The pears are appearing in full force at the Farmer’s Market (already storage pears) and in Whole Foods. I love the taste of a good organic Bartlett Pear before it becomes mushy. Poaching a slightly under ripe but fragrant-at-the-blossom-end Barlett can be a delicate process. Poach a little too long and you will have mush. Poach lightly and you will have a delicious perfume-laced pear ready for insertion into any combination of dessert ingredients. The addition of a real vanilla bean provides a rare-occasion extravagance for the holidays.
The basic creme recipe came from a book full of resourceful ideas. Light, but thoroughly delicious recipes fill the pages of A New Way to Cook. A few twists and I had a delicious pool of coconut custard on which to float the vanilla-bean poached pears. Even the visiting coconut-phobe ate the whole thing!
The sale on fresh raspberries encouraged me to add a raspberry coulis for color and some green pistachios completed the holiday dessert. The ingredients for this dessert can be prepared a day ahead and make a spectacular presentation to be put together right before serving. We feasted!
Vanilla Poached Pears:
6 Bartlett pears, fragrant, but firm
1 large bowl water with 2 T fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 C water
1 1/2 C sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3 1” strips of lemon peel
1 T Cassis (optional)
Prepare a large bowl of water with lemon juice which will prevent peeled pears from browning. Wash pears thoroughly. Leaving stem intact, peel the entire pear and cut a small amount off the bottom to make it flat so pear will stand on its blossom end. Place each peeled pear in the water bath while preparing the syrup.
In a medium-sized heavy sauce pan bring the water and sugar to a boil. Slit the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the insides into the syrup and add the scraped bean as well. Add the lemon peel strips. Stir to dissolve the sugar. When the liquid is clear, lower heat to medium low and add as many pears as fit comfortably in the pan. Cook them, gently turning to cook evenly until a sharp knife fairly easily pierces the large end. Don’t overcook or you will have mush! Remove to a dish that will eventually hold all pears and the leftover sauce. Proceed to cook the rest of the pears.
When finished with the pears, gently boil the syrup on medium heat until it is reduced by at least 1/4 to 1/3. Allow to cool, pour over the pears and refrigerate until 1 hour before serving. . .
Coconut Crème Anglaise
1 tsp arrowroot
1 C whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1 extra large egg
3 T evaporated cane juice (or sugar)
1/2 C shredded organic unsweetened coconut
Take 1 T of the milk and combine it with the arrowroot in a medium bowl. Add the egg and sugar and whisk until well combined. Meanwhile, place the remaining milk in a small heavy saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean into the milk with a sharp paring knife adding the bean as well. Heat milk to hot (not boiling), remove from heat and slowly pour it into the egg mixture while whisking. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium low, whisking continuously until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow it to boil!
Add coconut and combine thoroughly. Cover and allow to cool in the refrigerator until ready to use.
1/2 pt fresh raspberries (or 1 C frozen, unsweetened)
2 tsp grand marnier
2 T sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a blender and thoroughly combine. Force through a sieve, discarding seeds and refrigerate until 1 hour before using.
One hour before serving, remove raspberry coulis and pears from refrigerator. When ready to serve, stir crème anglaise to recombine and place a pool of the crème in the bottom of each dessert dish. Remove the poached pears from the liquid and allow to drain on paper towels. Place a pear in the center of each pool of crème. Drizzle the raspberry coulis over the top of the pear and sprinkle with green pistachios – have fun! We served this with a chilled bottle of Georg Albrecht Schnider 2005 Riesling Spatlese from Wineandjoy - perfect combination!