From my banner photo you might guess that I like poached fruits and you would not be wrong. The picture above is a pan filled with Marsala and vanilla poached pears ready to be baked into a hazelnut cake and glazed with the reduced poaching liquid. Pears have always been a favorite fruit: as a young child, my Nana and Grandpa had a pear tree in the backyard. In good years the pears were so heavy on the branches that the limbs had to be propped up with the poles they used to keep the laundry lines from dragging the ground. My Nana canned pears to store for the entire year. I’m sure that at some point I pouted about eating pears yet again, but I have fond memories of the soft yet slightly nubby texture of canned pears and still love the multitude of ways she used them with jello. (My favorite? Lime jello surrounding pears halves filled with sweetened toasted nut cream cheese.) Though we never had an apple tree, this summer, when apples were completely out of season, I missed them terribly. With the crisp air of fall descending on us (finally!), I’d been looking forward to biting into the new season’s harvest, and cooking with some heirloom varieties.
This week’s French Friday recipe is fruit, either pears or apples, poached in a sweetened citrus and spice laced liquid. Vanilla bean, star anise, cinnamon, lemon and orange combine to give what could be a bland poached fruit a refreshing lift. I could not make up my mind to use pears or apples, so I did both. D told me last week after eating up half of the eggplant tartines (which included roasted eggplant & olives, neither of which are favorites) that there will be no more pre-judging Dorie recipes based on titles and ingredients. Not sure if it’s the artful combinations or D’s changing tastes, but several FFwD dishes have become instant favorites in our house. So with this new perspective, I dove into this week’s recipe which included the dreaded “bark” in the fruit poaching liquid, which is then reduced to form a finishing sauce.
Overall, the pears with the spiced citrus flavors worked better on my palette than the same flavors combined with apple. Perhaps the tartness of the lemon and citrus amplified the slightly tart apple, but it felt like something was missing. I tried each fruit alone, and with my new favorite treat, vanilla non-dairy no sugar added coconut milk ice cream by Soy Delicious. [I’ve gotten no compensation for promoting their products. I likely could make the stuff myself in my ice cream maker but Kitchen Mayhem is also sometimes Kitchen Shortcut]. D, to my surprise, liked the spiced syrup over regular sugar free ice cream, but was not a fan of the fruit. In fact, we ate rosemary garlic pork loin roasted with onions, carrots and bacon for dinner (Gourmet Cookbook). D mistook the fruit poaching syrup for a savory sauce, drizzled some over the pork and declared it more delicious than the roast alone. (So much for worrying about mixing savory and sweet in the future – ha!) The spices were reminiscent of the spiced tamarind fruit compote I made last year that included ginger and lemongrass (Its a long post. Scroll to “Saturday” for a picture and description of the compote.) The vanilla, anise, cinnamon spice mix in this week’s recipe is subtle, and worked with the pears, but something more bold is needed for me to truly enjoy poached apples.
- The major alteration I made was sweeteners. Since I don’t use sugar or large amounts of honey, I substituted a combination of erythritol (1/3 cup), sucralose (1/3 cup equivalent), Ace-K (one little packet), along with 1.5 tablespoons of honey flavored maltitol and 1.5 tablespoons of agave nectar. You can read more about no/low calorie sweeteners on my resource page.
- Don’t you hate recipes that use half of something? I’ve wasted an orchard of half lemons, limes and oranges over the years (and don’t get me started on egg yolks and whites). These days, if it calls for half of anything I try to figure out if I can use the entire thing rather than risk tossing it out later. This is a long way of saying there is a whole lemon and orange in my poaching liquid – making it more tart, which could also explain its impact on the tart apple.
- Pears were Red, Apples were Gala. It’s a little early I think for some local organic heirloom varieties, though I did find some in August last year but not so far this one. The Gala I found were a bit tart and I’d like to try this with something sweeter.
The French Fridays set are not publishing recipes. You can pick up a copy of Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan at fine booksellers everywhere and follow our cooking exploits at French Fridays with Dorie.