Chef's Specialty: Pear Particulars
For pears, Cortney Burns forages Wood River Valley farmers’ markets. For this private chef, poaching fruit in spiced wine makes for a simple, rustic fall dessert. And while apples get the job done, Burns "chooses the pear, honestly, because of its delicate texture and elegant shape."
Photos by Paulette Phlipot.
Spiced Autumn Pears
1 (750-ml) bottle white wine
4 cups orange juice
¾ cup sugar
1 whole vanilla bean,
split and scraped
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
4-6 firm Bartlett, Anjou or Bosc pears, peeled with stems intact
Add wine, orange juice, sugar, spices and vanilla bean into a 4-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Decrease heat to medium-low and add pears—standing upright. Simmer for 30 minutes or until tender, but not falling apart. Remove pears and vanilla bean from saucepan, increase heat to high and reduce the syrup to approximately 1 cup—approximately 20-30 minutes. Spoon sauce over pears and serve.
For a creamy addition, whip mascarpone with honey and dollop a spoonful alongside.
For in-home dinners, contact Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org
Pear logic with riesling
Fall is the season to shift back to red wines and heartier whites. This time of year my favorite meal finale is a simple plate of cheese or a fruit-based dessert. Give me a pear tart or a bowl of poached pears. And of course, I’ll take a nice glass of white wine to go with it.
Poaching pears in wine is a double seasonal approach. The dish calls on both the orchard harvest and the heartier whites fit for colder weather.
The accompanying recipe calls for a Viognier or a Riesling for the poaching medium, but you can use other varieties. The first rule is never cook with something you wouldn’t drink. Next is, keep it simple. You want a wine with balance—something not too dry, not too acidic and definitely no oak. A nice Moscato is a good alternative, and for something a little different, perhaps a Prosecco. And naturally, pairing any dish with the same type of wine you cooked with typically works best.
Viognier, with its floral honeysuckle aromas makes for a great fruit pairing. It tends to be a richly textured wine with ripe flavors that work well with poached pears. One of the best is from a hot, relatively new Chilean winery called Cono Sur—their 2006 Vision Viognier retails for less than $15. The grape also thrives in Idaho. Two of my Gem State favorites are the 2006 Williamson, crafted by Greg Koenig, and the 2007 Cinder, both priced under 20 bucks.
Riesling’s advantage is that when properly vinified, this white balances some level of residual sugar with high acidity. The combination makes for a wine perfectly matched with many foods. When poaching pears, you want some sense of sweetness to come through. Germany’s Leitz Dragonstone (under $15) has that quality. And again, Riesling shines in Idaho. For less than $10, you can buy a bottle of 2006 Indian Creek, 2006 Snake River or 2006 Sawtooth, all great wines.
While not ideal for cooking, Italy’s Moscato d’Asti, with its naturally sweet fruit and light touch of spritz, is a classic pairing for cooked fruit. Look for the 2007 Saraco, 2007 Marenco Scarpona or the 2007 Chiarlo Nivole, all priced around $20. That country’s Prosecco pushes the bubbles up a notch and is a deliciously different match. You don’t want a bubbly that is too dry—I’d go with the Anselmi Prosecco Brut or the Adami Prosecco Garbel, both available for around $15. It’s the season of thanks and feasts. Might as well treat yourself with the best.
Idaho native David Kirkpatrick has worked in the wine business for 30 years. For the last 20, he has lent his expertise to the Boise Co-op Wine Shop. He writes the Wine Sipper column for the Boise Weekly.