08 February 2007
Vanilla-Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce
Maybe it was those green beans the other day, but suddenly I am feeling French. Not French as in butter and cream sauces, but rather those simple elegant dishes of little country cottages, of chickens stewed in white wine and yogurt cakes. So it makes sense that when confronted with pears which refused to ripen and despite their cozy brown bag remained unpleasantly firm, I thought of poached pears. Not those lusciously blushed pears in red wine, but in a vanilla syrup. The preparation is simple, requiring just a vanilla bean to perfume your kitchen with its warmth. Of course, vanilla’s classic partner is chocolate, in the form of a syrup drizzled nicely over top. This simple syrup is like the Hershey’s you grew up with, only about one thousand times better. It comes together just as quickly as the pears, and already has me dreaming of profiteroles or just a bowl of vanilla ice cream.
Seeing how that big red holiday is encroaching upon us, I think the poached pears would be a lovely finale for a romantic dinner. You could even tuck a little warm chocolate ganache inside the pear as a surprise. Elegant, but also a light end to the meal, so that there’s still room for more, if you get my drift.
Vanilla Poached Pears
Serve the pears drizzled with the following chocolate sauce. You could also sit the pears atop a nice bit of creme fraiche or creme anglaise.
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 firm pears
1. In a large skillet or saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil 2 minutes then add the vanilla bean. Keep the syrup simmering.
2. Peel the pears and, working from the bottom, remove the cores.
3. Using tongs, dip each pear in boiling syrup to coat and prevent darkening. Turn pear on its side in the syrup and repeat with remaining pears.
4. After all the pears have been added, test the first one for doneness by piercing it with the tip of a knife. If tender, remove with tongs, place pears in a serving dish.
5. Raise the heat under the skillet to high and cook the syrup until it is reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Pour syrup around pears in the serving dish, cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve cool or at room temperature with chocolate sauce.
The Best Chocolate Sauce
From David Lebovitz. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup (glucose)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it's just begun to simmer and boil, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted.
That's all! You can let the chocolate sauce stand for a few hours before serving, which will give it time to thicken a bit. Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.