream and sauce on top.
- Coconut ice cream, butter pecan and hazelnut ice cream are excellent alternatives to vanilla.
I have written about Claudia Fleming’s desserts before. She has a very unusual and discerning palate and is a master at combining tastes and textures without overloading the plate. Her twist on blueberry muffins—really a cross between a French Financier and an American Muffin—was a revelation for me. Her biscuits for strawberry shortcake made me a believer. And I think you will find this subtle treatment of pineapple with bay leaf and pink peppercorns a delight.
The reason she has you add the teaspoon of corn syrup is that it is an invert sugar (it contains glucose) that will inhibit evil crystallization when you make the caramel. I had always used an unlined copper pan to make caramel, but this addition removes the tedious process of brushing down the sides of a non-copper pan to stop crystallization. I have tried coring a pineapple (even had a pineapple corer) but could never get it to go down the core line completely. Now, I use a round biscuit cutter to core the slices. Or simply leave the core in and then when it is served, one has to cut around the core, as you would a poached whole pear. Well worth the minor trouble.
Poached Pineapple With Pink Peppercorns
- 1 cup (200gr) granulated (or caster) sugar
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
- 1 pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 8 rings
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, pulp scraped
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons (57gr) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 375° F (190C).
- On the stovetop, place 1/3 cup (79ml) water in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet over low heat. Add the sugar and the corn syrup and increase heat to high.
- Cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is an amber brown color, about 7 minutes.
- Add the pineapple, vanilla pod and seeds, and bay leaf.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until the pineapple is tender and translucent.
- Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the pineapple to a serving platter and tent with foil to keep warm.
- To prepare the sauce, whisk the butter, rum, pink peppercorns, and salt into the hot pan juices until smooth.
- Return the pineapple to the pan to heat.
- Serve with sauce spooned over the top.
- I use caster sugar from India Tree and also about a tablespoon of pink peppercorns.
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