Last Sunday we had friends over for dinner and they showed up on our doorstep with baklava and a few ripe Chinese pears. After dinner we served the baklava with a ice cream, raspberries, and slices of pear. They’ve been on my mind ever since.
This weekend was unseasonably warm and, when sorting through recipes, poaching pears with red wine seemed better suited for colder weather. Caramelizing them in the oven, on the other hand, would go well with ice cream, which was more appealing given the balmy temperatures outside. Smitten Kitchen’s take on them, with lemon and vanilla, seemed like just the thing so I picked up four of the Barlett pears that have just started to appear at the market.
Deb’s recipe calls for basting the pears a few times as they cook, and every time I opened the oven door to attend to them the sweet smell of pears and vanilla grew a little richer and the pear drippings in the bottom of the pan looked a little more golden. They were ready just as the sun was going down, and the warm pear tasted about as golden as the light streaming in through our apartment windows.
A few tips:
I love a little coconut here and there, so the only modification I made to this recipe was to add about an tablespoon of finely chopped shredded coconut to the sugar and vanilla bean mixture.
To get as much juice as possible when using a fresh lemon, squeeze the lemon well (watch out for pips), then press the back of a spoon against the inside flesh. Deb doesn’t mention it in the recipe, but her photos show that she tossed the spent lemon rind in the pan with the pears. I did, too, and though I’m not sure if it helped, it sure didn’t hurt, so go ahead.
Use the same spoon to core the pears if you don’t have a corer or a melon baller.
There are dozens of ways you can use the finished pears, but fresh out of the oven, I drizzled them with the golden pan juices and served with a scoop gelato. To not overpower the flavor of the pears, I chose a simple roasted almond gelato and thought it worked very well.