Author/antropologist Dr. Susanna Hoffman Suggests Pears Poached In Chamomile And White Wine Syrup With Pistachio Topping

They sit glowing lime green, tawny ochre, brown gold, rusty red, in their bins at the market, thankfully almost always present, because they come twice a year, in summer and early winter. So it is rare that we undergo a dearth of pears, one sort or another always states “here I am” to the grocery list roll call. 

For that reason, pears are a preferred fruit for a poached fruit dessert. Besides, their resolute flesh more than endures a hot treatment, it triumphs in it. But while pears are plentiful, there seems to be a paucity of ideas on how to poach them, almost always entailing some version of red wine. Rather, why not turn to white wine, and for a real twist flavor it with one of the herbal teas so popular now. Here the choice is chamomile tea simmered with white wine into a luxurious, silken syrup.

For fun, crunch, and color, top off the pears with a sprinkle of tasty, green chopped pistachio nuts.  Green tea can also replace the chamomile, and a spoonful of a colorful fruit preserve can replace the nuts, make the dish fruit on fruit. Any way, the dish is an exceptional treat and will draw gleeful applause.

(Serves 6)

1cup water
2 tablespoons chamomile tea leaves
6 medium-size ripe but firm pears
4 cups dry white wine
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
! cup (2 ounces) shelled salted pistachio nuts

1. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Add the chamomile tea leaves, cover, and set aside to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid into a large pot and set it aside; discard the tealeaves.
2. Peel the pears, leaving them whole with stems intact.
3. Add the wine, sugar, and lemon juice to the strained liquid and bring to a boil. Drop in the pears, reduce the heat slightly, and simmer briskly until they barely give when gently pressed, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a bowl.
4. Continue simmering the liquid briskly until it is reduced by half, thikened, and amber colored, 220 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let the syrup cool for 5 minutes.
5. Pour the syrup over the pears, allow to cool to room temperature, thencover and chill thoroughly before serving.
6. Heat an ungreased skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pistachios and stir until toasted, 1  minute. Allow to cool, then finally chop with a chef’s knife or in a food processor.
7. When you are ready to serve the pears, set them in individual bowls. Spoon the chamomile syrup over them, and sprinkle the pistachios over the top.

Wine recommendation: One of the incredible sweet wines from Samos , Anthemis or Grand Cru, or Sigalas Vin Santo or Mavrodaphne of Patras, available at Telluride Bottleworks

Susanna pairs her recipe with a brief history of pears

Pears originated on the west slope of the Ural Mountains above the Black Sea. They were discovered and eaten early. The remains of wild pear are found in the sites of the Mycenean Greeks, the Greeks of the Iliad and Odyssey.  Homer raved about pears. Greek orchard keepers learned early on to graft fruit-bearing branches to rootstock, and by Roman times the Greeks had a number of varieties of pears. But that was nothing compared to the French later on, who developed hundreds of sorts, named such provocative names as “My Lady’s Thigh.” The first choice for winter poaching are Comice pears, which are available from October to May. Their complex winey taste imparts a particularly fruity essence to the sauce. They also have less “sand grain” in them than many other pears and are smooth as satin on the tongue.

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