9.20.2014

Perfectly Poached Pears

Mark and I usually agree on most things. After almost 20 years, it is kind of amazing.

Where we don't see eye-to-eye, though, is dessert. For him, dessert once or twice a year is an ample sufficiency. Seriously, this is a clinical personality disorder. For me, every meal needs closure with a sweet. Even if only a spoonful of ice cream or a square of chocolate, I need that culinary punctuation mark to finish my dinner.

We are constantly at odds about what I should make for dessert, especially if we are having guests. I want to make something to show that I care, and he tells me that fruit and cheese would be lovely.

I always agree to the fruit and cheese, but I know I will still want something sweet after. For him, it's one or the other; for me, why not both? There are a few desserts on which we can agree. Poaching pears is, without exception, one of them.

We both love them, and they are, in fact, a very elegant finish, especially with cheese.

They are simple to make, can be done a couple of days in advance and chilled, and - a bonus - they are healthy.

When I met Mark, he would poach pears in plain sugar water and serve with a tart-sweet raspberry sauce. These pears, however, were poached in red wine and spiced with lavender, honey, cinnamon, and cloves, and sauced with a reduction of their own poaching liquid. The options are pretty much endless... White wine, honey and rosemary. Port wine, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sake and ginger. Whatever your imagination can come up with.

Look what Mark gave me for my birthday!
Poached pears - a sweet and perfect finale!

~ David

Honey and Lavender Poached Pears

4 small Bosc pears
1 bottle red wine
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon lavender buds
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick

Peel and core the pears, leaving the stem end intact.

Bring remaining ingredients to a simmer. Add pears. If there is not enough wine to cover them, add more wine or water. To keep them submerged for even coloring, place a small plate (Markipedia calls it a twiffler) on top of the pears to weigh them down. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until pears are soft and easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. (Cooking times will vary based on the ripeness and size of the fruit.)

Put pears in a glass container and cover with some of the cooking syrup. Cool in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, boil down remaining syrup until it is thickens somewhat. Let cool.

Serve napped with sauce and a garnish of mint. A creamy blue cheese (gorgonzola dolce, for example) makes a wonderful accompaniment, as does a hard nutty cheese.

Serves 4.

28 comments:

  1. Wow this took me back! About 17 years ago, my dad (who never ever cooks) decided to make poached pears from Bon Appetit magazine... it went down in our family's history as a monumental event and I'll never forget the smell of the house! I had totally forgotten about that until now, and you've inspired me to remake this! Perfect fall recipe - I love that you added lavender! I might add in a bit of cardamom :) Have a fabulous weekend!

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    1. I actually made these last summer and photographed them then so that I could publish them now, when pears are back in the markets! Until YOU mentioned it, Ahu, I had forgotten how nice they make the house smell when you are cooking. Cardamom pears sounds lovely! Good luck with the move...

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  2. I love poached pears. I wish technology allowed a "scratch-and-sniff" patch on the post... although your descriptions and photographs are so vivid that they alone evoke the fragrant smells I associate with such dishes! What's the best way to see if pears are ripe?

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    1. That is a good question, Susan. Certain pears - Bosc and Seckel - are harder than others, even when ripe. I tend to sniff, but have also cut into pears that still needed at least a few days. Bartletts, Anjou, and Comice are a little easier. Aside form the honeyed fragrance, they tend to give a little when squeezed. DOn't squeeze too hard, though, as they bruise easily.

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  3. Once or twice a year?? I need dessert more than that! My hubby is like you, everyday is best for him. I can do a couple times a week. Dinner parties always have to have atleast two desserts. One thing we do like are these poached pears. These are so beautiful David! We don't drink, so I used raspberry purée when I poaced mine or simple spiced syrup. They still taste wonderful. I love the addition of the lavender. Hope you're well, my friend! xx

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    1. I think the lavender and raspberry would be a wonderful combo, Nazneen! You make me think that using bottles of flavored syrup to poach would be fun, too. Think of all the options there!

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  4. Hi David, we are having guests tonight for dinner and I was struggling to find something sweet that was not too unhealthy. These pears are exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! 20 years is a long time, my husband and I have been together 23. Sounds like you cherish each other.

