The Sweet and Savory Seductress, the Pear
“There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear, when it is perfect to eat.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The pear has been luring humankind into ecstasy for millenniums. In fact, it completely captured an ancient Chinese diplomat, Feng Li, who threw all responsibilities out the window and focused only on cultivating pears. This was over 7,000 years ago. The pear had a difficult birth into the Americas where it was wiped out almost completely by blights, after been brought over by the early colonists. Then some optimistic pioneers carried pears seeds over the Oregon Trail and found that they thrived here. In fact, the Northwest is the only geographical area in the United States that produces perfect pears. In fact, pears are the #1 tree fruit crop in Oregon, rated 10th producer in the nation. What a unique distinction. I love living here.
There are more and more interesting types of pears becoming available due to heirloom varieties being in demand. I highly recommend trying as many as you can get your hands on. There are about many varieties of pear, and here are a few that are good to known about.
The most well know, the Bartlett, which comes in red and yellow, is aromatic, very sweet and delicate. It is excellent for eating fresh and canning.
The Anjou comes in both red and green and is known for its abundant juice and sweet flavor. They do not change colors when they are ripe, and are good for anything. (I mean anything!)
Then the friendly Bosc pear, russet in color, has a dense flavorful flesh that is good for baking and cooking.
Comice pears are harder to find but you will be rewarded by their ultra juicy, sweet flesh. They are an elegant dessert pear and are excellent served with cheese.
The Concorde pear is known for its elongated neck and firm dense flesh that has a vanilla undertone. It is great for baking, poaching or grilling.
I really like the Forelle pears when I can get a hold of them, since their season is short. They have a firm flesh and the perfect flavor, not to sweet, not too grainy, and they are good to eat fresh or to cook with.
Here are a few very perfectly good pear tips;
-To easily core a pear, cut it in half and use a melon baler to take out the core. It works great and looks fantastic!
-To speed up the ripening process, store pears in a cool dry place with a ripe banana.
-Combine pears with gourmet cheeses (gorgonzola goes particularly well with pears) for and elegant and delicious appetizer or dessert.
The following recipe highlights the versatility of the pear to go either sweet or savory. This meal is elegant enough for a special dinner and easy enough for every night.
Roasted Chicken with Pears and Walnut Sauce
1 whole roasting chicken
2 – 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 lemon, quartered
2 fresh rosemary springs
3/4 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon of olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and quartered
3 firm pears, such as Bosc, peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges
1 cup of less sodium chicken broth
¼ cup of chopped walnuts
½ cup of water
¼ teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of champagne vinegar
(Or balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves minced
2 teaspoons of walnut oil (optional)
Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets and neck from your chicken and give to the dog. Then wash it nice and clean. Place the garlic, rosemary sprigs, and lemon in the body cavity. Mix the chopped rosemary, ¾ teaspoon of salt and olive oil in a small dish and get ready to get messy. Starting at the neck cavity, gently loosen as much of the chicken skin as possible by running your fingers under the skin. Rub rosemary mixture under the skin. Place the chicken in a roasting pan, breast side up, and tie the legs together with oven safe twine. Bake the little beast for 25 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
After 25 minutes, arrange the pears and shallots around the chicken, then pour the a ½ cup of broth over the chicken and bake another 25 – 30 minutes, depending on how grande your chicken. By now the house is beginning to smell like Thanksgiving and everyone is prowling about. Open the oven and stir the pears and shallots a bit and pour the remaining ½ cup of broth over the chicken again. Add the walnuts to the pan and bake a wee bit more, about 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the meaty part of the breast registers 160 degrees. Pull out of the oven, beat off the wolves while you remove the chicken and pears to another pan and let stand for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a large zip lock bag nested in a small bowl and add the ½ cup of water. Let stand for a couple of minutes and let the fat rise to the surface. Seal the bag and carefully snip off a bottom corner and drain the drippings into a medium skillet, stopping when you get to the fat. (Give the fat to the dog too.) Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, add the salt, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, and garlic. Then cook until reduced to about 1 cup, about 5 minutes, and stir in walnut oil. Carve the chicken and serve with pears and a drizzle of walnut sauce. Amazing!
Nutritional Info with 3 oz chicken, ¼ pear mixture and 2 tablespoons of sauce;
313 calories, 12.4 grams of fat, and 3.8 grams of fiber.