March is high season for New York and Vermont sugar-makers, who tap maples for the sap that they boil down into syrup. The new crop of “fancy,” the lightest grade, is already at Greenmarket, soon to be followed by grade A medium and dark amber, and then finally deepest, darkest grade B. The last’s pure expression of maple flavor is the perfect complement to sweet pineapple and aromatic cardamom in this recipe from Locanda Verde pastry chef Karen DeMasco.
Karen Demasco’s Maple-Roasted Pineapple
1 ripe pineapple
3/4 cup maple syrup
10 green cardamom pods
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 cup pineapple or apple juice (more if needed)
Preheat oven to 375. Peel pineapple by (1) slicing off top and bottom and (2) slicing off external skin. (3) Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/4-to-1-inch-thick wheels. Using a ring cutter or knife, remove center core from each wheel. In a large ovenproof skillet, combine maple syrup, cardamom pods, and vanilla bean. Heat over medium to medium-high flame until syrup begins to caramelize and bubbles become slow and thick, about 5 to 10 minutes. Arrange pineapple in single layer in skillet. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Flip, and carefully add juice. Cook until syrup and juice combine to form a sauce, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer pan to oven and roast, basting pineapple with pan juices halfway through, until golden brown with a shiny glaze, about 10 minutes. If sauce thickens too much, thin it with up to 1/4 cup additional juice. Serve warm. Adapted from The Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox (Clarkson Potter; 2009).