I've been wanting to poach me some pears for quite a while now. I spent the better part of two weeks running various poached-pear dishes through my head before I finally, reluctantly settled on just one. I first contemplated poached pears on vanilla risotto, having just bought some lovely carnaroli rice the other day. I mulled over the possibility of a poached pear with honeyed fresh ricotta. I also contemplated a poached-pear creme brulee, which I might still get the nerve to do, and a poached pear coated in red wine caramel (also still a distinct possibility)...I was sorely tempted to make one of each kind and have a kind of compearison (groan. sorry.) of sorts, but thought that it was probably taking the cooking thing too damn far, even for me. This little baby won out. And am I ever glad it did. The mascarpone custard is really thick and sticky and orangey-sweet - very rich! But it provides the perfect partner for the cool, port-poached pear. Just don't think about the calories.
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 3 thin pieces fresh ginger 1 cm by 3 cm
- 1 cinnamon quill
- 2 pieces (1 cm by 3 cm) organic orange rind (pith totally removed with a sharp knife)
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp good quality Mexican vanilla (or one vanilla bean, split lengthwise)
- 1 teaspoon orange liquer
- 4 organic Bosc pears, peeled and bottoms sliced flat so they stand up, stems still on
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup good red port
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 fresh sage leaves with ½ cm of stem attached
For the Sticky Vanilla-Orange Cream:
I used my own homemade very strong orange vodka with this instead of orange liquer, so if you use a commercial orange liquer, you might want to add less sugar.
Combine the whipping cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat with ginger, cinnamon, sugar and orange rind. Stir frequently and allow the spices to infuse into the warm cream for 5 minutes. When it is quite warm, whisk in the mascarpone. You’ll have to do a fair amount of work to get it smooth, as the mascarpone will be very thick and sticky, but it will eventually all come together. Allow the mixture to heat back up until it is very warm to quite hot, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. While it is heating, whisk the yolks rapidly in a metal bowl until pale. Add a half cup of the hot mascarpone mixture to the yolks and whisk in quickly. Transfer the yolk mixture back to the mascarpone in the pot and continue to whisk gently over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 5 -7 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in vanilla and Cointreau, and strain it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Press cling film to the surface and place in the fridge to cool.
For the Pears:
Combine water, sugar, cinnamon and port in a saucepan just barely large enough to allow the pears to all lay on their sides. Bring it to a simmer, immerse the pears, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. If your pears aren’t quite covered to the top, turn them gently with tongs every 10 minutes.
Once the pears are cooked all the way through, remove them from the cooking liquid carefully using a slotted spoon and set them aside, covered to cool. If you want them a deep red colour, you can leave them for a few hours (or overnight) to cool in the pot of poaching liquid, but you’ll have to remember to turn them if the liquid doesn’t completely cover them.
For the Port Syrup:
Simmer the poaching liquid over medium heat until it is reduced in volume to about a 2/3 of a cup and has thickened slightly. Don’t let it reduce too much or become too thick unless you want port flavoured toffee! Remove from the stove to cool.
At this point you can refrigerate everything for assembly later (or the next day) or you can serve it now. If you do decide to refrigerate it for serving later, you can warm the pears slightly by popping them in the microwave for about 30 second each. The cream should remain cooled as it must be thick enough to stand the pears up in!
When you’re ready to serve. Drop a mound of the cream onto a serving plate. Stand a pear upright in the centre of the cream. Use a spoon to drizzle port syrup over the pear and down onto the cream. Use a small skewer to poke a hole in the top of the pear near the stem. Insert the stem of the sage leaf into the hole and curl it over gently with your fingers.