Saturday, April 28, 2012

Poached Pears in 20 Minutes

This is a last minute recipe that can be put together after the main course is in the oven.  You peel the pears while the sugar is melting into the water to create a sugar syrup. By the time the sugar syrup is ready and simmering, the pears are also ready to go into the pot.

Twenty minutes later, the pears are tender but still firm enough to stand on their own and the luscious flavors of the poaching liquid have combined with the pear’s natural character.  The poaching liquid is boiled down to a golden syrup while the peas cool on their serving plate. 

We had these with drizzled with melted chocolate and a dollop of whipped cream.  If we’d had vanilla ice cream we’d have enjoyed Poire belle Helene.  My favorite way to eat these is over pound cake with the extra syrup drizzled everywhere. 

Poaching liquids are simple.  This one uses a light sugar syrup (e.g. the ratio of sugar to water is low) plus a vanilla bean, star anise, lemon peel and a good shot of Drambuie.  If you don’t have star anise, proceed without it’s light anise tone.  Drambuie is a liqueur made from whiskey and provides a mellow butterscotch flavor that pairs really well with lemon peel.  Look in your liquor cabinet for your favorite or use fruit juice if you don’t want to use alcohol.  Dark rum, pear liqueur, port, red or white wine can all be used in place of Drambuie.  If substituting with fruit juice, try apple or pear juice.  Cranberry juice will add a light rosey hue to the pears. 

Poached Pears
Ingredients
4 Bosc pears
Water- place unpeeled pears in a pot so they are close together.  Fill with water so that most of each pear is covered.  Remove pears, measure water. 
Sugar- use 1/2 cup of sugar for every cup of water.
Peel of half a lemon
1/2 vanilla bean
1 star anise, whole
2 ounces Drambuie

Method
  1. Over medium heat, melt sugar into the water.  Stir to help the mixture combine as it begins to simmer.  Sugar syrup is ready when the liquid is no longer cloudy, but crystal clear.  
  2. While sugar melts, peel pears, leaving stem intact.  Slice a small piece from the bottom of each to create a level surface if pears cannot stand on their own.  
  3. Add remaining ingredients to poaching liquid with pears.  Lower heat and poach pears for 20 minutes with the pot covered.  The liquid will barely bubble.  Do not let pears boil; it will damage the flesh.  
  4. After 20 minutes, test the pears with a sharp knife.  They should be very tender.  
  5. Remove cooked pears to a platter and turn up heat to boil down liquid to a golden syrup, about 1/3 its original volume.  Remove from heat and cool slightly.  Pour over pears to serve.  
Store leftover pears in syrup.

The poaching liquid is very clear until boiled down.