It was a cool, crisp, beautiful day in the country -- one of those blue sky puffy cloud days that make the shimmering autumn leaves even more brilliant. It was the perfect day to invite friends to share the magic of the changing season.
In the spirit of the day, we planned lunch to be casual and laid back. It was also important that the menu be "make-ahead" so the cook (that’s me) wouldn’t be kitchen-bound when there were woods to be walked, lakes to be fished and the beauty of nature beckoning. A salad of roasted beets on autumn greens topped the menu followed by a piquant Crawfish Etouffee served over rice with French bread. To serve as a counterpoint to the spicy etouffee, I wanted a dessert that was light, refreshing and seasonal. A stroll through the produce aisle in my local market sealed the deal. I decided the mounds of pears blocking the aisle were a sign that a pear dessert was in my future.
I think of poached pears as an elegant dinner dessert, usually cooked in cream or red wine, but Alton Brown’s recipe caught my eye because the white wine, vanilla and chilled presentation are perfect for lunch or brunch. The pears were a hit with our guests and the perfect palate cleanser after our spicy meal. And they're just as easy as Alton claims...I promise!
Vanilla Poached Pears
Recipe by Alton Brown/The Food Network
Inactive Prep Time:
1 hr 0 min
• 1 cup water
• 5 ounces vanilla sugar, approximately 3/4 cup (Carols note: My market didn’t stock vanilla sugar so I slit a vanilla bean and placed it in a plastic storage bag filled with sugar. It’s best to leave the bean in the sugar for a couple of weeks, but I only left it for 2 days and it was wonderful)
• 1 whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
• 4 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled leaving the stem intact
Place the white wine, water, sugar and vanilla bean and pulp into a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Core the pears from the bottom. Decrease the heat to medium low and place the pears into the liquid, cover and cook for 30 minutes or until the pears are tender but not falling apart. Maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pears to a serving dish, standing them upright, and place in the refrigerator.
Remove the vanilla bean from the saucepan, increase the heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup of liquid, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Do not allow the syrup to turn brown. Place the syrup in a heatproof container and place in the refrigerator until cool, approximately 1 hour.
Remove the pears from the refrigerator, spoon the sauce over the pears and serve.