This is a little late, I suppose, a little autumnal for early March. But every stand at the greenmarket seems to be selling apple cider these days, and there are still some Bosc pears to be had, long in storage and looking for a home.
In general, I agree with the idea of cooking with the best, freshest ingredients. It is a real treat when fruit is so perfectly delicious that it can be served, unadorned, for dessert. But sometimes the berries are sour, the apples are mealy, and the pears are a little tired.
Sure, you can make this with perfectly ripe Boscs, and they would be wonderful. But this is a good way to turn not-so-perfect pears into something very, very tasty. My friend Heather Miller taught me how to do this, and it was always one of our go-to pear recipes when we worked together.
I said “recipe” just then, but we never ever used one. We always eyeballed it. I did measure the cider and the sugar when I made these the other day, and will pass on the proportions to you below, but consider them guidelines, please.
The idea is simple: Pears are peeled, halved, and cored, put in a shallow baking pan with apple cider, sugar, and spices, and roasted in the oven until the pears are cooked and slightly caramelized, and the cider has reduced to a thick glaze. You start of with something like this:
And end up with something like this:
Served warm, they are delicious with ice cream or a spoonful of crème frâiche, along side a cake or custard, with pancakes or french toast, or as part of a cold weather fruit compote.
A few things: I think this is really best with a firm pear, like the aforementioned Bosc. (Tiny Seckels would also work and be very cute to boot.) A softer, juicier fruit could turn to mush in the pan. Keep an eye on these as they cook, and turn and baste them frequently, spooning the pan juices over the fruit to coat it. If the cider is reducing but the pears are not getting tender, add some more cider to the pan or cover it with foil so that the pears can steam a bit. Then uncover it so that everything can get good and caramelized.
6 firm pears, such as Bosc
1 1/2 c apple cider
1/4 c sugar
6-8 whole cloves (see note below)
3-4 cinnamon sticks, or 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Peel the pears, cut them in half, and remove the cores with a melon baller or small knife.
3. In a baking dish big enough to accommodate the pears in a single layer, combine the cider, sugar and spices. Add the pears to the dish and toss to coat.
4. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes and then gently stir the pears, flipping them over and basting with the cider. Continue baking for 30-45 minutes more, frequently stirring and basting, until the pears are tender, a little caramelized, and the cider has reduced to a thick glaze.
5. If not serving immediately, the pears can be stored in the fridge for a day or two and easily reheated. In any case, they are best served warm.
serves 4-6, depending on what you are serving with them.
Variations: Feel free to vary or add spices to your taste. Vanilla bean, peppercorns, star anise, and orange peel would all add something. A little booze would be good, too: Calvados, Armagnac, or a pear eau-de-vie would work.