Poached Pears

The first time I made and ate a poached pear was in culinary school.  They were one of the many things we poached in our poaching class and I remember being amazed at how easy it was.   They emerged from a pot of simmering wine and spices so elegant and tasty.  Among all foods that are poached, my vote for tastiest would be the pear (Chicken and seafood sausage – not so much).  I revisited poached pears while working at the restaurant and used tiny seckel pears as an accompaniment to buttermilk panna cotta.  Last week as I was digging around in my fridge I came across some ingredients that I thought would pair well with pears!!!

I picked up some comice pears at the market and headed home to put together a dessert using them, phyllo dough and fig butter.   After reading a little about pears I learned that comice pears are usually not good for poaching, they can become too soft, however mine worked just fine.  Bosc are what is recommended along with the tiny seckel pears.  In school we poached pears using both red and white wine.  I liked the ones done with red wine better,  plus they are prettier.  My poaching liquid recipe is below.  The method for poaching, as mentioned, is very easy.  First peel the pears, leaving them whole.

If you are not going to be serving them whole then you don’t have to poach them that way.  You could peel them and cut them in half, removing the core.   You want to place them in a pot that will allow for the liquid to cover the pears as well as allow for room between them.  They should be able to “swim” freely.

When poaching you don’t want the liquid to boil, it should stay at a gentle simmer, the correct poaching temperature is 185 degrees which allows for the pears to soften gradually.  I poached mine till a pairing knife could be slid to the core easily, about a half hour.  For the best flavor, you should let them cool in the cooking liquid.  Once the pears where cool I lifted them out and set them on a plate.  I then decided to reduce the cooking liquid down to a syrup.  All that delicious and flavorful liquid doesn’t have to go to waste.  The sauce can then be used for any number of things and is wonderful when drizzled over the pears before serving.  (We still have some in the fridge and Bryan has been experimenting with it as a cocktail sweetener.)

Ginger and Red Wine Poached Pears

4 pears (6 if using smaller variety)
1/2 cup ruby port
3/4 cup red wine (I used a blend)
1/4 cup brandy
2 inch knob of fresh ginger root, cut in a few slices
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
1 star anise pod
5 cardamom pods
1 cup dark brown sugar
water to cover

Combine all ingredients except the pears in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer to allow the sugar to dissolve.  Add pears and simmer gently till soft.
Cool in liquid (if you are going to store the pears, store in liquid in the fridge for up to 4 days).  If you would like to reduce the liquid to a sauce, put liquid back in the pot and bring to a boil, continue to boil till reduced by about 3/4 and it coats the back of a spoon.  Once cool it should have the consistency of maple syrup.

I ended up slicing my pears, pairing them with fig butter and putting them in mini tartlets.  They made for an elegant dessert – one that Bryan said was restaurant worthy. It is nice to know I haven’t lost my touch 🙂

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  1. Eileen

     /  January 30, 2011

    I love these posts Heather!! They always make me want to get up and cook – or – go out to a good restaurant:)

  2. Kate

     /  February 23, 2011

    Bryan was right…right out of a Gourmet magazine shoot. Remind me you have to make these when I see you next!


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