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    1. That is so sweet, Cheri! Isn't it amazing how quickly time passes? Sometimes I feel like I must be mistaken, and then I do that math... Yep, 20 years. I hope you like the pears - they really are the best ending to a meal. Today, though, I am making "Connie's PMS Brownies" for a cookbook I am reviewing. You will see those in a couple of weeks... but healthy, they aren't. :)

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  5. A particular favorite of mine, and now that I live in pear-a-paLOOZA land, a staple on my dinner party table. I drape it in a chocolate port wine sauce, or fan them over pound cake or chocolate cake and drizzle the reduced poaching liquid over. NOMNOMNOM!!! And you know I love Mark dearly, but no dessert? That is just WRONG! :-) xoxo

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    1. You know, one of my few culinary quirks (a quirk being very different from an allergy) is that I don't like chocolate and pears together. Go figure, right? But pears in most any other way are, indeed, fabulous. Lucky you to have so many at your disposal!

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  6. I'm with you - on dessert that is! We love poached pears and serve them often. They are always elegant.

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    1. I think it is the elegant presentation possibilities that make me love these!

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  7. David, poached pears are a totally underrated dessert if you ask me - one of the girls came home from a friend´s house the other day carrying a huge bag of freshly picked pears from her friend´s grandma - guess what I prepared with them - cake and poached pears - my recipe is totally different from yours but I am quite intrigued by your version now! These pears do look elegant, dear friend!
    Have a wonderful week - the weather is definitely getting cooler around here!
    Liebe Grüsse von uns allen,
    Andrea - P.S.: If you were in Cologne during the last week of October, you could join me for a reading of Stevan Paul´s new book (remember "Deutschland Vegetarisch") and get a signed copy of his new book - I am the proud owner of 2 tickets - the event was sold out in 45 minutes... plus attend a cooking event the same week with me...with lots of German chefs..

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    1. How do you make your poached pears, dear Andrea? I should also have mentioned that I love roasting them. Perhaps a future post?

      Sadly, I will miss the book event in October. Our trip won't take place till the summer. (We are already looking at flights...) I hope you enjoy getting to meet Stevan Paul!

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  8. Oh David that colour. That colour! So beautifully rich and inviting. Whilst I'm not one that needs a sweet ending after most meals, I would prefer it more than twice a year. On the other hand I'm quite happy with a little cheese and fruit as well.

    Hmmm, am I a fence-sitter? Nah.

    Love the sound of poaching the pears in port and spices. Perhaps crumble a sharp French goat cheese over the top afterwards? I reckon Mark may take a bite ;)

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    1. Haha, John - Mark actually ate these with pleasure... and with some gorgonzola dolce imported from Italy. The goat cheese sounds like a good idea, too. Next time!

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  9. Gosh, David, this looks delightful.
    I've never poached pears before, but lavender, honey and cloves...oh my.
    And that deep burgundy colour, beautiful shape, the even lines from where you peeled them...just a beauty!
    This w/end, I'm putting your rx onto my menu. xo

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    1. Thanks. Colette. I really liked how the peeling lines seemed to be mirrored in the faceted spoons! I hope you like them!

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  10. Well I think you know I too think a cheese platter sounds lovely (and more than sufficient). But the host in me would never allow that to be the only dessert, so I'll tuck this idea away for later. GREG

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    1. And, Greg, since you have been in a tart-y mood lately, these poached pears make for a great pear and frangipane concoction. Just saying...

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  11. The pear pictures are simply stunning. Like paintings. I'm with you -- every meal needs a little something sweet to follow. So lovely you both enjoy this gorgeous dessert!

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    1. Thanks, Valentina! "Like paintings..." - what a wonderful compliment!

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  12. Lovely poached pears, especially with a good slab of pan seared foie gras...

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    1. Oh, Dedy! You always know how to take it to the next level!

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  13. I'm with you... a sweet morsel most nights! And I LOVE this dessert. Beautiful photos too!

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    1. Thanks, Liz - nice to know I am not the only one seeking closure at the end of a meal!

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  14. Love the 'cup' pear!!! I agree, even just a square of chocolate is enough, but it is great to end the meal with something sweet. Although I do love a cheese'n'fruit platter too. I have been seeing a few posts on poached fruit and really think I should start making it, it truly is a simple, healthy, elegant way to end a meal.

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    1. Fiona - what other fruits have you seen poached? I can imagine apples and peaches/nectarines, but any others?

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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