[Apple and Hokkaido Squash Compote with Mayotte Vanilla]
I recently read that online shopping -- or just online window-shopping -- was a widespread form of procrastination. I cannot remember where I read this, but that's probably because reading random stuff on the Internet is another way in which I squander vast amounts of my time.
In any case, the online shopping observation certainly struck a chord, and an indisputable proof of my guilt arrived in the mail on Saturday morning: the telltale package sported pretty stamps from Mayotte and contained twenty plump pods of Bourbon vanilla grown on the archipelago*.
I blame it all on Pascale the Temptress, who recently wrote about a small company that does the world** a great service by selling pods of vanilla at the most competitive prices I've ever seen: if you buy twenty pods, each of them will cost you just one euro, and that's shipping included, ladies and gentlemen***. Admittedly, twenty pods is a lot of vanilla -- more than I've ever owned in my entire life -- but I have countless plans for them, including bartering them for favors from friends and family.
[2007 Update: Sadly, la Vanille de Mayotte is no longer in operation.]
This compote is the first thing I made with my Mayotte vanilla. I had originally bought the apples to bake a cake and the Hokkaido squash to make a soup, but somewhere along the line I decided to pair the two in a chunky-smooth, autumnal compote: as its French name indicates, potimarron has a flavor that hints on chestnut, and I figured this would make it a good friend to the apples.
The resulting compote is subtly sweet and richly flavored, with accents of citrus I hadn't foreseen and warm, aromatic notes brought on by the vanilla. It can either be served for breakfast or dessert with butter or spice cookies to dip in, or as a side to boudin blanc, roasted poultry, or game -- don't you have holiday meals to plan?
* I will note in passing that I am very glad to have gotten the chance, for the second time in three years of C&Z, to use the word "archipelago".
** La Vanille de Mayotte ships to more than thirty countries in the world. The website is in French, but they will reply to email enquiries in English.
*** As a matter of comparison, two exceptionally scrawny pods will cost you 4.37€ here.
Compote de Pomme et Potimarron à la Vanille de Mayotte
One medium Hokkaido squash
1 kg (2 pounds) apples -- I used a variety called Reinettes du Canada, which turns soft when cooked
50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined cane sugar (you can omit the sugar if you plan on serving the compote with a savory dish)
1 vanilla pod
Scrub the squash, halve it, and scoop out the seeds and filaments. Cut each half in four pieces and peel off the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the flesh in one-inch chunks. Scrub, peel, quarter, and core the apples.
Combine the squash, apples, and sugar, if using, in a medium heavy-bottomed pot. Add 60 mL (1/4 cup) water, and set over medium heat. Split the vanilla pod lengthwise with a sharp knife, scrape the seeds cautiously with the dull side of the blade, and add the pod and seeds to the pot.
Cover and cook for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring regularly to prevent scorching. Remove the pod and use an immersion blender or a potato ricer to purée the compote to the desired consistency -- I like it halfway between smooth and chunky. Transfer to an airtight container, put the pod back in (it will continue to infuse the compote with flavor) and refrigerate. Serve slightly warm or chilled.
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