Hazelnut Pear Flambé
These shorter days of autumn mean less variety at the fruit stand. Once again the produce bins are filled with apples and pears. In muted shades of red, green and yellow, pears subtly complement the rounder shape, glossier color even the crisp texuture of seasonal apples. Yet all the while pears gently hint at a quiet complexity and sophistication apples can only dream of.
I have always found pears fascinating though, I must admit, I only started cooking with them recently when I suddenly seemed to get the hang of ripening them at home and figuring out when they were ready to use. After poaching pears and roasting pears last year, I recently found even more great hints on choosing and ripening pears at Sizzleworks. So, when I was recently unable to find the suggested ingredients for a cheesecake topping, the first thing I thought of as a substitute was pears.
It didn't hurt that I also found this wonderful recipe on an old newspaper clipping from the Oregonian. I saved it because of its combination of simplicity and drama as well as its inspiration to combine Asian spices and Northwest pears and hazelnuts. I was also intrigued by the step that called for setting it aflame! I've always wanted to master a flaming dessert and add it to my repertoire.
Of course, the flambé step here is optional. If you don't have the time or interest for the drama this recipe will still taste terrific. It can even be made ahead, if desired, to cut down on last minute preparation. I must say though, especially if you like to entertain as you cook, the flambé step adds a lot of interest at serving time.
This dessert sauce fits into a number of different seasons gracefully depending on what it tops, ice cream or cheesecake, gingerbread or pancakes. It’s uniquely spiced fruit and earthy crunch lend Northwest flair to a variety of simple but elegant desserts.
Hazelnut Pear Flambé
adapted from FOODday where it was attributed to "Martin Yan Quick and Easy"
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
2 pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 - 1/2 cup hazelnuts
Place a frying pan on the stovetop over medium heat. When hot, add the butter, brown sugar and five-spice powder. Stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
Increase heat to high. Add the hazelnuts and pears to the sugar mixture and cook until the pear is tender, approximately 2 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the rum over the mixture. Be sure you are not standing over the pan, that the pan is not under an exhaust fan, and that it is clear of any flammable items, then CAREFULLY set the rum aflame. Return the pan to the stovetop and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.
Spoon the Hazelnut Pear topping over cheesecake, gingerbread, pancakes or coconut ice cream.
Serve and enjoy!