Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées & The 2013 McCormick Flavor Forecast

6 12 2012

Charred oranges.

Those two words were the first to jump out at me from this year’s McCormick Flavor Forecast.  In what sounds like one of the most fun jobs in the world, their team of chefs, food scientists, and market gurus work all year to identify trends in food.  Using those trends as a jumping-off point, they then seek out the flavor combinations that best exemplify each one.  After months of playing around in the kitchen work, they have distilled the cooking zeitgeist down to five Trends of Global Flavor, each with two sets of ingredients designed to evince the philosophy (I would almost call them Trends in Food Philosophy, but that might sound too poncy).


A side objective of these flavor pairings is to push the envelope a bit, maybe combining things in unusual ways or introducing lesser-known ingredients to a wider audience.  Like in Empowered Eating, where Dukkah (a delightful mix of spices, seeds, and nuts that hails from Egypt) livens up broccoli, or Global My Way, where cajeta (a Mexican goat milk caramel) is joined with anise.  As I look over the range of trends, a few things seem to repeat, or be representative of even broader trends.  I’m seeing:

  • Bitterness – on display in the smoked tomato, chocolate, molasses (don’t worry, those aren’t together), and the aforementioned charred oranges
  • Hazelnuts – (hooray!) used in the Dukkah and paired with artichoke and paprika in Hidden Potential
  • Tropical flavors – rum, passion fruit, plantains, chili peppers (again, not together, but why not?)

I’m telling you all of this because McCormick (in France, Ducros) has given me the opportunity to preview this year’s forecast, which brings me back to the charred oranges.  Paired with allspice and black rum under the category “No Apologies Necessary”, the allure of smoky, caramelized oranges was irresistible to me.  When I had a Skype interview with McCormick’s executive chef Kevan Vetter, I mentioned how that particular combination called to me, making me think of hot drinks by the fireplace, or warming up after being out in the snow.  Interestingly, he had nearly opposite associations with the mix, saying it had been conceived as a sort of “tropical getaway”.  But that’s what’s so much fun about working or playing around with ingredients.  You give ten people the same mystery box and you’ll probably get ten different takes on the best dish to make from it.  That could probably happen with just one person, too.  I mean, given these three, I’ve already jotted down at least four different recipes I’d like to experiment with.  Charred orange eggnog, anyone? How about an orange brûlée tart or charred orange and allspice ice cream with rum caramel sauce?


For now, though, I’m pretty content with this take on vin chaud, the hot spiced wine that is near-ubiquitous this time of year in France.

Vin Chaud aux Oranges Brûlées

Inspired by the McCormick Flavor Forecast for 2013, this is more more focused – and dare I say “tropical” – version of the classic winter beverage. Allspice alone takes the place of a blend of spices, the charred oranges add lovely smoky bitter notes, and a finish of dark rum warms you through and through.

2 large oranges
2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar (also called cassonade or raw sugar)

1 bottle (750 ml) red wine – no need for anything fancy here
10 allspice berries
¼ c. Turbinado sugar
3 oz. (85 ml) dark rum

  1. Heat your broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. Halve the oranges pole-to-pole, then cut the halves into 4-5 thick slices each. Lay them on the baking sheet and sprinkle with the 2 Tbsp. Turbinado sugar. Broil, checking frequently, until charred, about 5 minutes.
  2. Place the charred orange slices into a medium saucepan with the wine, allspice, and remaining ¼ cup sugar. Bring to a simmer, then cover, remove from heat, and let steep 15-30 minutes.
  3. Add the rum and heat everything back up before ladling, steaming hot, into mugs.

Serves 4.

Originally published on Croque-Camille.

This post was sponsored by McCormick, but the opinions are my own.


The Winter Squash Saga, Part II: Dessert

28 10 2008

As I promised yesterday, I’m back today with the winter squash, orange, and sage dessert.  I initially liked the idea of using these ingredients in a dessert because it seemed like more of a challenge.  Sage, in particular, is not usually used in sweets and I thought I could do something interesting with it.

