This is a delightfully simple but flavorful dessert: poached pears.
Poached pear is essentially a peeled and cored pear cooked (well, poached) in a sweet and spicy solution, then topped off with the poaching solution which has been cooked down to a syrup. The ingredient list sounds deceptively simple, but the flavor is really incredible and vibrant. The pears become translucent and incredibly tender, still retaining a distinct pear flavor, but complemented by a really vibrant citrus flavor that only enhances the pear. The vanilla and cloves add a really subtle, but interesting taste and aroma. This is a nice quick dessert to put together, but don’t let that fool you–this is really tasty and refreshing. This particular recipe is largely derived from The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert, which so far, has not done me wrong in the dessert department. This recipe isn’t entirely true to the original (which had some additional spices and raspberry coulis), but this was really tasty.
- 4-5 firm ripe pears (I like using Bosc)
- 1/2 lemon (to juice on the pears as you peel them so they don’t brown)
- 2.5 cups orange juice
- 2.5 cups water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 lemon zest strips
- 3 orange zest strips
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 1-2 whole cloves
- pinch of salt
Before you get started, zest your citrus in large slices (a paring knife is good here) and slit the vanilla bean lengthwise so that all of those seeds can come out to play. Now, get a good sized saucepan (make sure it can hold all of your pears) and mix everything in it except for the pears (I know, this dessert is intimidating so far!). Put this over high heat to get it to a boil.
While you wait for the mixture to boil, peel and core your pears, scooping out the core from the bottom so that you can leave the pears with stem intact (for presentation, of course). Have a half of a lemon handy so that you can squeeze some juice over each pear after you peel it to prevent them from browning before you get to cooking.
Once all of your pears are peeled and the solution is boiling, carefully place each pear in the solution, reduce the heat to medium, and cover. Periodically roll the pears around to ensure that they cook evenly, but be gentle so as not to break up your pears as they’ll get really soft and you don’t want to make pear soup.
After about 10-15 minutes of cooking time, take the saucepan off of the heat and give it some time (like 30 minutes or so) to cool down. Scoop out the pears, fish out the whole spices, and scrape the vanilla bean to ensure all of the seeds are in your syrup. Place the pears in a container and refrigerate.
Speaking of syrup, it doesn’t look very syrupy just yet. To fix this, now put the syrup on high heat and get it boiling. After about 10 minutes or so (whenever you’re happy with the thickness), take it off of the heat, let it cool, and pour it in with your pears, refrigerating together until ready to serve.