Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Reason to Eat Pears

I like pears, but only on occasion. They are a fruit that have about a 2 hour window of perfection, beyond that they become a bit mushy for me. Maybe I'm being picky, but it's a strange fruit to me. I enjoy the flavor, I even had pear ice cream when I was in Sweden (let me tell you, that was crazy). Due to this hesitation, I have very infrequently cooked with pears. But no more! I decided to give it a go with poaching pears, based off a recipe I saw in Bon Apetit. I made this salad for Christmas dinner, then made it again a week later for company, and then made it once more for Valentine's Day. Success! Not only was it fairly simple, but it could also be made way ahead of time, easing my preparation for a dinner.

The great thing about wine poaching pears is not only their retention of whatever you put in the wine, but you are essentially mulling the wine while you cook it. You can easily serve it with soda water as a spritzer or warm. I tried it, and with just a little bit of tinkering (it needed a little more sugar) it was really tasty as a before dinner drink.

A few final notes that deal with the budget of this dish. I buy my cinnamon sticks in a Mexican market, as they are often higher quality and much cheaper. This wine is being cooked, so don’t use a $20 bottle, buy something cheap but drinkable. As for the crystallized ginger, well, if you buy the kind in the bottle found in the spice aisle you will literally be shooting yourself in the foot. Look around your produce section for the same thing in a baggie or plastic container, it's easily 3 times cheaper.

Poached Pear Salad with Toasted Walnuts and Gorgonzola
Makes 6-8 salads

4 firm pears, halved and cored
1 bottle dry red wine
1 cup orange juice
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
5 pieces crystallized ginger, sliced
1 shallot, minced fine
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup gorgonzola, crumbled
1 cup walnuts
12 cups(10 ounce package) salad greens

You can easily make most of this dish a day in advance.

To toast the walnuts, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add nuts, toss occasionally until slightly brown. Let cool to room temperature.

To poach pears, add wine, orange juice, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and ginger to sauce pot over medium heat until simmering. Add pears, reduce heat to low, and keep at a simmer for ~30 minutes, turning pears occasionally. Pears should have a little give but still be firm. Cool pears in liquid to room temperature, then move to container and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.

To make dressing, add shallot, mustard, vinegar, and some salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil slowly. Season to taste, can store in refrigerator overnight. Better yet, add all of the ingredients to a small container, cap with a lid, and shake well. This is enough to emulsify the dressing without whisking.

To assemble salads, toss greens with enough dressing to coat. Slice pears and fan half of a pear on top of greens, add some walnuts (crumble them slightly with your hand) and some gorgonzola cheese. Enjoy.

To use the leftover poaching liquid, rewarm and add sugar to taste, or serve chilled with sparkling water.


citronetvanille April 23, 2010 at 12:54 AM  

Interesting to see food through eyes of a scientist, actually I think baking and chemistry are very much similar. Love those pears!

Skylar Wolfe April 23, 2010 at 12:30 PM  

Thanks! I love thinking about food from a science perspective, it makes things way more interesting.

Eftychia February 12, 2011 at 9:04 AM  

Interesting recipe. Interesting approach!! Thanks for sharing.

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