Its been raining on and off for the last two days.
The temperatures have dropped significantly.
My light jacket is out- the cooler has been switched off.
There is a slight nip in the air.
Yes, fall is getting here.
And that means the season of crisps, pies and a lot of comfort food is here.
It also is the perfect time to poach fruits. To preserve them for colder days when they stop being available in the market, or to eat them now as part of the pre-celebration of fall days!
In Season 2 MasterChef USA, it was Jennifer’s pan-seared scallops appetizer, stuffed quail entree, and poached pear and cider apples that won over the judges’ taste buds, making her the proud owner of the title MasterChef.
When I saw that such a simple dessert wowed the judges, I was intrigued.
I could have never imagined the powers of a poached fruit.
That is until I made my own.
Poaching is gentle, stove-top cooking, and winter pears are ideal candidates since they keep their shape. Poaching also improves the taste of banal pears. The longer the pears sit in the flavorful syrup after poaching, the better they’ll taste. But, be sure to start with firm, ripe pears.
Poaching pears couldn’t be easier, but during cooking, the one thing you want to watch out for is the pears either poking out of the water, or not cooking them enough. Either will cause the pears to discolor. You want to make sure they cook evenly, and thoroughly. And also that you do not over cook them, else they will turn into mush.
If you have been following this blog, you might recall that I was assigned Jane’s blog: The Heritage Cook for September’s SRC.
While going through her vast collection of recipes, I stumbled on this piece of gem.
I was in love with the recipe (wine and fruits-yes, please!) and loved the ease with which it came together.
Plus it did make a swanky presentation!
As Jane puts it perfectly,
These are incredibly easy to make and yet they look like something Wolfgang Puck would create for his post-Oscars bash.
The first time Jane tried this recipe was when she had some friends over for dinner and this dessert was the show stealer. I can now imagine how!
I used the Asian Pears we picked on our trip to Apple Annie’s Orchard. And since I was on an “eat-locally” roll, the wine used was also from the nearby vineyard.
Jane was kind enough to let me know that since I would be using Asian pears, the time required to poach them would be longer than the Bartlet ones she used.
She was right. It took me about 30-40 minutes for the pears to be soft enought to pierce through with a fork.
I did not have any mascarpone. Can’t find it where I live.
Instead, I served it with ice cream. And still everything came together beautifully. I served this to my dad just before he left and am glad I chose this as the finale dish- its always nice to know that he is taking “sweet” memories back with him.
You can customize the poaching liquid to suit your taste, adding different spices, fresh ginger, or a different wine, champagne and a little rum or brandy (preferably a dark liquor) to the mix.
Lemon juice, cinnamon, cloves, vanilla bean, peppercorns, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, tea, coffee, or any warm herb or spice are great flavor components for poached fruit.
You can also change sweeteners, using honey instead of sugar. Just be sure to keep it relatively simple. Believe me you will NOT regret the simplicity.
Pears, apples and peaches are the most common poaching fruits, but experiment with any fruits you have handy.
RED WINE POACHED PEAR
Adapted from The Heritage Cook
Originally adapted from Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook
This is an elegant and low-fat dessert.
- Pears and Granita
- 3-3/4 cups (one 750-ml bottle) Cabernet Sauvignon or other full-body wine (I used the Meritage ’09)
- 1-1/2 cups fresh orange juice
- 1 tbsp grated orange zest
- 1-1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 firm Bartlett pears, peeled, halved, and cored (I just peeled and cored them, but you could half them as well)
- Mascarpone Filling
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar, or to taste
- 2 tbsp plus 2 tsp coarsely chopped, toasted pistachio nuts
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish