My first love wasn’t nearly as intimidating as his mother. I’m sure she was well aware of that. But although she didn’t have the best taste in women for her son, she had exquisite taste in lunch dining. The first time I met the sassy, shoulder-level, beautifully quaffed woman, we met for lunch. She chose her favorite spot. The tiny dining room was filled with large round tables packed elbow to elbow with folks of all shapes, ages, and sizes. But the one commonality, everyone was there for the food.
It was 2002 and A La Lucie in downtown Lexington, Kentucky was the place to be. The leopard print carpeting played a supporting role to the hot pink tones and fringed lamps lighting decadent oil paintings above each booth. The lunch menu was filled with words and terms both new and familiar. I awkwardly glanced across the menu, nervously unaware that there was no wrong choice on the menu tastebud-wise. As far as impressing my date’s mother with my choice, that wasn’t on the menu.
I eventually decided to take my chances on a salad. Each salad came with a special touch or a side of something unusual. My dates mother ordered first — a salad. Thankfully I had a different salad in mind. I wasn’t trying to take the easy route and be a copy-cat. I wasn’t sure what a poached pear was, but I knew I liked pears. When the orders arrived, I knew I had made the right decision. The beautifully fanned pear had been gently boiled in red wine and delicious fall spices. Placed across bib lettuce, drizzled in a light vinaigrette, topped with a warm goat cheese ball rolled in almonds and deep fried. The candied pecans on top weren’t necessary, but why not. Each bite was so delicate.
Perhaps I brushed away the memory of that delicious meal with the heartbreak of that love. As fate had it, those delicious pears made their way back into my life again years later when I found myself working the salad station at this legendary restaurant. One of my favorite aspects of any restaurant job has always been learning how to make the things I love the most to eat.
Poached pears are one of my favorite oh so simple recipes. They are definitely a game changer. Delicious touches for a salad, lettuce wrap, chicken topper, or puffed pastry, this scrumptious dish is not only simple but quick.
If your craving a special touch for your table and an amazing aroma through your house, give these pears a try.
Good luck and enjoy!
Poached Pears in Wine
Serves 4-6 (May easily be doubled).
6 large pears, with stems (Any pear will work, but a firm pear or pear with a long neck works better and keeps it’s shape).
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 bottle (750 ml) red or white wine (I prefer red in the cold weather and white in the summer, but either is delicious).
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tbsp vanilla
one whole star anise, broken into bits 2 bay leaves
2 tbsp honey
When using red wine: 1 tbsp black peppercorns
Put all ingredients except pears in a pot or pan big enough to hold everything, including the pears. It is very important that the pears are completely covered in the liquid. If the pears aren’t covered when later added, add water until they are covered. Bring the mix to a boil. Stir a few times to make sure the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. While boiling, peel pears. Leave enough of the stem for a lovely presentation and easy handling. It’s ok to even leave a little peel on the edges. The end of the pear with the flour can be left or scooped out, chefs choice. If you finish peeling before the boiling is constant, go ahead and add the fruit to the pot. The quicker you add them, the more likely they will keep their color. Arrange as upright as possible and cover pot. If the pears are not covered in the liquid completely they will get a line across them.
Bring pot to a boil and allow it to simmer for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer or small knife can easily slide into the pear. Cooking time will vary depending on the variety and ripeness of pear picked.
If serving hot, transfer to a bowl making sure no spices are sticking to fruit. If you want the pears to stand upright, cut a thin slice from the base. Boil syrup uncovered for 7-10 minutes, until dark and rich. Taste and make sure it is thick enough. You don’t want it to be sticky. Strain over pears.
If serving cold, place pears and liquid into a large container and refrigerate immediately.
Southern Poached Pears with Cream Sauce
6 whole pears, any variety
1 1/2 cups Sauterne or other sweet white wine
1 cup light brown sugar, or more to taste
12-15 thin strips of lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 teaspoons butter
1/2 cup light rum, warmed
1 cup heavy cream, whipped and sweetened with vanilla extract
Peel, halve, and core pears. Put pears, wine, sugar, lemon peel, juice, and butter in a shallow enamelware pan. Cover pan and poach pears over low heat until tender, 45 minutes to an hour. When pears are tender, remove to a chafing dish. Cook liquid until syrupy, usually 10-12 minutes. Pour mix over pears.
May be made early in the day, but heat pears before serving. Have warm rum ready. Pour over fruit and ignite. When flames die out, serve with cold whipped cream.
The photo and recipes used in todays article are from the kitchen of Chef Babz ([email protected]) with a little help from Savannah Style, A Cookbook by the Junior League of Savannah, Inc., 1980 and In & Out of the Kitchen in fifteen minutes or less, Anne Willan, 1995.