Friday, April 30, 2010

Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone Filling

Mascarpone was always something I heard Giada or Michael Chiarello talking about on their shows. I love the way they say it "MAH-scar-PO-nay" - I always just said "MAR-scah-PONE" - how is that?

All that aside, somehow I got it into my head that I wanted to make a dessert using the cheese. And pears are healthy, right? I know that this is a pretty classic dessert and, thanks to Google, Michael Chiarello's version of this dish. The reviews were out of this world, but nearly all of them mentioned that the original recipe makes way too much filling. So, I kept the recipe as-is, but I did halve the filling. I'm glad I did, because I still had quite a bit leftover. I don't know what breed of giant pears he was using to develop a recipe with that much filling. This recipe also interested me because it gave me the chance to work with whole vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks, something I haven't done in a long time. And then I realized there is a reason I haven't worked with vanilla beans in a long time - they EXPENSIVE! But I also forgot what an amazing flavor those little wrinkly beans have when compared to extracts. Sometimes you just have to use the real deal, and this is one of those recipes.

The process itself is pretty straightforward, and came together pretty quickly. I made the pears the night before I planned to serve them, as a lot of the reviews mentioned that they are ten times better after they essentially marinate in the red wine sauce overnight. Our home smelled amazing while the pears poached in their wine bath. I do have to give this high marks for the 'wow' factor as well - the pears turned such a beautiful ruby red after soaking overnight. If I was any better at plating or food styling, they would have been magazine cover-worthy. That is, until I filled them.

The recipe says to use a piping bag or tightly wrapped wax paper to fill the pears. I had a ziplock bag and I had cheese filling everywhere by the time I was done. And I mean everywhere - counterops, plates, hands. I had the slippery pear in one hand and the limp ziplock baggie in another. I would try to fill the pear, and the bag would fold over on itself, causing all the filling to ooze out of the pear from every direction.

As my own little touch, I made little chocolate leaves dusted with a little silver luster dust to make them even a little more appealing to the eye, since it looked like they spewed mascarpone filling everywhere. And who can say no to chocolate?

Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone Filling
Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello
Serves: 6
6 firm Bartlett pears (I only had 5 but kept everything else the same)
1 bottle red wine
1 vanilla bean, whole
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
2 cups sugar
1 (8 ounce) container mascarpone cheese, softened
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch cinnamon
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoons butter

Peel pears and leave stem intact. In a large saucepan, bring wine and an equal amount of cold water to a simmer. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and add to wine and water mixture. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and sugar, to taste. Add pears to liquid and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender. Cool pears in wine mixture to room temperature. You can refrigerate them in the poaching liquid until you're ready to fill them. I refrigerated them overnight. I actually recommend it, as the coloring get richer the longer they sit in the wine sauce.

Remove stems from pears and set stems aside. Leaving the pear whole, core with an apple corer. I don’t have an apple corer, so I just used a paring knife and inserted it into the pear 4-5 times, making a square or pentagonal hole versus the pretty round one you’d get with the corer.

Whisk together mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, pinch cinnamon and powdered sugar until smooth. Transfer to a pastry bag, or if you do not have one, use wax paper tightly wrapped into a cone with the corner snipped off. Note: Let the wine sauce drain adequately from your pears. Some of mine were a little wet inside when I filled them which loosened up the mascarpone filling and left a little cheese puddle underneath each pear. After filling cored pears, finish by putting the stems gently into the mascarpone filling on top of the pears.

Bring sauce up to a simmer and reduce by half. Add butter to reduced sauce and stir until combined. Spoon generously over pears. Cool to room temperature before serving.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

i LOVED these. the pears, the leaf, the filling, the sauce! more please?

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