Sunday, June 1, 2008

Pretty Poached Pears

Yay, alliteration! hahah. Apparently, poached fruit is a tradition at Ukrainian Christmas dinner (as my Momma told me at dinner that night)… though, I was ignorant of this when I decided to tackle this recipe, I was thrilled that this “test run” could be seen as great foresight and impressive culinary work. Or something. hah.

This is a recipe that I have wanted to try for so long… but I have to say that I was completely intimidated. Now that I have done it, I’m annoyed that I never took the chance sooner, as it is so EASY! And, I mean easy… it’s almost the same amount of work as the tabbouleh. So, if you tried that recipe, you’ll realize that this dessert is equally attainable and not be put off giving it a test run of your own.
Putting it into perspective…
Think of this like a Christmas sangria! You’re wondering where I got the reference… well, in this recipe, basically, you make a mulled wine, then cook your fruit. Any of us can handle that. You could also make two pots of the wine, one for your pears and one for you. Now, that’s my idea of good cooking.

As much as I am a foodie, I am a realist too… somewhat. I’ve fallen into the trap of buying really good vanilla, but I know that the likelihood of my stocking allspice berries or cardamon pods is slim. Just use what you have, add what flavours you enjoy… you can’t go wrong.

Ingredients Required
- 8 pears
- 1 bottle of red wine (2 bottles, if you need warming up)
- 1 unwaxed lemon
- ½ cup sugar
- spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cardamon, cloves… what else is hiding in your spice cupboard??
Supplies Required
- a wide and deep saucepan (an electric frying pan could work here)
- peeler
- a big spoon or ladle
- a knife

Credit where it is due… I used the poached pears and peaches in spiced wine recipe from Food for Friends by Fran Warde as a starting point. Once I had the general idea, I tweaked... as usual.

Drum roll, please...
1. When you are at the grocer’s, make sure that you select pears that are reasonably ripe (still firm, but not rocks) or that you buy the pears in advance so that they have time to ripen at home. I put the pears in the fridge about an hour before I started so that the peeling would be easier. Now… Peel, peel, peel the pears.
2. Wash, then thinly slice your lemon.
3. Ravage your cupboard and pick your favourite winter spices.
4. Keeping in mind how many pears you are planning on preparing, use the appropriately sized saucepan. In a saucepan, combine your wine, lemon slices, sugar, and spices. I used cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and star anise (the only reason I have the star anise is from a novelty kitchen gift… but feel free to find and buy it yourself!). Some recipes, including the one that I adapted this recipe from, have you add the pears right from the start, I like to have the wine take on the flavours of the citrus and spices before adding the pears. I think that it makes for a more consistent flavour.
5. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
6. Add your peeled pears. If you can stand the pears in the pan, you will avoid having any dark spots or pressure “sores” on the sides of the pears. If you can’t fit the pears standing, set them in whatever way you can. You may just want to rotate or flip them throughout the “curing” process.

7. Bring the spiced wine to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.
8. Take off the heat (or turn off your electric frying pan) and set aside, allowing time for the flavours to infuse. You can leave the pears for 1 – 2 hours.
9. Now, depending on your mood and tastes, you can serve the pears warm, cold or at room temperature. This time, I went with room temperature. But, plan for whatever temperature, start to warm the pears about 20 minutes before serving (In the wine, so that they don’t dry out.) or put the pears in the fridge well before dinner. Or, leave them on the counter until you’re ready to plate. Or, just forget about them and serve them at room temperature by default (or “as planned.”)
10. Service options… I served my pears in a little puddle of whipping cream, a drizzle of the spiced wine reduction, and a dusting of icing sugar. Very easy and appeared to be quite decadent. The original recipe, mentioned above, added peach halves (You could easily use the canned peaches for this, though you may want to rinse them to remove excess juice and sugar.) to the pears and wine after it was taken off of the heat. When plated, the peach halves were placed on the plate (round side down) with the pear sitting on top. You could also make a sweet marscapone whip and add a dollop to the plate before setting the pear on top. It can be quite a rich dessert, even though it doesn’t seem as such. Keep that in mind when pairing or garnishing.
TRY plating this dessert… It makes it feel that much more extravagant.

Red Wine Reduction
1. Remove your pears from the spiced wine and set aside.
2. Return to the heat and bring the wine to a gentle simmer.
3. Simmer the liquid until it reaches the desired consistency or syrup-like level. If it gets too thick, just add a bit of wine, stir to combine and it should loosen up.
4. That’s it! You now have a red wine reduction that sounds incredibly pretentious but required absolutely no effort.

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