Adapted by Orangette from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider
Well, the warm weather has finally fled, and I'm not sick of the cold yet. In fact, fall going into winter seems all new and crisp again - as it does every year. All things cozy make me smile. Smelling the heat on in the morning; wrapping myself in a soft bathrobe after a hot shower; warming my hands on a steaming cup of tea or coffee; wearing my down jacket, so light yet so warm; pulling my gloves out of the drawer for the first time this year.
And today the post in Orangette, one of the food blogs I read regularly (and if you don't, now is the time because it's perfectly delightful), is about roasting pears. Does that sound like the coziest thing you've heard of in a long time? It does to me. In my Poires Belle Hélène recipe, I quote Nigella as saying about pears, "When they're good, they're wonderful, but I am beginning to think Ralph Waldo Emerson was being optimistic when he wrote, 'there are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat'." I'm sure roasting them will circumvent that problem completely.
While I'm on the subject of pears, in case you have not discovered this fragrant liqueur, let me introduce it to you, Belle de Brillet. It is very beautiful and absolutely delicious. Since it is sweet, I find a little goes a long way. It comes in a beautiful pear-shaped bottle, and if you're looking for a gift to bring to someone on Thanksgiving, this would be a great choice.
Roasted pears, here I come.
Nick went to the Williams/Amherst game on Saturday to watch the Ephs trounce the Lord Jeffs and then headed off to party with some friends in Vermont. He swung by the farm on the way home for an early Sunday dinner. Since I keep vanilla sugar in the cupboard, these pears were a snap to make. I did core them - after they were cut in half - with an apple corer held at an angle. I used Bosc pears, and they worked fine in the recipe and were mighty good topped with vanilla ice cream that melted and oozed all around, enhancing the already-present vanilla scent. Leftovers were not up to speed, however, so make what you think you will eat (enough for second helpings if you have company). This recipe is a real keeper - comfort food at its best - as good as baked apples, gingerbread, and bread pudding.
To Serve 4
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 medium ripe pears (about 1 ½ lb.), preferably Comice or Bartlett but Bosc work too
2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the bowl of sugar. Using your fingers, rub the seeds into the sugar until evenly dispersed. (Discard the spent pod, or bury it in a canister of sugar – soon it’ll have a wonderful fragrance, and you can use it in most any recipe.)
Peel the pears and halve them lengthwise. Core them, but leave the stems intact. Place them cut side up in a large baking dish and drizzle them with the lemon juice. Dust liberally with some of the vanilla sugar. (I used ¼ cup.) Dot with butter. Add 2 tablespoons water to the dish.
Slide the dish into the oven, and bake the pears, basting every ten minutes with the pan juices and turning them once or twice, for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until they are glazed, cooked through, and very tender. The syrup in the dish will thicken and darken as it cooks, but if it evaporates too quickly – before the pears are ready – add a tablespoon or two more water to the dish as needed.
Serve warm, with ice cream, crème fraîche, yogurt, or a glug of fresh cream.
Note from Molly: I could also imagine serving these as a savory side dish to roasted pork or game, if you used some interesting spices and a light hand with the sugar.