When I’m in the kitchen I like to think about individual ingredients and their personalities. If this peach were a person what would she be like? Would she be my friend or would she be so famous she’d have nothing to do with the likes of me? How would you approach Swiss meringue if she were alone at a bar? Would you be daunted by her smooth sexiness? Or would you blush at her purring demure voice?
What’s the first word that comes to mind when I say coriander?
Bold? Famous? Dashing? Shy? Awkward? Cavalier?
Can you describe what coriander tastes like? All alone, on its own?
If coriander was a musician it might be a base player in a good-looking band. It might not have a lot of stage presence but it would have a quiet following of smart girls. Bohemian. After the show it would smoke some all-natural cigarettes. Coriander, in fact, would probably take the time to roll its own little cigarettes, leaning back in its signature black turtleneck, nodding its floppy haired head.
Of course I’m talking about dried coriander. What we Californians call cilantro is another story, a whole other personality altogether. A livelier fellow indeed!
Because coriander is rarely found as a singled out flavor, but mostly as a back up singer or an under layer in an oil painting, its flavor profile is difficult to distinguish. We add ground coriander to Moroccan dishes where a number of spices are used to build a sauce. It is a necessary ingredient in most curries. A building-block spice. It makes other spices taste deeper, sweeter, more themselves. But because coriander is often used with cumin, cinnamon and other strong spice personalities, finding the soul of this back seat spice is one for a dedicated culinary detective.
On a recent menu I designed I wanted to create an apple dessert that didn’t taste like all the apple desserts I see and eat. Omitting cinnamon is the first way to set a sweet apple concoction apart. But apples do like being sidled up next to spices. Cooking apples in caramel is lovely, but sauteing apples in rosemary caramel is exquisite. The first time I tasted coriander in a dessert was almost 15 years ago at 231 Ellsworth when Phil Ogiela was their pastry chef. My mouth had a coriander tapioca epiphany and it is possible I was never the same afterwards. Ever after since I tried to find ways to incorporate the oft forgotten coriander into desserts I created.
Because there are few who do not like whipped cream with a warm apple dessert, I created Coriander Chantilly to both satisfy this comforting pairing, but also to introduce the coriander-as-sweet cynical to its delightful singular self.
Think it strange? What will you do with this bizarre recipe?
Give coriander, the background flavor, a chance to surprise you with its malleability, its chamelionesque-ness, its warm, sweet, subtly spicy personality. Ask this seeming wallflower to dance, I promise you will not be wasting your time, or your newly polished shoes.
2 Tablespoons Coriander Seeds
2 C Heavy Cream, not ultra pasteurized
1/2 Cup Sugar, or to taste
1. Toast coriander seeds in a small, non-reactive saucepan over very low flame.
2. When toasted, add 1 1/4 cups cream and sugar.
3. When cream is hot to the touch, whisk briefly and shut off heat and steep for one hour.
4. After steeping, turn on heat and get hot again. Do not boil!
5. Starting at a low setting, puree mixture in a blender. At the fastest setting, blend for a full two minutes.
6. Strain through a fine meshed sieve into a bowl with the other 3/4 cup cold cream. Using a spoon, press out as much of the infused cream from the solids as possible.
7. Chill over an ice bath or in the fridge, uncovered until cold to the touch.
8. Whip cream until desired stiffness, or keep as a liquid to pour over, English-style, any dessert you wish to.
Once chilled, coriander cream will keep, refrigerated, in a tightly covered non-reactive container for 10 days or until the date on the cream carton.
Coriander cream would be delicious paired with pears, apples, quince, persimmons, sweet squash preparations, and any desserts made with flaky, buttery pastry like pies, turnovers, crisps, and shortbread.
Enjoy something new and strange and delicious!