Sometimes you see or read something that you just have to try. Last year while researching recipes for the dessert menu at work I came across a recipe for poached pears on Epicurious’ website. It wasn't just any poached pears, but it called for pears to be poached in dry white wine with saffron & cardamom. It sounded lovely, so of course, I was totally intrigued.
A couple of days later I tried the recipe and was left underwhelmed. It is not that the recipe was not good, it just was not great. I did not find myself satisfied or with desire to continue eating the pears. So I put the recipe aside with the belief that I would like to improve on it sometime. That brings us to now. Almost a year later I am thinking about those pears…I have to give them another try.
I picked up some Bosc pears (as these are great pears for any kind of cooking) and then headed over to the spice market. For a recipe as simple as this fresh spices are key! When spices are fresh and at their peak they shine through. The fact that the saffron I had in the cabinet was quite possibly over a year old would not do. Once I purchased the saffron I headed home to give this recipe another whirl, this time with my own variations. Adding more saffron than the original recipe stated, the addition of cinnamon, and some honey could quite possibly take this recipe where my expectations were the first time around.
Fast forward to once the pears were poached - my poaching liquid was reduced, and it was time to give them a taste. It was just what I was looking for the first time around. The pears were bright and the spices hung onto the pears along with the syrup that the liquid created ever so perfectly. We ate them on there own, spooning up the syrup with each bite of pear. These are perfect for this time of year. When meals tend to get bigger and heavier; a light dessert like this is all too fitting. I think they would make a perfect dessert to any of the holiday meals coming up. To be honest, I cannot wait to make them again and eat the poached pears with some Greek yogurt…for some reason I think that combo would be sublime!
Saffron and Cardamom Poached Pears (serves 4-8)
4 Bosc pears (Anjou pears would work well too for this recipe)
1 tsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp saffron threads
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups dry white wine
pinch of salt
First, peel the pears and gently remove the end of the core and the seeds from the bottom half of the pear. (I used a melon baller to remove the core and seeds, but a teaspoon and pairing knife works well for this too.
Next, in a pot (at least 4 quarts) place the remainder of your ingredients in the pot and stir well. Place the pears in the pot. You are looking for the majority of the pears to be covered in the wine mixture; if not you may add a bit of water to the pot so that it will cover the pears. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a gentle, yet steady simmer. Place a lid slightly ajar from the pot and let it simmer like that for 30 minutes. You are looking for the pears to cook though and be tender, but not falling apart.
Then, gently remove the pears when cooked though and set them aside to cool. Continue cooking the liquid mixture in the pot until it reduces by a third. At this point you can remove the cinnamon stick and let the liquid cool. the liquid will be more syrup-like at this point.
Finally, once the liquid is cool you can poor it over the pears and hold at room temperature if you are to eat them in a few hours. If not, store (wrapped tightly) in the refrigerator for up to four days. Remove the cardamom seeds before serving. Upon plating spoon syrup over the pears and enjoy.