Winding up our week, we enjoyed the final course of the Five Courses, Five Wines – Five Days. Actually it was more than 7 or 8 wines but who’s counting. I found the recipe for this desert on the foodnetwork.com. There are several recipes for this combination but this particular recipe has more sweetness than salad in it which I preferred for a desert. You could make this recipe for a salad, the original recipe has arugula in it but I omitted that, keeping it more in a desert style. The recipe is as follows:
- 3 ripe but firm Anjou pears
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
- 3 ounces coarsely crumbled sharp blue cheese such as Stilton
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup apple cider
- 3 tablespoons port
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 6 ounces baby arugula
- Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with some lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.
Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation.
In the same small bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until warm or at room temperature.
Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of the basting liquid in a large bowl. Divide the arugula among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.
My changes: I omitted the Arugula, salt and olive oil. I substituted Cider Jelly for the Apple Cider because I have some that I want to use up. Cider Jelly is a convenient way to keep Apple Cider on hand, just melt before using. If I was to make this as a salad, I would cut down on the brown sugar – to two tablespoons. The port has enough sweetness in it, to cut down on the sugar if serving this as a salad. The brown sugar gives the sauce a different texture, makes it a bit thicker, and that’s not really needed if you’re serving this as salad. I was unable to use a melon baller to core out the pears, they were too firm. I used a pairing knife instead.
We originally paired this with a Sauterne; Chateau d’Arche Prieure d’Arche Sauterne. We found we did not particularly like the Sauterne by itself, but paired with this desert it was very good. We also tried it with a Warre’s Warrior Port which was my original choice. Both worked well, I think the Sauterne would be the way to go for serving this dish in the summer, Port in the winter. You could also serve this desert with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, especially if you have guests that are not wine drinkers (scandalous I know, but there are those folks out there).
I have shown you pictures of the before and after. You can see how much the pears shrank in the oven. I could have used a smaller dish but then it would be more difficult to baste them while cooking. If you use a smaller dish, hold back 1/3 of the Port, Sugar and Cider mixture and use that to baste while the pears are cooking. These particular pears were very firm, not completely ripe. I cooked them for 35 minutes instead of the recommended 30 minutes and left them in the oven, which was turned off, while we ate dinner (about 30 minutes). I was very unhappy about the presentation this desert made but El Hub took one bite and said “these may not look good but they taste fantastic.” Enough said.