Laurent Tavernier isn’t even my hair stylist, but he knows that I love food, and so whenever I’m in the salon for a cut, he takes time to chat with me about what he’s made over the weekend. When he gave me this recipe, I didn’t wait for the weekend to try it. The dessert is simple enough: a slow-roasted ripe pineapple with a thick aromatic sauce. As it roasts, it’s basted with orange juice, booze, jelly and a mix of spices until it is fork-tender and almost confited, or candied. How much juice? “Oh, about this much,” Laurent said, making finger measurements that wavered. How much booze? “About the same amount.” And what kind? “Whatever you’ve got.” And the jelly? “Oh, you know, apple or quince or apricot or, no matter.” (Two tries later, Laurent told me that I should use a whole jar of jelly.) And the spices? “Again, whatever you’ve got—even a hot pepper!”
I’ve given you a real recipe (kind of ), but my inclination is to tell you to take a leaf from Laurent’s book and let inspiration and whatever you’ve got in the cupboard guide you. Having made this so many times with so many combinations, I can now say with confidence what Laurent told me when he first described the dish, “You’ll love it.”
A word on size and servings: In Paris, I make these with the small pineapples known as Victorias. They’re squat and compact and one fruit serves two to four, depending on what else is on the dinner menu and who’s around the table. In the United States, where pineapples are much larger, I figure one for six to eight people, usually eight. If you’d like, you can roast two pineapples at a time—the syrup multiplies easily.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Cut the top and bottom off the pineapple. Stand it upright and, using a sturdy knife, peel it by cutting between the fruit and the skin, following the contours of the pineapple. With the tip of a paring knife, remove the “eyes” (the tough dark spots). Cutting from top to bottom, quarter the pineapple and then cut away the core. Place the pineapple in a baking dish or small roasting pan that holds it snugly while still leaving you enough room to turn and baste the fruit.
Whisk the juice, liquor and jelly, jam, or marmalade together. Don’t worry about fully incorporating the jelly — it will melt in the oven — you just want to break it up. Pour the mixture over the pineapple, toss in the vanilla bean, if you’re using it, and scatter over the spices. Bake the pineapple for about 2 hours, basting and turning it in the syrup every 20 minutes or so, until it is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. The fruit should have absorbed enough of the syrup to seem candied. Allow the pineapple to cool until it is comfortably warm or reaches room temperature. Laurent strains the syrup and discards the spices, making the dish more elegant, but I leave them in because I love the way they look speckling the sauce; if you’re going to strain the syrup, do it while it’s hot — it’s easier.
The temperature you serve this at is, like so much of this recipe, up to you—warm or room temperature is best, but chilled is also good.
Dorie Greenspan's 10 cookbooks have won a total of six James Beard and IACP awards, including Cookbook of the Year. She is the author of Around My French Table and Baking Chez Moi (October 2014).