Warm, fragrant, and fuzzy, sage is the freshly laundered blanket of the herb family.

The squash part was easy.  Winter squash-based sweets abound: pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, muffins, and even pancakes feature on menus everywhere this time of year (well, not in the southern Hemisphere, I guess).  In my first restaurant job I was given a recipe for butternut squash flan.  I thought it was a great idea, but the stupid thing never worked right.  My theory was that if we had just put a thin layer of caramel in the bottom of the molds, like you’re suppposed to when you’re making flan aka crème caramel, they would have come out beautifully every time.

The correct way to make crème caramel

So I did just that.  I also reduced the amount of cream in favor of milk (not something you’ll hear me say very often), because traditionally, crème caramel is the lightest of the baked custards and made using only milk and whole eggs.  Plus, I wanted that lighter texture.  I think it balances the richness of the caramel and helps to make more of that delicious sauce you get when you finally unmold the dessert.  I snuck some of the orange butter into the caramel to play up the orange flavor in the squash (I reserved some from the lasagna and puréed it using my beloved immersion blender).

Water baths are not a big deal.

After a short spell in the oven, their custards were ready.  I prefer mine just-set, by which I mean barely holding together.  Feeling pleased with my success so far, I left the custards in the fridge to chill overnight.

“But what about the sage?”  You must be wondering.  In one of those flashes of inspiration, it came to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Couderc Patisserie

21 02 2008

Pierre Couderc’s pâtisserie is just down the street from our apartment.  In passing, I have admired the delectable window displays and read glowing reviews in local guides.  It was time to give this place a try.Couderc’s Pastry Case

I walked in and asked the woman behind the counter if I could take some photographs.  She called into the back of the shop for Monsieur Couderc himself, who came out front smiling.  I told him his pastries were beautiful and asked if he minded if I took some pictures.  He, of course, agreed, and even offered to pull some pieces out of the case.  (Flattery will get you everywhere.)  After getting the photo I wanted, I bought an orange tart and a “Guanaja.”  The saleswoman explained that Guanaja was a chocolate with 70% cacao, which I already knew, but it’s always a good sign when the customer service are well-informed and take pride in the products they are selling.  She wrapped up my purchases and I was out the door, ready to dig into the sweet treats.

Nifty Box

(And speaking of digging, how cool is this box?)

Arriving home, I opened the box to get a closer look.

Tarte Orange and Guanaja

You can see why I chose the Tarte Orange – it has a bruléed top!  The combination of orange and caramel is one of my favorites, so I had to give this one a whirl.  As for the Guanaja, well, there are surprisingly few patisseries in town that actually boast which chocolates they are using.  The fact that Couderc uses Valrhona chocolate tells me he cares about what he’s doing a little more than the average pâtissier.

But how did they taste?  Let’s start with the Tarte Orange.  The tart shell was a little thick in the corners, but nice and crisp with a buttery shortbread flavor.  The brulée had clearly been sitting for a while, but still managed to retain a bit of its crunch.  And the filling was a luscious, creamy orange custard.  It was a bit on the sweet side, but had good fresh orange flavor.  Half the tart (I saved the other half for Nick) was just about right, portion-wise.  On the other hand, I could easily have gulped down the whole Guanaja dome.  The chocolate fans on either side had neither the waxy texture nor the chemical flavor of cheap decorating chocolate.  I think it was actual Guanaja chocolate!  The dessert itself comprised a smooth chocolate mousse with a nugget of devil’s food cake in the center, sitting atop a light chocolate genoise, all of it glazed in ganache.  This is a dessert designed to show off a quality chocolate and as such, it is a success.  From the intensity of the dark chocolate ganache to the deceptive lightness of the mousse to the textural contrast of the cake, it all says one thing: chocolate.

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