During the winter my favorite decadence to share with friends in front of a roaring fireplace is a ruby port, some Stilton, toasted walnuts and pears. Ahh, wintertime nirvana!
Warmer weather calls for a lighter variation but one that is still decadent. And it wouldn’t hurt if it is elegant, on the sweeter side with a bit of sophistication too. Oli’s recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears with Almond Cream and Wine Jelly answers this call perfectly. Firm pears, poached to a jewel toned crimson, surrounded by a just rich enough almond cream with flecks of butter toasted almonds is a dessert to please anyone’s palate.
We are both believers that when you cook with wine, it should be one that you would drink. So many times recipes off handedly say “any old wine will do”. Sorry. If you won’t drink it, why on earth would you cook with it? It doesn’t have to be expensive – just good. The day Oli made this dessert he simply grabbed a bottle from the reds. The pears were poached in Seven Deadly Zins, a Lodi, California Zinfandel-Petite Sirah blend, the grapes of which are contributed by seven of Lodi’s finest vineyards. Soft and fruity, tasting of cherries, cranberries, vanilla and maybe a hint of pepper it isn’t very expensive (about $12-$14). Locally it’s a staple in both wine and grocery stores. I’m not advocating that you run out and buy this particular wine, just making a point. It’s good and not expensive – a drinking AND cooking wine.
You don’t have to use a zin for this recipe. If you have a pinot noir, malbec, cab, merlot, shiraz (you get the point) they will work just fine.
By the way, since it’s a “sin” to waste a zin, or any wine for that matter, Oli made a wonderful wine jelly with the poaching liquid and more of the zin. Cut into small dice, they add panache to a simply elegant dessert.
Red Wine Poached Pears with Almond Cream and Wine Jelly
1/2 bottle good red wine
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
4 very firm, ripe pears, peeled
1. Combine wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks and pears in a pot large enough to accommodate the pears. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. When boiling, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Remove pot from heat and let everything cool to room temperature.
3. When room temperature, cover the pot and refrigerate until serving.
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or Crème Fraîche
2 egg yolks
1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, melt butter then toss in almonds. Stir constantly until almonds are golden. Remove 2 tablespoons almonds and reserve for garnishing.
2. Remove skillet from heat and add cream, sugar and yogurt. Whisk until well combined.
3. Return skillet to heat and whisk in egg yolks. Whisk constantly until sauce thickens. Consistency will be that of ice cream when it just begins to melt.
4. Remove from heat and continue to whisk for about a minute or two so that the eggs don’t cook. Transfer sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Red Wine Jelly
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin ( 1/2 oz)
1 cup red wine
Poaching liquid from pears
1/2 cup sugar
1. In a medium size bowl, dissolve gelatine in wine. Set aside.
2. Strain poaching liquid into a medium size pot. Stir in sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce until you have 1 cup left.
3. Pour warm poaching wine into the gelatine/wine combo. Stir until well mixed.
4. Pour into a shallow container or small tray with sides and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or until set.
5. Cut into even sized cubes a little smaller than the size of a sugar cube.
You can dip the jelly cubes into sugar for an added bit of sparkle if you like.
Use a small, sharp knife to trim off the bottom of the pear so that it will sit upright when plated.
To achieve Oli’s lovely, fanned out presentation, stand the pear on a cutting board. Use a small, sharp knife to cut from top to bottom. Start the cut about one inch from the top. Do not cut straight down, but curve the cut so that when all of them are completed, the pear will automatically fan out. Cut only half way into the center of the pear. Make slices all around the pear.
Take a look at the posted picture – it will help you to “see” how to cut.