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Gifted Gourmet

Vanilla epiphany: bland supporting role or vibrant

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article from Slate Online

Vanilla has a PR problem. As a noun, vanilla refers to our most fragrant and complex flavor ... as an adjective, it is a pejorative, employed to describe anything common, generic, or bland. We say "plain vanilla music" to indicate the mind-numbing elevator variety and "plain vanilla sex" when speaking of humdrum missionary style.... For centuries, vanilla was considered exotic, luxurious, and rare.... vanilla has become the Zelig of the processed-food world ... Real vanilla, as the makers of Coke understand, gives foods a certain je ne sais quoi.... we are now experiencing vanilla fatigue

Now for a a few questions:

Are you using vanilla as God had intended, in its natural and vibrant state?

Or are you simply adding it as another bottled ingredient ... 'Harmless Helper' ... to your cooking?

Puck (Wolfie here, not the Shakespeare character) brought vanilla back into the public spotlight with his lobster with vanilla sauce... are you doing savoury vanilla in your cooking?


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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article from Slate Online
Vanilla has a PR problem. As a noun, vanilla refers to our most fragrant and complex flavor ... as an adjective, it is a pejorative, employed to describe anything common, generic, or bland. We say "plain vanilla music" to indicate the mind-numbing elevator variety and "plain vanilla sex" when speaking of humdrum missionary style.... For centuries, vanilla was considered exotic, luxurious, and rare.... vanilla has become the Zelig of the processed-food world ... Real vanilla, as the makers of Coke understand, gives foods a certain je ne sais quoi.... we are now experiencing vanilla fatigue

Now for a a few questions:

Are you using vanilla as God had intended, in its natural and vibrant state?

Or are you simply adding it as another bottled ingredient ... 'Harmless Helper' ... to your cooking?

Puck (Wolfie here, not the Shakespeare character) brought vanilla back into the public spotlight with his lobster with vanilla sauce... are you doing savoury vanilla in your cooking?

hmmm now there is something i never thought of using as a sauce.....and i love vanilla too


a recipe is merely a suggestion

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My teenage daughter told me I was like vanilla once. But I chose to take it as a compliment; I know more about vanilla than she does.

:biggrin::biggrin:

Thanks from mom's everywhere!!

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I've always been in love with Vanilla. Capital V. I thought it the loveliest of scents, and would sniff and sniff at the bottle cap when I was too young to be trusted with that big glass bottle of Watkins that my Mammaw or Mother was using to doctor up a pie or cake or homemade ice cream. Its a good thing it's not really tasty on its own; I remember sticking an adventurous tonguetip down into the lid and being shockingly disappointed at the bitter, mouthfilling taste. Had it been naturally sweet, I'd probably have gone off on a toot of great proportions, climbing a chair to the shelf for my fix, til they caught me nipping at the bottle.

I don't think they had many other uses than desserts for the lovely stuff, but soon I caught on to its enticing scent, and had many a secret trip to the spice cabinet before going out for school, to Sunday School, to a birthday party, etc.

I was forbidden the "grownup" scents: My Mom's Shalimar, Mammaw's latest bargain from the Avon Lady, my city Aunts' sophisticated, musky Chanels and Joys. So I would make some reason to detour into the kitchen before leaving the house, in order to dab a drop of the lovely vanilla-essence behind my ears and in the crooks of my elbows. I waltzed through the day, confident in my own enticing aroma, and AFTER I discovered cinnamon and oil of clove as a fragrant addition, I must have gone around town for more than a year, faint tan smears on my skin, my whole aura redolent of cookies and pie. Thank goodness dogs are carnivores; I'd have had whole hordes following me home.

And when I was in college (graduated from McCormick to Shalimar of my own), my roommate was a graduate student in Chemistry. She worked long hours in the lab after classes, and would come in very late, after I had gone to bed. One semester she was working on synthesizing Vanillin, and I would wake in the darkness, inhale that heavenly scent from her entrance, and smile. I STILL wish they'd bottle that stuff and sell it at Nordstrom.

My vanilla bottle (STILL Watkins; we found our own supplier in the Yellow Pages) gets a workout nearly every day...we use it in iced tea, pies, cakes, puddings, party punch, as a richening note in several mixed drinks as well as cut and pureed fruit, in coffee, pie crusts, all sorts of breads and muffins and desserts. And I keep a vanilla bean faithfully tucked down into each sugar cannister. I've been known to dab a bit onto a lightbulb, and YES, behind my ears once in a while for old times' sake. Brings back some nice memories, and sometimes makes Hubby waltz me across the kitchen to an oldies tune.

So what if Vanilla is the quiet, unnoticed kid, the wallflower whose mere presence points up the special attributes of her peers? It adds a lovely undernote, a richness, a depth, an extra level to so many other flavors. Even CHOCOLATE is enhanced by its paler companion, borne up to new heights and enticements.

