Friday, November 16, 2012

Poached Pears

There is a reason why poached pears are always served as a round-up for a candlelight dinner. There they stand with such grace and elegance, adding to the meal an extra bit of romance and sophistication. I do also sense a subtle tinge of arrogance, but I guess that is exactly what is missing from most of the other desserts, thus makes poached pears more like a prize.

Last year, my best guy friend C asked me for dessert ideas since he would like to prepare a super duper romantic Valentine’s Day meal for his then girlfriend at his apartment in the US. Okay, a typical 20-year-old guy’s apartment has a wide variety of liquor but no electric mixer. So, unless you’re prepared to do an intense workout with your biceps and triceps, quite a number of desserts including soufflé and spongy cakes are to be ticked off.

In face of this, I suggested C to make either poached pears or molten chocolate cake, both of which are absolutely tasty, fuss-free and perfect for beginners or lazy bums who are keen to impress! In the end, C made molten chocolate cake to wow his then girlfriend, after all there’s an unshakable association between chocolate and Valentine’s Day. I should probably make a post on that later!

Poached Pears
(Serving: 4)
- 4 firm pears,
- 1 1/4 cup of red wine,
- 2/3 cup of water,
- 2 cinnamon sticks,
- 1/2 cup of sugar,
- 1 tablespoon of orange zest,
- 1 tablespoon of orange juice,
- 1 tablespoon of roughly chopped toasted almonds

1. With a rolling pin, gently roll the cinnamon sticks until they crack up a bit. This allows the cinnamon flavor to come out and seep into the red wine syrup profoundly.
2. Throw into a saucepan the cinnamon sticks, wine, water, sugar, orange zest and juice and slowly bring them to a boil over low fire. Stir occasionally to make sure the sugar dissolves and does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
3. Peel the pears, leaving the stalk on. Level the pears by cutting the bottom part. This allows the pears to stand upright and later give a better presentation.
4. If you’re inviting over guests and seeking to impress, better deseed the pears. To do so, carve out the cores from the bottoms of the pears, using a small pear knife. 
5. Slowly stand the pears in the red wine syrup in the saucepan. Spoon the syrup over the pears. To make sure the red wine syrup evenly and thoroughly seeps into the pear, especially the top bit peeking out of the syrup, place a baking sheet* over the top of the pears and let them simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes. Every now and then while simmering, shower the pears with the red wine syrup using a spoon and press down the baking sheet.
6. Remove the baking paper and check if the pears have become tender (poke it with a fork or toothpick) and evenly dyed in red.
7. Take out the pears and arrange them on a serving plate.
8. Further cook the syrup for around 3 minutes over medium fire. The increased heat will reduce the syrup and make it thicker.
9. Once done, turn off the heat and spoon the syrup over the pears.
10. To give them some crunch, sprinkle on top some chopped toasted almonds (I love them!!!). You may serve the pears hot or cold. If hot, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream by the side rocks!

*Referring to David Lebovtiz, cut a piece of baking paper smaller than the centre of the saucepan so the paper will fit and snugly cover the pears. Also, cut out a hole in the centre of the paper to help the steam escape.

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