We’re Cooking: Pavlova

WOW!  I was a bit ambitious the other night as I cooked dinner for some of our friends in Hawaii.  We have made it a bit of a tradition to host at least one big night of feasting with the wonderful friends we have made on the Big Island.  Again, we got up in the morning and went up to the Waimea Farmer’s Market and loaded up on fresh veggies, some Alaskan caught salmon, big strawberries, and a beautiful, super ripe pineapple, then made a quick stop by the fantastic 4 acre Kawamata Farm to see our friend Raymond Kawamata and pick up some huge beefsteak tomatoes, baby cucumbers and just ripe baby eggplants. We filled in the rest a the local market and spent all day cooking and cooking for our 7pm dinner for 8.  I wanted to make a special dessert with some of the fresh fruit we had found at the farmer’s market and was inspired by the massive pavlovas our friend Chef Andrew Ormsby makes for his kids.  It is one of their favorite dessert, made of beautifully baked meringue, topped with a sweet pastry cream and mounded with lots of whipped cream and berries.  I wasn’t going to be quite as ambitious, but wanted to make something beautiful and tasty for our friends, holding my breath at every minute to make sure it would work.  I knew I wanted to keep the strawberries bright and fresh, but thought grilling the pineapple would add a yummy layer of sweet caramel and slight smoky flavors to the dish, made only better by macerating the pineapple all day in fresh basil and Van Gogh Vanilla vodka.  I love Van Gogh’s flavored vodkas made with real extracts, keeping the flavors vibrant. Wow, a beautiful presentation followed by layers of crisp outside, yet still light and moist inside meringue topped with candy like pineapple with a kick, a mound of sweet whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  A success and a delicious end to a wonderful night with friends.

Recipe:

Pavlova with Grilled Vanilla Pineapple and Whipped Cream
Ingredients:
For the pavlova –
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons corn starch

For the pineapple –
1 very ripe pineapple, cut from the core and cut into large slices so it can be cooked without falling through the grill.
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup Van Gogh Vanilla Vodka
Sprinkle of pepper
2 tablespoons pineapple jam (optional)
1/2 cup white wine (optional)

For the whipped cream –
1/2 pint whipping cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries for garnish

Preparation:
For the pavlova – Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Add the egg whites to a bowl and using a stand or electric mixer begin beating the eggs slowly on medium low speed.  After they have moved from the frothy stage to starting to come together in soft peaks.  Combine the sugar and cornstarch and slowly begin adding the combination to the eggs while you are beating the eggs.  Beat the eggs until they have formed stiff peaks and are super glossy.  Fold in the zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Carefully mound the egg whites into the center of a parchment in a round, uniform mound.  Place in the oven at for 50-55 minutes, or until it is nicely browned, then turn oven off and let it sit in the oven for about 30 minutes as it starts to cool.
Once cool remove from the oven and carefully peel it away from the parchment and place it on your serving dish.  Meanwhile, place the cut pineapple in a wide bowl with the basil and a sprinkle of pepper.  Cover with the vodka and let sit for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally to make sure all the pineapple soaks in the vodka.  When ready to grill, heat the grill to medium and cook until the pineapple starts to caramelize.  Remove from the grill and allow to cool.  After it has cooled cut it into bite size chunks.  Set aside.  If you would like to add a bit of syrup to the pavlova melt the jam into the white wine over low heat in a small sauce pan.  Set aside.
Just before serving pour the cream into a very cold bowl and whip it using an electric mixer or whisk until soft peaks form, slowly adding in the sugar and vanilla.  Assemble the pavlova by adding the pineapple to the center of the pavlova, top with the chunked pineapple, then the syrup, then the whipped cream and a final garnish of fresh strawberries.  Serve whole and cut slices tableside to enjoy the full, beautiful presentation.

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