And Vanilla ice cream alone is, if nothing else, quite a good reason for getting up in the morning.

So Hooray and Huzzah for whoever found that wonderful plant with its glorious scent and possibilities.

But as much as I LOVE the stuff, I still shudder at the thought of that lobster dish.


Edited by racheld (log)

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Recipes4Us from the UK has some delicious-sounding recipes using vanilla in savoury dishes:

Scallops with Vanilla Sauce

Crab Cakes with Vanilla Remoulade

Seafood Salad with Vanilla Mayonnaise

Pollo al Vanilla

Asparagus and Vanilla Risotto

I am trying to imagine vanilla mayonnaise ... :rolleyes:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Spago'S Vanilla Lobster Sauce Pasta #1

Puck's recipe from Spago .. now that I read the ingredients, I can better imagine how it works .. the coconut milk and ginger and vanilla beans.. see what I mean?


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Have been playing with some pork belly roasted with vanilla bean and cinnamon lately. First attempt was great, very nice depth of flavour. Second attempt added some white wine and was not so good. Developed and kind of gluey flavour. Might try a few different Morrocan like spices with it next time and stick with stock rather than wine.

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Marta at Pan-O-Pan in Vancouver makes a salad dressing based on vanilla and balsamic. It is a blend of flavours that I never would have thought of but it is amazing.

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Back in my younger (and thinner) days when I was making my own obscenely rich Haagen Dazs milk shakes - roughly equal quantities of chocolate & vanilla HD, some chocolate syrup, add enough milk to get the consistency right & whip with a sturdy fork - a few drops of vanilla complemented the other flavors perfectly.

I've always respected vanilla since then.


Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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I was introduced to the wonders of vanilla in, of all places, "Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts." Unfortunately, a tornado ate that cookbook, and I don't have it here from which to quote. If I remember correctly, she went into detail about her love affair with vanilla, and how she'd use two or three times as much as the recipe called for.

Vanilla in tea? I'm off to explore the possibilities... :smile:

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I recently had an ethereal carrot soup with a hint of vanilla. It was fabulous -- the vanilla wasn't obtrusive at all. In fact, if I hadn't known what the flavoring was, I never would have guessed. That is, it added a depth of flavor, but wasn't identifiable as vanilla.

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and from the very perceptive Alton Brown comes this piece of wisdom:

Imagine a flower: A climbing orchid, to be exact; the one of some twenty thousand varieties that produces something edible. Now imagine that its blooms must be pollinated either by hand or a small variety of Mexican bee, and that each bloom only opens for one day a year. Now imagine the fruit of this orchid, a pod, being picked and cured, sitting in the sun all day, sweating under blankets all night for months until, shrunken and shriveled, it develops a heady, exotic perfume and flavor. Now imagine that this fruit’s name is synonymous with dull, boring, and ordinary. How vanilla got this bad rap I for one will never know. 

Nor will I!


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Oh, I'll bet that we can figure this out....

Vanilla probably came to mean plain because, for example,

  • it is a subtle flavor;
    it is usually signified in foods by the color white;
    it rarely is used in its natural form (which would regularly leave those wonderful/unsightly seeds, depending on your perspective), and instead is used in extract form;
    most people don't even know what a vanilla bean is, and so don't associate it with other flavors for which they can identify the source (strawberry, say);
    it is often the base for other flavors, particularly in ice creams that are named after that flavor (chocolate chip, say);
    it is associated in people's minds with Vanilla Ice.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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:wub: love vanilla...

I have malted milk powder at home so I can drink vanilla malted milkshakes.

I always add extra vanilla in whatever I bake.

I have vanilla syrup which I swear enhances the taste of chocolate ice cream (though I understand it may be the power of suggestion...)

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savory dishes with vanilla... I too am in search of!

I recently have become the proud owner of 1lb of tahitian's thanks to an eGullet tip about using eBay for whole beans, so yeah, you could say I'm looking!

Pan fried potato cakes with mango-vanilla dressing and caramelized onion dressing were divine the other night...

the magazine Herb Companion had a nice vanilla article in their May 2005 issue. I have vanilla vinegar steeping which works nice with beets. Adding vanilla to waldorf salad sounds nice too.


flavor floozy

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Thanks for a second time tonight, McAuliflower!

More savoury vanilla used in these dishes right here:

Slow-Cooked Chicken with Sautéed Mushrooms and Vanilla

Roasted Apples with Salted Maple Cream

Saffron-Vanilla Seafood Stew

Vanilla-Scented Roasted Cauliflower

more savoury recipes using vanilla :wink:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Two Mexican-Style Savories [Vanilla Alert!]

