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!
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.
Adapted from The Heritage Cook
Originally adapted from Alfred Portale’s Twelve Seasons Cookbook
This is an elegant and low-fat dessert.
I used Asian Pears instead of Bartlet called for in the original recipe. Jane mentions that Bosc or Anjou work nicely too, so do Asian pears but the cooking time needs to be increased. In fact David Lebovitz recommends not using bartlett pears as they are soft from the start and can easily fall apart during poaching. But, since it worked for Jane, I assume it should be fine- just be careful to not over poach them in that case.
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)
- 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
In a saucepan, combine the wine, orange juice, both zests, sugar, vanilla bean, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the pears and poach for about 10 to 15 minutes (30-40 minutes if using Asian pears), until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife, turning them over halfway through cooking.
Tip: Cover with a small plate or a ring of parchment paper to keep the fruit submerged as it cooks. Simmer as gently as possible until the fruit is cooked through but still firm. Test by poking the fruit with the tip of a sharp, thin knife. The fruit is done when it offers no resistance but isn’t yet mushy.
Lift the pears from the pan and place carefully in a bowl.
Strain the poaching liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl. Measure 1/2 cup of the liquid and pour it over the pears (reserve remaining liquid). Cover and refrigerate pears.
Pour the remaining liquid into a shallow, metal pan and set it aside to cool. When cool, freeze for about 1 hour, or until the mixture is partially frozen and icy around the edges. Using a large spoon, break up the iced edges and stir them into the center. Freeze for about 1 hour longer and repeat the process. Let the granita freeze for about 2 hours or overnight. Before serving, scrape it into large crystals with a fork.
In a small bowl, gently whisk together the mascarpone cheese and sugar. Spoon the sweetened cheese into a pastry bag fitted with a #3 plain tip (or you can use a spoon).
Remove pears from the refrigerator and place each pear half in a shallow soup plate. Pipe a little of the sweetened mascarpone cheese into the space where the cores were in the pears. Place a small scoop of the granita next to the pears. Spoon a little of the reserved poaching liquid around the bowl. Sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.