2009-12-24 / Features

Explore New Flavors In Recipes This Holiday

Holiday tunes on the radio, mistletoe hanging in strategic locations and the scent of pine lingering in the air – it’s the perfect time to get into the kitchen and discover some new cooking flavors that will keep your taste buds happy and give your house a warm, yummy smell.

Not only does cooking in the kitchen gather everyone together during the holidays, but it provides the opportunity for some creative thinking about new recipes and ways to put a different twist on traditional favorites.

Experimenting with recipes allows you to explore new cooking flavors, either by using unique and new spices, or by combining different ingredients for a different taste.

One flavor many cooks often forget to try is vanilla, which has a heady, aromatic taste combined with sweet, fruity and floral scents. Vanilla beans are grown in primarily four locations around the world – Madagascar, Indonesia, Mexico and Tahiti – and each variety of bean can be used to enhance both sweet and savory flavors.

Nielsen-Massey’s Pure Vanillas are cold extracted to slowly draw out the delicate flavors of the beans. Gourmet food shops, bakers, chefs of fine restaurants and manufacturers of premium ice creams use these vanillas because of their quality and varying flavors.

To experiment with the flavors of vanilla in your kitchen, try starting with this drink recipe:
Vanilla Peppermint Pattitini
Serves two
2 ounces vodka
2 ounces half and half or
cream
1 heaping tablespoon hot
cocoa mix
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint
extract
1/2 teaspoon pure chocolate
extract
1/2 teaspoon pure Tahitian
vanilla extract (Madagascar or
Mexican if preferred)
Ice
Chocolate syrup
Mini candy cane

Add all ingredients except the syrup and candy cane in a shaker and shake vigorously. Pour into chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a swirl of chocolate syrup and candy cane.

For a great holiday dinner, consider cooking duck instead of chicken or turkey. “A Century of Flavor” cookbook offers the following recipe:
Duck Breast with Tahitian
Pomegranate Chutney
Serves four
For the Tahitian Pomegranate
Chutney:
1 cup 100 percent pomegranate
juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vnilla extract
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tart apple, peeled and diced
(about 1 cup)
1 Bosc pear, peeled and diced
(about 1 cup)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup raisins
For the duck breast
4 duck breasts
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the chutney, combine the juice, sugar, vanilla extract and vinegar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, stirring frequently. Add the apple, pear, walnuts and raisins. Cook for five to eight minutes or until the fruit is tender, stirring frequently.

For the duck, preheat the oven to 400 F. Score the skin of each duck breast at a 45-degree angle approximately four times. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place the duck breasts skin side down in the pan. Sear for four minutes. Turn and sear for an additional two minutes.

Place a wire rack in a 9 by 13- inch roasting pan and coat the rack with nonstick cooking spray. Place the duck on the rack. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes or to the desired degree of doneness. Plate with the Tahitian Pomegranate Chutney and wild rice.

And for dessert, try this cookie recipe:
Crisp Vanilla Butter Cookies
Makes two dozen cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sifted confectioners'
sugar
1 tablespoon bourbon pure
vanilla powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups unbleached all-purpose
flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate pieces of
choice

Cream the butter, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla powder in a mixing bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed. Add the eggs and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt on low speed until just blended. Place the dough on parchment paper and shape into a 12-inch long log. Chill between 3 to 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Coat an insulated cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cut the dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Place the cooled cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Place the chocolate pieces in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on "high" for 15 seconds. Repeat at five-second intervals, stirring and checking the consistency. The chocolate is ready when it freely drips from the spoon in a fine line. Spoon the chocolate into a large plastic food storage bag. Twist the bag until the chocolate is in one corner and then trim the tip of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over the cookies.

Variation: Add 1/2 teaspoon of any pure flavor extract, such as chocolate, almond, lemon, orange or coffee, to the cookie dough to create a signature cookie.

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