There are some recipes that never, ever fail. Let’s consider the pear, a fave of mine because they’re one of the few fruits that can ripen on the window sill. (Except of course, my Asian pears from the backyard tree, which don’t taste like pears, never ripen and are used principally as compost fodder and wasp nectar.)
Lou was lured by the price: Bosc pears at a dime apiece. I love the elegant, slim-waisted Boscs, but these were tween pears; undersized, skinny and sullen. Oh, and harder than a cheap lip gloss.
I should have lined them all up on the kitchen windowsill to ripen, but I spared just two. I don’t need dessert every night, but last night I was feeling the poached pear love, so I peeled, seeded and poached. I know that any but my maddeningly useless Asian pears can be poached into something good, even skinny Boscs.
So: you don’t need good red wine, never a problem in my house. I slapped those pear halves in a pan, covered them with a slop of Châteaux Cheepo, dumped in too much sugar, some cinnamon and a couple of cardoman pods. I tastds the liquid, realized it was way too sweet, then added the grated peel of a lemon and all it’s juice. Those hard skinny pears took almost an hour to poach – the unlooked for bonus was a deep, thick, first-boil caramelly sauce. Even with sullen pears this worked like a dessert charm: if I’d been working with ripeBartlettsthe result would have been so much better.
I chilled the pears and warmed up the sauce. I tucked some ricotta into the scooped out belly of the pear halves, drizzled them with honey, then spooned the thickened sauce over everything. That spot of green garnish is a lemon balm leaf, chosen because it was pitch dark, the lemon balm surges outside my back door, and I’d have had to stagger in the dark to find the mint.
Oh man, they were good, and I remembered that Julia had taught me about poaching pears when I was a cooking neophyte in my twenties. Talk about cheap and cheerful, ageless and accessible. (White wine works well too.) Next time I’ll sub Greek yoghurt for the ricotta and I have a hunch it will be better. I wonder if I should have added some mint, or rosemary to the poaching liquid? Nemmind, I have four poached halves in the fringe, and two whole pears on the windowsill.