Pechugas de la Flora Negra, estilo Reina Almendra

Chop 1 fresh tomato, 1/4 white onion, 1 serrano pepper, and mix with juice of 1 lime and 1/4 teaspoon of marjoram; use to garnish tacos made from dish

1 cooked [roasted or poached] breast of chicken, meat separated into long, thick slivers

Dust breast meat with ground black pepper and ground toasted ancho pepper, place in baking dish ir saucepan with wine and chicken broth 2/3 up the sides of the breast meat but not covering it; cook until liquid is bubbling; scatter coat of toasted ground almonds over chicken breasts, and continue heating.

Crème de chiles:

Cook down over low heat 1/4 cup of whole milk infused with 2 ground cloves, 32 scrapes of nutmeg, 3/4 inch Mexican cinnamon, and 1/4 inch Mexican vanilla bean (about 1/2 hour); add 1/4 cup heavy cream and 2/3 to 3/4 cup crème fraiche and swirl together to heat through.

Plate chicken breasts alongside rice cooked in broth, spooning chicken-heating broth copiously over rice, and mounting the crème de chiles over the breasts; scatter more toasted almonds over the sauced chicken breasts and serve with freshly made tortillas.

Chiles Rellenos, estilo de la Reina Almendras

Makes 4 cups, serving 4 to 6

1/2 roasted breast of chicken, meat shredded

marinate chicken meat overnight in:

1/4 cup yogurt

2 minced dried apricots

1/4 cup toasted, ground almonds

1/4 teaspoon each of black pepper, cumin, coriander; 1/8 teaspoon each of cloves, cinnamon, and cardamon

Stuff 2 roasted and skinned poblano chiles with the chicken mixture (which should be dryish and solid); fry the stuffed chiles briefly in vegetable oil.

Prepare light tomato sauce from 1/2 cup tomato pureed with 3 cloves roasted garlic, plus toasted Mexican oregano and marjoram, fried for 5 minutes, with 1/2 cup chicken stock then added for 10-minute cookdown.

While chiles are heating in oven or in saucepan, pour tomato sauce gradually through the stuffed chiles until all sauce is in pan, giving a poach-braise aspect to the chile dish.

Prepare:

1/2 cup crème fraiche

1/4 cup heavy cream, cooked down slowly over low heat to clotting with 1/4 inch Mexican vanilla bean and 1/2 inch Mexican cinnamon (at least 45 minutes); strain heavy cream and swirl through room-temperature crème fraiche.

Plate heated peppers alongside rice and fresh tortillas; pour cream sauce over peppers, rice, and a section of the tortillas.

Eat and weep.

[PS: Black flower is my American translation of the pre-contact Nahuatl ixlilxochitl, a term applied to the cured vanilla pod; reina almendras is a sobriquet I apply to food dusted with fresh pan- or oven-toasted almonds, ground and then used to encrust or scattered as garnish.]


Jamie M. Forbes

"Everything I know about life I learned in the kitchen."

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Here's a cross-reference to a post by Theabroma in the Mexico regional forum...

"PS: I have poached anchos in vanilla syrup and stuffed them with arroz con leche or chocolate mousse. Eats pretty good." [Oaxacan Yellow Mole, post no. 8.]


Jamie M. Forbes

"Everything I know about life I learned in the kitchen."

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Am I the only vanilla fanatic left? Perhaps the stern mug of my avatar [accurate, by the way] has scared everyone off.

Well.

I'll tell you what I know about vanilla that does not align with [and sometimes goes against] both the mainstream and the experts.

Vanilla is a wonderfully complex and intense substance in the high-aromatic range -- you feel it in your nose. There's some midrange presence and a few bottom notes.

To see what I'm getting at, try a bite of 100% cacao and let it melt down in your mouth. If it's good stuff, you get high fruity notes, plenty of midrange, and a solid bottom.

Because of these highnote volatiles and weaker, though important, supplementary attributes, vanilla is rarely the whole story in a complex dish, even when it is a featured player.

[i noted this profile when I was a sensory-evaluation expert consultant for the food industry -- now retired from that profession, though my palate hasn't quit. Anyone got some wine handy? Let's see whether those "vanilla" notes are phony add-ons or from actual oak. In addition, I did graduate work in perceptual psychology. On the other hand, I like some so-called junk food and drink wine that's not the greatest with enjoyment, regardless of their scientific attributes.]

Seeds are where the vanilla flavor resides. Or maybe not.

Yes. This one gets me. It's recited ad infinitum in nearly every journal column or cookbook section that covers vanilla.

Oh, I could be nice about it and say it's open for debate.

However, let's go to where it counts -- the palate.

Despite popular and expert opinion, it just ain't so.

Flavor in the seeds?

No.

Vanilla flavor is in the beanpod.

Vanilla flavor is also in the juice -- whatever little there is left when you get the cured ones, taste it and see how concentrated it tastes.

Chew on some of those lovely seeds. Sniff frequently. Those seeds are pretty. I want to see them in my finished dish.

Chew on the beanpod flesh.

Sniff frequently.

I rest my case.

On the other hand, I invite alternative assessment.


Jamie M. Forbes

"Everything I know about life I learned in the kitchen."

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