'Tis the season for poaching pears, my friends. It's cold here, and I've been spending my time stirring pots of simmering spices and sitting on the kitchen floor (book in hand) in front of my oven. It's my particular way of keeping warm, both physically and in spirit.
Something else that warms my soul - unexpected goodies sent from a friend traveling abroad. I squealed a little when I unwrapped the little matchbox of red-orange threads: saffron. It's one of the more magical items you can use in cooking, if you ask me. I mean, how can just a pinch yield such magnificent golden color? Magic.
Saffron is complex on the tongue, and it's possible that each taster will have a different flavor experience. These pears are simmered with a vanilla bean, and to me, they seem to take on sweet honey-like qualities. Although the pears are indulgent on their own, the chocolate sauce makes the dish decadent. Pour over as little or as much as you like!
These are so easy to make, but you'll need to plan ahead. I poached the pears and then let them stand in the poaching liquid overnight to absorb as much color and flavor as possible. This isn't absolutely necessary, but I found the vanilla flavor was more pronounced. The color was just a tad brighter, too.
Saffron Poached Pears with Chocolate
[click for printable version]
Yield: 4 servings
Source: adapted from Chef Jun Tanaka's recipe
Prep: 20 minutes; total time 40 minutes to overnight (subject to your variation)
This is my riff on poires au chocolat. A word about choosing pears for this recipe - try to find pears with an almost apple-like firmness, especially if you plan to steep the pears overnight. I use and recommend Bosc.
3 3/4 cups /875 ml cold water
1 cup/200 g granulated sugar
4 firm pears, peeled with core and stems in tact
1 pinch saffron threads
1 vanilla bean pod
1/2 cup/82g chopped semisweet chocolate
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Edible gold leaf *optional
- For the saffron pears, fill a medium saucepan with the cold water. Squeeze the lemon over the water and then add the rind to the pot. Add the sugar and stir briefly. Carefully place the peeled pears in the water. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar is melted. Split the vanilla pod and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and pod to the saucepan. Add the pinch of saffron. Bring ingredients to full boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or until just fork-tender. Remove from heat and let the pan cool to just warm. You may drain and serve the pears immediately, or cover the saucepan and place in the refrigerator overnight for intensified color and flavor. If you choose the overnight method, gently re-heat pears in the poaching liquid before serving.
- For the chocolate sauce, place all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat. Stir until all components are melted and blended smooth. Place pears on a serving plate and top each pear with chocolate. Adorn with gold leaf if desired.