This week is all about excess. Fitting that I have chosen to start a diet this week too, no? Perhaps said diet will need to wait for next week since it’s all about heavy cream infused with butter this week. I can already hear my cellulite conspiring against me.
On our vacation last summer, I brought some vanilla beans back with me. In case you are ready to report me to the authorities, I want to clearly state that I TRIED to report my ill-gotten booty, but the Customs Agent crumpled up my form and waived me through with my husband. Who am I to try and hassle with the authorities now, hmmm??? I felt it was kismet cause I really wanted those vanilla beans.
Types of vanilla beans
Just so we are all on the same playing field here, there are three types of beans: Bourbon (Madagascar), Mexican and Tahitian. All beans contain tons of tiny little seeds – which you will most likely scrape out into whatever it is you are flavoring. Bourbon beans accounts for 3/4 of all beans – and are most likely what you are purchasing. Mexican are the strongest in flavor, but are becoming more scarce. And Tahitian are long, slender, very floral tasting and somewhat milder than the other two.
The vanilla beans we are talking about today are of the Tahitian variety. Sadly, those lovely vanilla beans of mine weren’t stored as properly as they should have been and weren’t exactly pliable anymore. So the question is…
Can you re-hydrate dried vanilla beans?
I tried a few methods of reviving them. First, I wrapped them in a damp paper towel for about half an hour. Result? Eh, not so much. Next, I tried wrapping them in a damp paper towel and zapping them in the microwave for 15 seconds. Result? Yep. That works. In case you ever find yourself in this predicament, give it a try. Also, try poaching it in the liquid you are trying to infuse flavor into, then scrape the beans. Whatever you do, don’t toss them out. And don’t think that dried out beans are relegated to making vanilla sugar.
The French influence on Tahitian cuisine is extensive throughout the islands. Fish with vanilla sauce was my favorite dish and I partook every chance I got. It’s only taken me, oh, 10 months to finally make this dish at home. But more on that later. Right now we are making Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes to go with our fish with vanilla sauce. Swoon!
Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 Tahitian vanilla bean (NOTE: since Tahitian beans are pretty mild, if you are using another type of bean, maybe 1/2 bean would do?)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
kosher salt and white pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender, about 1 hour.
2. Remove from oven and let cool until warm enough to handle. Peel and discard the skin.
3. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the butter.
4. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a saucepan, add the vanilla bean and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for five minutes.
5. Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out the vanilla bean. Split the bean and scrape the seeds into the cream.
6. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor.
7. Puree the potato mixture until smooth.
8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve. NOTE: Reheats beautifully in the microwave.
Ms. Pantry Raid