One chef, one ingredient: Vanilla by Christophe Adam

Christophe Adam is among the most eminent French pastry chefs of his generation. After studying under Laurent Jeanin, he rose through the ranks to become head pastry chef at Fauchon in 2001. Today he offers his pastries in his own boutiques in Paris, L’Éclair de genie and Adam’s. He’s chosen to speak about vanilla.

What led you to choose this ingredient?

Christophe Adam: Vanilla is my favorite ingredient. Specifically, Madagascar vanilla, for its floral aroma. It is one of the essentials. I always keep a few vanilla beans in my kitchen.

What is your best kitchen memory associated with this ingredient?

Christophe Adam: A Napoleon accompanied by fingers of flaky pastry, a recipe I've revisited for Adam's.

When is this ingredient in season?

Christophe Adam: All year round!

What is the best way to prepare it? Can you share a recipe?

Christophe Adam: The simplest way is to infuse milk with vanilla, or to crush it into sugar to make vanilla sugar (20g vanilla for 100g sugar). These two methods bring out the flavor of vanilla to the fullest.

What other ingredients can be combined with vanilla to delight and surprise the tastebuds?

Christophe Adam: I recommend combining it with Norway lobster, flavored with vanilla and lime.

What are the most common mistakes made when preparing this ingredient?

Christophe Adam: Not using enough vanilla. Don't hesitate to really accentuate the vanilla flavor.

How do you offer this ingredient on your current menu?

Christophe Adam: At L'Éclair de Génie we offer a vanilla and pecan éclair.

What wine (or other alcohol) is best married with this ingredient?

Christophe Adam: Champagne!