Tuesday, June 1, 2010

JG's Pears

Photo by Rick Bruner

One of my best friends Jeannette asked me to post this one.  These "poached" pears look deceptively difficult but are really easy to make.  I dipped these in dark chocolate, and served them with a chunky spiced cranberry sauce, with a pizzelle cookie on the side (cause they're pretty!)

In retrospect, I might have dipped the cookie in chocolate rather than the pear as that was more challenging than it needed to be, but either way it's a nice dessert warm or cold.

For the pears;
Bosc pears are my favorite because of the shape, color and flavor but you could substitute red pears as well
one and a half bottles of white wine, I suggest something like a Pouilly Fuse or a sweet Chardonnay
Cloves - whole, around a tablespoon give or take depending on your fondness for that flavor
Sugar - about a cup and a half and a second measure of about a cup
Vanilla extract

For the cranberry sauce;
One to two bags of whole fresh cranberries
Two large oranges - you're going to need both the skin and the flesh of at least one
one cup of sugar (give or take)
water - about 2 - 3 cups per bag
Dried chili powder if you want to add a little kick

Get the pears started first.  Peel and core the pears - if you found some with stems, then leave the stems in tact - don't worry about getting it perfect, part of the home made appeal are the variations you'll see in the final presentation.

In a large pot, combine the wine, cloves and the first cup of sugar over medium heat - bring to a slight simmer and dissolve the sugar.  Add the pears - they'll float but if possible arrange them so that the bulb of the fruit is submerged.  You'll probably have to move them around while they cook.

Once the pears are in, I like to bring the whole thing to a rolling boil once, then bring the heat down to low/medium- ish, cover the pot and let it simmer taking care not to let it boil again, for 30 to 45 min.

Now, you could zest the orange but I like the texture of slivers so carefully slice the orange skin off of at least one if not both oranges - leaving the white part or the pith behind.  Slice the orange skin into slivers and set aside.

Remove the pith and membrane from the orange, and cut up the flesh to chunks and set aside.  Squeeze the juice out of the second orange and set aside (you can use the same dish as the cut up orange).

In a separate pot, combine cranberries, oranges, orange juice and skin, sugar.  Add water till the top layer of cranberries is almost but not completely covered.  Over low heat, stew the berries, with a lid on the pot stirring occasionally - you'll start to notice that the cranberries 'burst, let them - but don't make an effort to smash them, part of the pleasure if the chunkiness of the sauce.  Stir in the chili powder if you want to add a little kick.  Set aside - refrigerate if you're going to serve the dessert chilled.

Give the pears a poke with a fork - you're looking for "al dente" here - soft enough to get the fork in, firm enough to keep their shape. Better to err on the side of firm here.  When you like the texture, turn off the heat and fish the pears out of the liquid.  If you have a rack - like a cooling rack, place the pears on it to drain a bit, if not set them aside on top of a stack of paper towels.  They need to be a little drier to dip and hold the chocolate.

Now tend to the liquid in the pot - give it a taste, do you like the level of sweetness?  Do you need to add more sugar? Turn the heat on to the low side of medium, and bring it to a simmer.  Slowly add the remaining sugar stirring as you go along until the liquid becomes syrupy.  Add a couple of drops of vanilla extract here (only if you want to)  Set aside.

In a microwave proof bowl large enough to dip the pears in, melt the chocolate  - yes I know, it's so much cooler to do it in a double boiler but we're trying to keep it simple here.  If you want to do the extra dishes, have at it.  Otherwise back to the microwave.  I find microwaving in 30 and 60 second intervals with a good stir in between results in the smoothest melt.

Now, one at a time take a pear, dry it lightly in a clean paper towel (just pat it, don't rub!) and holding the stem, dip it in the chocolate.  This is going to make a huge mess unless you're particularly adept at handling chocolate.  Personally I'm still trying to figure out how I got chocolate on my knee.  a tidier option would be to dip the cookie, but where's the fun in that?

Set the dipped pears on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or wax paper or parchment, and when you've dipped them all, move the tray to the fridge to get the chocolate to harden.  Now if you're like me and in a NY apartment this takes some maneuvering.  Go ahead.  We'll wait.  You have a choice here - either let the entire dish cool through to serve dessert cold, or pull it out of the fridge the second the chocolate sets.

To serve;
Place a spoonful of the chunky cranberry sauce on a plate making a little pile, put a pear down in the center and let the cranberry sauce help to hold it up. Drizzle a little bit of the syrup on the pear, add a cookie - and poof!  It looks way fancier than it really is.

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