Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla Bean Spikes and Caramel (And an Infused-Vodka Bonus) | What’s Cooking
As I was thumbing through our Nordstrom Cookbooks looking for potential recipes to share, I stumbled across this crazy stunner. At first, I thought it looked like a kind of atomic centerpiece I’d imagine you could have seen at at ’50s cocktail party, sitting next to some sort of bright green, molded gelatin salad brimming with olives and tuna. I was hooked—at least on the mid-century cocktail party part. And then I thought a little more. Studding a pineapple with vanilla beans and roasting it in an oven until tender while periodically basting it with caramel really couldn’t be a bad idea, no matter the era.
Turns out, it definitely isn’t. Roasting the pineapple concentrates its flavor while bringing out its sweetness…along with a little help from that creamy caramel. Basting while cooking ensures it doesn’t dry out, and also distributes those beautiful vanilla-bean-seed specks all over the surface. This is something you present before serving to ensure maximum oohs and ahhs, and then we recommend serving the carved, roasted pineapple on a couple scoops of vanilla bean ice cream topped with a generous drizzle of the vanilla-caramel pan juices.
It takes a little finessing to carve out the ‘eyes’ of the pineapple to achieve those impressive swirling grooves, but it’s worth the fuss–and also provides more surface area and basting channels to facilitate maximum caramelization and flavor. While a great pineapple is easy and inexpensive to get your hands on, vanilla beans can be more of a splurge. To extend their life, keep reading to the very end: our chefs offer up a genius way to make use of the roasted beans with a delicious vanilla-pineapple-infused vodka recipe (fancy tropical adult beverages!), which lasts for months.
Roasted Pineapple with Vanilla ‘Spikes’
From our Nordstrom Flavors Cookbook
(Serves 6 to 8)
3/4 cup homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
1 ripe pineapple, preferably jet fresh
4 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, then cut into thirds to make 24 pieces total
Vanilla bean ice cream for serving
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven (with enough room left over to clear the height o the pineapple and its trimmed top) and preheat oven to 450°F. In a small bowl, mix together the caramel sauce and 2 tablespoons of water; set aside.
Lay the pineapple on it side. Using a sharp knife, and cutting away from you, carve the leaves into a cone shape about 3 inches high. (Editor’s Note: I found it easiest to start with kitchen shears to begin the cone and then do the final shaping with a sharp knife.) Cut off the bottom of the pineapple so the fruit will stand straight up. Stand the pineapple upright and carefully pare away the outer skin. Remove the ‘eyes’ by grooving channels into the pineapple, working in a diagonal, like the strips on a barber pole.
Using a paring knife, cut 24 equally spaced, 2-inch-deep slits all over the pineapple. Insert a vanilla piece into each slit, leaving 1/2 inch of the vanilla visible. Wrap aluminum foil around the trimmed pineapple leaves to protect them in the oven. Stand the pineapple upright in a 9-inch round cake pan. Brush the pineapple with some of the caramel sauce.
Roast the pineapple for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400°F. Every ten minutes, baste again with the caramel sauce and continue roasting, for about 60 minutes or until the pineapple is nicely browned and easily pierced with a long metal or wooden skewer.
Carefully remove the pineapple from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Reserve the sauce that has collected in the pan. Using a wide, stiff spatula, transfer the pineapple to a serving platter. Unwrap the foil from the top.
After spooning the accumulated pan drippings over the pineapple, present it at the table in all of its spiky glory. To serve, return to the kitchen and remove the vanilla-bean segments (save them for the vodka infusion recipe). Transfer the pineapple to a cutting board to cut off and discard the top, and then cut the pineapple lengthwise into wedges. Cut the solid core away from each wedge, and then cut the wedges into chunks. Scoop the ice cream into individual bowls, and top with the warm pineapple chunks and pan juices. Serve immediately.
Chef’s Note: There is no reason to toss out the vanilla-bean segments used in this recipe (they are a luxury). Instead, use them to make a pineapple-and-vanilla-infused vodka. In a 1-quart jar, combine the vanilla pieces and 2 cups fresh pineapple chunks. Add enough vodka to cover the pineapple and vanilla completely. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 week before serving. The pineapple-vanilla infused vodka mixture will keep for up to 2 months. To use, strain off only what you need.
Try this recipe and others at a Nordstrom restaurant near you, and find more recipes to make at home in our What’s Cooking series and Nordstrom Cookbooks (available in selected Nordstrom restaurants and Ebars).
Have a favorite dish or beverage from our restaurants or cookbooks that you’d like to see featured? Let us know in the comments!
—Jeff Powell (photos and intro)