By Analiese Paik
In 2012 one of our main goals is to help our readers get back in the kitchen cooking seasonally inspired meals for themselves and their families. Welcome to Back to the Kitchen, our seasonal, home cooking series where you will find tried and true recipes and techniques using locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. In this post, you’ll find a simple recipe for stunning and beautiful poached pears that I make every year. Celeriac will be the first seasonal vegetable to be featured thanks to a new contributor to our website with professional training and many years of experience cooking sustainably for her family and private clients. Enjoy the pears and check back soon for more Back to the Kitchen posts.
Poaching pears in simple syrup, wine and whole spices is an easy yet elegant way to enjoy this abundant fall fruit. Poached pears are a fantastic make-ahead dinner party dessert and if you use red wine (please no cooking wine!), you will create the most gorgeous and irresistible, ruby-colored pears. I highly recommend using the fruit wines of Jones Winery and Bishop’s Orchards in this recipe, many of which have won awards. Chill whatever you don’t use in the recipe and serve it with dessert.
Please make sure the pears you select are firm and ripe but not overripe for this recipe. Overripe pears will turn to mush upon being cooked. Poached pears will win over even the pickiest eaters, even kids. Pack leftovers for a special school snack along with some yogurt and granola.
Technique Note: Poaching is the technique of cooking foods gently in a liquid just at the simmering point, not boiling. Try to keep the pears covered in the liquid or turn them often. If cooking a large number of pears, consider reusing the poaching liquid instead of doubling or tripling the recipe.
Ingredient Note: If you want specks of vanilla to appear in your poaching syrup, score the vanilla bean once lengthwise before adding to the pot. An uncut vanilla bean can be rinsed, dried and reused.
Makes 4 servings:
- 4 local or organic pears (or buy more pears and double or triple recipe for leftovers)
- 1 cup water
- 6 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 1 C red or white wine (Jones Farm’s
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 long piece cinnamon or 2 short pieces
- 2 star anise (optional)
- 8 oz. rBST-free or organic mascarpone cheese (optional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar or honey (optional)
- Finely chopped hazelnuts or walnuts (optional)
- Peel pears, leaving stems intact. You may wish to rub the pears with a cut lemon to prevent them from browning. If using red wine, this is unnecessary.
- Using the small end of a melon baller, remove cores by scooping from the bottom of the pear and working your way towards the top. Stop when you have removed the seed and surrounding core, leaving the top of the pear intact.
- In a deep saucepan just wide enough to hold pears in a single layer, combine water and sugar to make a simple syrup by bringing to a boil and melting the sugar.
- Add red or white wine – use whatever you have on hand or one of the fruit wines from Jones Winery or Bishop’s Orchards. If you are using a dessert or other sweet wine, the resulting dish will be sweeter unless you reduce the sugar a bit. Let it boil a minute or two to burn off the alcohol.
- Add the vanilla bean, cinnamon and star anise, reduce heat to a simmer, and add the pears.
- Simmer pears, turning often so all sides cook and color evenly, until tender but not falling apart, anywhere from 15-30 minutes depending upon the size of the pears and their degree of ripeness. Test with a paring knife for doneness; it should give no resistance when you insert it. I recommend turning the pears with a curved plastic spatula or wooden spoon to avoid bruising or mashing the fruit.
- When done, carefully remove pears from poaching liquid and set aside.
- Remove cinnamon, vanilla and star anise from poaching liquid. Raise heat to a boil and reduce poaching liquid until it has a syrup-like consistency. If you overcook it and it becomes too thick, just add a little water. Just don’t let it burn!
- If using mascarpone, either by hand or with a mixer, combine with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.
- I like to serve these warm, perched atop a dollop of sweetened mascarpone, with syrup drizzled on top and a sprinkling of nuts. You may store pears in syrup in refrigerator until ready to serve.
The Estate-Grown Fruit Wines of Bishop’s Orchards: http://fairfieldgreenfoodguide.com/2011/06/21/the-estate-fruit-wines-of-bishops-orchards/