Thursday, February 28, 2013

Moscato Poached Pears with Pineapple

Plate of one half two kinds of pears with sauce and pineapple
Bosc (lower) and D'Anjou Poached Pears with Pineapple

Recipe by Robin

I don’t know about you, but  every winter I start dreaming about the tropics. Imagining abandoning my shoes, socks, jeans, and jacket (but not my hat) to walk carefree on some secluded beach. Donning flip-flops—known as slippers in my favorite locales—and heading over to the local farmers’ market to check out what produce can be grown in red dirt with plenty of rain and sun. Flirting with strange fruits and their vendors, chatting with local craftspeople, and selecting the most luscious from a huge number of pineapples by their scent. Alas, a trip to Kauai isn’t in the budget at the moment, but a can of organic pineapple chunks can add a sun-kissed touch to winter pears here on the mainland, especially when combined with a sweet California wine.

Whole Poached Pears on Platter
Recipe Adapted for Whole Pears
Tradition says that pears be poached whole, and indeed they look prettier that way, standing at attention on the serving platter. However, they are difficult to core, take longer to cook, and require more wine to poach than halved pears. Personally, I’d rather conserve as much wine as possible for drinking. So I halve and core the pears.  In either case, plop the pears into lemon water immediately after peeling to prevent them from turning too brown.

Firm winter pears are best for poaching. Don’t use overripe fruit. Boscs are classics for poaching, because they hold their shape, which is tall, curvy, and elegant. I’ve also had success with D’Angou. These are softer and require less cooking time, but have fewer stone cells, so are smoother in texture. Their shorter, chubbier shape looks fine when cut in half.

Pears Simmering in Liquid
The Poaching Process
Usually poached pears are eaten chilled, though you can experiment with eating them warm, say, with ice cream. My recipe offers two serving options. Simplest option is serving the fruit in the poaching liquid. Or choose to serve them topped with a thicker sauce, which is just a reduction of the poaching liquid. This requires more simmering time but looks fancier. Allow time to chill in either case.

You can adapt this recipe in many ways. Instead of Meyer lemons, try Eureka lemons or oranges. Substitute honey for the brown sugar. Try a cinnamon stick if you don’t have a vanilla bean. Use a different sweet wine. Keep in mind, though, that bad wine will never taste better when cooked, and in fact generally ruins whatever it is cooked with. Don’t use anything that you wouldn’t actually drink, unless the reason that you wouldn’t drink it is because it’s too sweet.

Pears, Moscato, Brown Sugar, Lemon, Vanilla bean and Pineapple
Just a Few Ingredients
Moscato Poached Pears with Pineapple
serves 6

5 - 6 firm pears
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1½ cups moscato or other sweet fruity wine
1 cup water
14  oz. can of organic pineapple chunks
6 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 - 2 tbsp. Meyer lemon juice
1 vanilla bean
½ tsp. Meyer lemon zest
Extra Meyer lemon zest: optional garnish

Fill a large bowl with water and add 1 tbsp. lemon juice to acidulate it. This will prevent the pears from turning too brown.

Peel pears, cut in half from top to bottom, and remove cores. Immediately slip each pear half into the acidulated water.

Split vanilla beans lengthwise and cut in half crosswise. Open up each piece of bean to expose the insides (they may close up again, and that’s okay).

Drain pineapple juice and measure out ½ cup. You might have to squeeze the fruit a little to get this amount.

Combine wine, 1 cup water, pineapple juice, brown sugar, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, vanilla bean pieces and ½ tsp. lemon zest in saucepan. Add as many pear halves as can be submerged. Leave any extras in acidulated water.

Bring liquid to a boil over medium high heat. Check to see if more pear halves can be added. Often you can add 1 – 2 halves. Lower heat to medium and cover to simmer.

Keep pears at a medium simmer. Cook until soft, but don’t overcook so they’re mushy. If a sharp knife can pierce them without resistance, they’re done. This will take about 20 minutes, and vary depending upon pear size, type, age, etc.

Add pineapple chunks and cool the pears, pineapple, and liquid.

If you choose to serve them as is with their liquid: remove the vanilla beans and store in the refrigerator. Serve when completely chilled, garnished with lemon zest.

If you choose to serve them with sauce:

Remove pears and pineapple from liquid with slotted spoon. Chill pears and pineapple in refrigerator.

Scrape the insides off each vanilla bean and add the vanilla granules to the liquid, discarding the hulls.

Cook liquid over medium high heat, stirring frequently, until liquid is just visibly thickened. This will take about 30 minutes and result in about 3/4 cup of sauce. Chill sauce in refrigerator (it will thicken more as it cools.)

Serve pears and pineapple drizzled with sauce and garnished with lemon zest.

Plate of Poached Pears topped with Sauce and Lemon Zest
Recipe with Pineapple Juice and Bosc Pears, no Pineapple

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