21 March 2009
Poached Pears with Red Fruit and Ginger
I never thought I liked poached pears. Until quite recently I had never even eaten one. Until this past year I had never intentionally poached anything. To me poaching conjures up visions of partially cooked eggs in free form, taking on any shape they like in the poaching water. Like patterns in tea leaves, there is something sort of revealing and creepy about that.
But then thumbing through "Table for Two: French Recipes for Romantic Dining" I saw several illustrations of poached pears, one whole and one halved, and both were so beautiful. The curve of their side, the color of their delicate flesh, the expected and yet surprisingly lyrical asymmetry of their form, make them pleasing to look at, to draw or to study. Pears are really such a lovely photogenic fruit, inside and out.
I have so few recipes with pears, I tend to just eat them raw, sliced when perfectly ripe. Just thinking about their luscious flavor makes my taste buds dance. With a good cheese, a sliver of ripe pear can be the perfect complement. Enhancing a salad of arugula with walnuts, pears add a lovely note of tart sweetness. A simple fresh pear is a wonderful addition to a meal.
Still, for a beautiful presentation, a poached pear can’t be beat. So I chose the recipe on page 149, read it, then I changed almost everything. The result was delightful! Here’s what I did…
Poached Pears with Red Fruit and Ginger
2 pears *
2 cups poaching liquid (white wine or water, for example)**
½ cup sugar
¼ dried cherries
¼ dried cranberries
3 Tablespoons minced crystallized ginger, divided
mint leaves, slivered
First, find two beautiful pears, They should not be too ripe, as poaching can add nothing to an already perfectly ripe pear. But then again, they should not be too under-ripe. Poaching cannot bring that silken soft pear texture to a piece of hard fruit. No, like Goldilocks looking for a bed, you want the pears to be “just right.”
Peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. With a grapefruit spoon or melon baller, carefully scoop out the seed section leaving a small well for the stuffing. Dip the pear halves in a small bowl filled with water and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Set aside.
Pour 2 cups of a white wine into a tall saucepan, just large enough for the pears. I used chardonnay and also tried a pear wine for the poaching liquid. Another time I used 1 cup of pear sake and 1 cup of green tea. Each had a slightly different flavor, but all were good. I think you could also use two cups of water or fruit juice, if you prefer.
Add ½ cup sugar (omit if using fruit juice for poaching) and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
When the liquid is boiling turn it down to a low simmer. Add the pear halves. Cover and simmer for ten minutes.( If your pears are on the ripe side it may not take quite as long, extremely unripe pears will take longer.)
Remove from heat. Reserve 3/4 cup of the poaching liquid. Let the pears cool in the remaining poaching liquid in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, place the ¾ cup of reserved poaching liquid in a small saucepan and cook, stirring constantly over medium heat, until reduced by half.
Combine the dried cherries, dried cranberries and 2 Tablespoons of minced ginger in a small bowl. Pour the reduced liquid over the berry mixture, cover and store in the refrigerator for several hours, or overnight, while the pears cool.
Drain pear halves and place on individual serving dishes. Fill the cavity with approximately 1 Tablespoon of the fruit mixture and several spoonfuls of the juice. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios, slivered mint leaves and minced candied ginger pieces. Garnish with a mint sprig, if desired.
Makes four servings.
*Most sources I have found recommend Bosc pears for poaching. I found that other varieties poached nicely as long as they were not too ripe. StarKrimson is a good choice. Simple Anjou pears worked fine, as did Comice when put in a mixture of lemon juice and water immediately after peeling. Again, the main thing is not the variety but the stage of ripeness.
**To double the recipe you might want to add 2 cups of water and ½ cup sugar to the poaching liquid.