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Monday, December 9, 2013

Poached

It's been ages since I've poached pears.  Typically, I toss sliced pears into salads or crisp them up in the oven for chips.  The last time I poached them was for a swanky holiday supper at my father's house on his lakeside farm. Although my father was a big time bourbon drinker, he always stashed boxes of cheap red wine on the enclosed second story back deck. While the wine might have been drinkable, I used a few glugs of the cheap stuff to poach pears as a savory side to accompany the familiar holiday trappings. I'm not really sure the glistening ruby-red pears brought a heck of a lot to the party, but they definitely packed a stunning unexpected punch to reward my self indulgent folly. More is more. I haven't thought much about those pears since that night.


It's coming on Christmas. Michael and I have quietly embraced the season. Every night, pierced by the warm glow of a gazillion lights reflecting through snow globes, we chug wine in our parlor and try to untangle the twisted mess of the past year. Christmas. Strategies. Plans. Angst. Joy. In the midst of it all, I remembered those happy holiday pears.

Most preparations for poached pears require tons of sugar simmered in wine (red or white) to create simple syrups for pear desserts. Nope. I reduced the amount of sugar and took a savory route.

Small effort. Big payoff. Really.

Red Wine Poached Pears with Chevre.
After peeling four firm Bosc pears, I left two whole before coring and halving the other two, leaving the stems attached. I filled a stock pot with a bottle of Merlot, added black peppercorns, fresh lemon juice, 2 bay leaves, a whole semi-dried chili pepper, 3 cloves, and 1/2 cup sugar to balance the acidity in the wine. I carefully plunged the pears into the wine, brought the wine to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, covered the pot, and let the pears poach until they were tender, turning them over in the simmering wine every 10 minutes to insure they cooked evenly. I used very firm (almost under-ripe) pears, so it took about 40 minutes until they were tender enough to pierce with a knife.

I pulled the pot from the heat and let the pears come to room temperature in the reduced wine. When they were completely cooled, I carefully placed them into a deep pan with the aromatic wine, covered them with plastic wrap, and slid them into the refrigerator to chill overnight. Occasionally, during wine refills or snack attacks, I basted the pears with the chilled wine until they were deeply stained. Like fruity sponges, they continued to absorb the wine.

I knew I was going to fill the pears with cheese. Wine and cheese. Classic. Pears pair beautifully with any blue veined varieties, so I thought about gorgonzola or stilten. I toyed with the notion of grating Boone Creek Creamery blackberry wine-infused gruyere ( my current favorite) over the pears, but that seemed like overkill. In the end, I went with whipped cracked black pepper chevre.

After nestling the pears onto baby arugula, I piped enough whipped chevre to fill the hollowed-out cores, seasoned them with pepper, drizzled the reduced poaching wine over the flesh, and finished with a scattering of candied pecans.

With hints of pepper, chili, and bay, the soft acidity of the wine balanced the inherent sweetness of the pears, tipping them over to the savory side. Paired with the subtle graininess of the cooked pears, the creamy tang of the chevre and the sweet crunch of the pecans created a fantastic play on textures.

Holiday (or any day) Red Wine Poached Pears.


Simple.
Festive.
Fun.








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