Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Perfect Pear

Here is my October column from the Petaluma Post, enjoy:

I say it every year, fall is my favorite time of the year.  I am not a sun girl, I love the fog and cool nights, and I am starting to get the bug for the first rain.  By mid-August I begin looking for the first signs of autumn to arrive.  The first note is fresh pears in the market place.

The first to arrive is my favorite, the Bartlett pear.  I am lucky that my mom-in-law has a great old tree that puts out a ton.  They are a tender fruit and their season is short lived.  But it just tells me that there is more to come.  This year I took several pounds and dried them.  Mr. PSC and I enjoy hiking and I thought I would take a shot at it.  Nothing fancy, no special equipment, I just used cookie sheets lined with sil pads (those French baking pads).  Washed the pears, left the skin on for more fiber, cut them into eighths, let them soak in lemon water as I was working (about 15 to 20 minutes) then laid them out tightly on the sheet pan, but not touching.  Placed them in a convection oven with just the fan on and door ajar (not lit, not even a pilot light) for about 5 hours, then turned the fruit and let them continue to finish overnight.  They made a great light weight snack.

Seckel and Comice pears will be the next two to arrive in the market and be available through the end of October, perhaps into November with the cool year that we have had.  Both of these pears are better fresh eating pears than baking.  Their soft sweet flesh is a great pairing with cheese.  Locally I love it with Point Reyes Blue.  This cheese is very bold and robust and with the sweetness of the pears is a wonderful combination.  When choosing your pears it is best to choose them just a little bit on the green side, they will ripen well on your kitchen counter.  Look for even color without bruises.  They are ripe when they yield to pressure around the stem area.

Bosc pears are the pear with the longest season running from July through August.  A tan green pear with a rough skin, its flesh is very firm and crisp.  This is my choice for baking and cooking, it holds up very well.  It is also the hardest pear to tell when ripened, it does not soften like other pears, however it will begin to shrivel near the stem when ripe.

Pears are very versatile from savory to sweet dishes.  I can say that you could do an entire pear themed meal.  Including cocktails.

Pear Martini for 2
4 oz Absolute Pear Vodka
4 oz Pear puree
1 oz lemon juice
1 oz agave syrup

For the pear puree I used a hand blender to combine equal amounts of pear and pear juice, but you could just buy pear sauce.  I often use agave syrup in place of simple syrup, but either will do.  Just shake hard with ice and serve up in a martini glass.  I also experimented with other recipes and several other ingredients, which I mentioned in my mid-September blog post.

Wild Arugula Salad with Comice Pear and Crumbled Blue Cheese
Serves 6
8 oz wild baby arugula
1 medium Comice pear
3 oz crumbled Point Reyes blue cheese

1 lemon juice
3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Core and slice the pear to about ¼” thick, do not go too thin, this is a very delicate pear and will break apart.  Whisk the dressing ingredients together, then place the greens and cheese in the bowl first, then place the pear on top of salad.  Drizzle with dressing to cover the pears (the lemon juice will help them not brown).  Finally, toss lightly.  This is a great salad to add to, toasted walnuts, pecans, almond or pine nuts are great additions. Chèvre is also a great alternative to the blue. 

Roast Pork Loin with Rosemary Pears
Serves 6
3 lbs boneless center cut pork loin
½ Tbs dry rubbed sage
2 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
8 Bosc pears, cored and quartered
2 sprigs rosemary
1 Tbs olive oil

Rub the pork loin with salt and pepper, then brown in the olive oil in a heavy bottomed oven proof roasting pan.  Toss the pear quarters with rosemary and olive oil, and arrange around the sides of the pork loin.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes, till the internal temperature is 145; the USDA has recently lowered the cooking temperature or pork, and it may still have a slightly pink interior.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest 5 to 8 minutes on the carving board.  During this time, remove the pears and place them on the serving tray, dispose of rosemary sprig.  Add a ½ cup of white wine to the bottom of the roasting pan, stir to loosen the fond (those good baked on bits and brown stuff at the bottom of the pan).  Return the pan to the stove and reduce by half, thicken with corn starch if desired.   Then just slice the loin, display nicely amongst the pear and dress with the gravy.

Pear has two great uses in baking.  First they bake great in coffee cakes and pound cakes.  Second with the low fat movement many recipes have started to use apple sauce in the place of oils and butter, but you can make great pear sauce and use it there too.

Pear Sauce
2 lbs peeled pears (I really like the Bartlett)
½ c sugar
½ c water
2 Tbs lemon juice

Place in a thick bottomed sauce pan, start by using a potato masher to break up the fruit, then bring to a low simmer; be very careful it will scald easily.  Simmer 30 to 45 minutes till the fruit is tender and you can mash it easily.  From here cook to desired thickness, up to 1¼  hours for baking uses.

Pear Cake
This is a very rich pound cake that we made when I was an apprentice pastry chef in Austria.  It is great with any fruit!
9 oz butter
9 oz sugar
4 egg yolks
3 eggs
12 oz flour
2 Pears - Peeled Bosc are best, halved, cored each half cut into thin wedges

Cream butter and sugar well, add the eggs and yolks till creamy - go slowly.  Fold in the butter till just combined, then pour into a  prepared 9” baking pan (if using larger it will be thin, so just watch the baking time).  Arrange the pears on top, taking your time and be artistic.  Bake at 325 for 12 to 30 minutes depending on thickness.  Allow to cool. Enjoy

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