Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Mulled-Wine-Poached-PearThanksgiving is coming up, with the other winter holidays not far behind. That means it’s fancy food time!

I made poached pears with mascarpone for New Year’s Eve a few years ago. Charles and I loved them. They were so rich and decadent — a wonderful way to ring in the new year. It was a recipe I wanted to revisit, but when it came to finding the original, I couldn’t locate it. Google gave me many options, but none of them were exactly what I had done before. So, as I do so often anyway, I decided to make it my own.

We just received our final Farm to Table shipment from Pennyroyal for the 2014 season, and I thought using some of my coveted Laychee cheese for poached pears would be amazing. It truly was. I poached the pears in Sobon Estate’s Old Vines Zinfandel. Its fruit-forward richness was a perfect choice to go with the pears and spices. Remember, never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink, but make sure its characteristics will compliment the other flavors in the food — much like choosing a wine for pairing.

For more ideas for Thanksgiving, check out Cranberry Chutney, Drunk Ruby Turkey, Kuri Squash and Bacon Soup, and from my other blog, An Oops Makes a Great Turkey, and My Favorite Green Beans. Please don’t judge some of those photos — many of those posts are from a few years ago. 😉

Mulled Wine Poached Pears

Serves 6

6 Bosc pears, peeled (but keep the stems)
1 bottle red wine
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
1 Tablespoon mulling spice (I actually used Garam Masala because I love it so.)
pinch of powdered ginger
pinch of salt

4 ounces heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup Laychee or Mascarpone cheese
vanilla bean, split and insides scraped into a bowl.

Put wine, sugar, spices, salt, and the remains of the vanilla bean in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add pears and bring to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes, turning the pears every ten minutes so they get a lovely, uniform red.
Remove pears and continue to cook the liquid. Reduce the liquid until it’s syrupy. You can use this for ice cream or any other dessert where a syrup would be a nice addition.
When pears have cooled, take out the stems and set aside. Core the pears with an apple corer, or like I did, with your peeler. (This is the one I have.)

Add whipping cream and cheese to the bowl with the vanilla bean innards. Stir with a rubber spatula until well blended, then scrape into a reclosable bag. Cut a corner off the bag and pipe the cheese mixture into the pear. Place the stem back on the top for a pretty presentation.

A Dessert Recommendation

Chimney-RockThis is just a super-quick post to let you all in on my latest dessert obsession. It’s Cowgirl Creamery’s fall seasonal cheese, Chimney Rock, and a bit of NV Rosemount Estate Old Benson Tawny Port. I’ve written about the glories of savory and sweet pairings as dessert before, but this newest combination has taken my taste buds to new heights. The earthy and creamy flavors of the cheese with its touch of herbs added to the hazelnut toffee of the tawny — truly, this is what gastronomic bliss is.

Grilled Plums

grilled-plumsWhat is it about cooking fruit that turns it from a snack to a decadent dessert? Maybe it’s the caramelizing of the sugars in the fruit? Maybe the sauces one feels compelled to drizzle over the finished product? Maybe it’s just that summer alchemy of grilling on a warm evening, making something more than what it was before?

Grilled Plums

  • Difficulty: oh so easy
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serves 2

2 ripe plums, sliced in half, pits removed
2 tablespoons Laychee, crème fraîche, or vanilla ice cream
drizzle of honey

Warm up the grill to medium-high heat. Place plums face down and cook two minutes. Flip over and cook another minute. If the plums are still firm, flip once more face down for two more minutes.
Spoon choice of creamy goodness into the divot of each plum, drizzle with honey, and serve while still warm — perhaps with a small glass of Rosenblum’s Désirée Chocolate Dessert Wine for even more decadence?

Quirky Cookies

Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies with Chocolate ChipsSweet treats abound this time of the year, but when you don’t eat wheat, you can begin to feel like someone forgot to give you a ticket to the indulgence train.

I felt that this was a situation that had to be rectified, so I gathered my baking tools and got to work.

That statement makes it sound like the recipe I’m about to share is complicated, but it’s not. In fact, it’s quick, it’s tasty — as always — is guaranteed to get your hands covered in delicious dough, and will cause people’s eyebrows to rise when you hand them out. They’re peanut butter bacon cookies. Now, I’ve made these cookies before. The recipe made the internet rounds a few years ago when bacon was trendy. The original method doesn’t really need any improvement, but I just can’t leave well enough alone, so I tweaked it a bit for this blog post. I recommend trying out both recipes, the Shutter Bean technique, which is scrumptious, and the I’m-going-to-go-nuts-and-add-even-more-stuff version I shall unveil below.

These are definitely a treat of a cookie. They are not for everyday consumption, but oh, when that special day comes around, won’t it be glorious!

cooling-cookiesCoconut Peanut Butter Bacon Cookies with Chocolate Chips

16 oz crunchy coconut & peanut butter
2 cups coconut sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
12 slices bacon
6 oz chocolate chips
coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cook the bacon, six pieces at a time, in the microwave. (This makes the recipe super-quick.) Spread two paper towels on a microwave-safe plate, lay out the pieces, making sure none overlap, place two more paper towels on top, and microwave on high for five minutes. Repeat with other six pieces, let cool, and chop into small pieces.
Add peanut butter and sugar and mix with your hands until integrated. Add eggs and soda and again mix with your hands until everything is a big, doughy bit of gloriousness.
Toss in bacon and chocolate and mix some more. Try to get most of the dough off your fingers, but cleaning off the rest is up to you.
After washing your hands -ahem!- form dough into balls the size of black walnuts. Roll dough in a bit of coconut sugar if you’d like.
On a greased cookie sheet (I just rubbed the bacon paper towels on the sheet), place the cookies about two inches apart. Press down on the ball with a fork to make a criss-cross pattern. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a pinch of sea salt. (This is something I learned the hard way, as my recipe alteration messed with the savory/sweet ratio, swinging too far into the sweet category. By adding a teensy bit of coarse salt to the top of each cookie, it helped bring the savoriness of the bacon back into play.)
Bake for 12 minutes, using your nose to help tell when the cookies are done. Here’s the trick — if you pay attention, you can smell when the cookie goes from cooking to caramelization. The minute the cookie begins to smell a little “brown,” you know it’s ready to be removed from the oven.
Let cool on the cookie sheet for five minutes, then move cookies to a cooling rack for a few more minutes. Maybe, just maybe, try one while they’re still gooey and warm…

Makes around two dozen cookies — depending on how many you consume along the way.

Time For Dessert

dessertI have a killer sweet tooth. Honestly. It’s killer on my waistline. But I was at a wine event a couple of years ago that saved my sweets-lovin’ life.

It was one of those five course meals where every course had a different wine. For dessert, we were served blue cheese, almonds, and tawny port. The sweet course would never be the same for me again.

tawny-portNow that I’ve eschewed pastries for the savory-salty-sweet that a handful of raw almonds and some perfect cheese provide (last night, it was the amazing Boonter’s Blue from Penny Royal Farmstead), the choice of port is important. For the final course of the day to be fully satisfying, you need a dessert wine that will do justice to the craftsmanship of the marbled, aged creation of sheep and goat’s milk. The Graziano Syrah Tawny Port was an exquisite option. The complex, nectarous flavors made me yearn for colder nights spent snuggling by the fire. It was a toothsome treat, and a good way to punctuate a day. Honestly, who needs cake when there are endings such as these?

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