Poached Pears

January 26th, 2012  |  14 Comments


If you watch Top Chef Just Desserts, you may be familiar with the awesomeness that is Johnny Iuzzini, the head judge and executive pastry chef at the bajillion-starred New York restaurant Jean Georges. Now, though, I should say their former pastry chef, since he recently gave his notice.

And guess who’s taking his place? My mentor, teacher and all around amazing chef Joseph Murphy. This news warms every cockle of my heart, because it just reinforces what I already know — that I got some amazing training. Training that is now heading up the famed Jean Georges.

As a brand spanking newbie, one of the first things Joe taught me was how to do poached pears. I still remember him pouring four fat bottles of port into a vat full of fresh Bartletts, throwing in all the fragrant sugar n spice and letting ‘er rip. You could easily get drunk on all those fumes blowing through the air. (And really, was it my imagination or did the day go by just a little bit faster when the pears were on?)

It’s a great beginner’s recipe. The only part that you might even call tricky, if you were having an anxious day, is when to deem them tender enough to take them off the heat. I suggest you stab them once or twice with a small knife while they’re still raw to get a sense of what their texture is like (and also because stabbing fruit just feels good), and get a frame of reference for what “firm-tender” is like later. It’s better to take them off the heat too soon than too late, since there will be a minute or two of residual cooking in the hot liquid.

I like to poach them whole so they have less of a chance of falling apart into a mush, and cut them into pieces later. Also, after they’re done cooking, I cool and store them in their liquid. After a few days, they absorb the hue like a kid hearing curse words and gain a deep color and flavor for ultimate beauty inside and out.

Poached Pears

This is not a recipe one needs to adhere to closely. I’ve included 2 examples, but you can make several variations that sound appealing with a mix-and-match system. All you need is 4 cups liquid, be it water or white wine or red, 3 cups sweetener, be it sugar or honey, and flavorings like vanilla and spices.

Spiced Poached Pears
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon, rind and juice
1 one-inch piece of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
4 pears — I’ve had success with just about any pear, but typically can get my hands on a Bosc or Bartlett in stores

or 

Port Poached Pears
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
orange zest
4 pears — I’ve had success with just about any pear, but typically can get my hands on a Bosc or Bartlett in stores

 

For Spiced Poached Pears:

Gathered stuff.

 

First I get my poaching liquid ready, so this way I can throw the pears in as a peel them to keep them from browing. Strip that lemon!

 

Grab a smallish pot that will fit 4 pears comfortably. (A pot that’s too big will make the liquid too shallow to cover the pears fully.) Add the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and ginger.

 

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the water. Throw the husks in too for good measure.

 

Peel the pears. I like to keep the strips even from top to bottom, so the pear looks all smooth and purdy on the outside. As you peel each one, plop it in the liquid.

 

Here they all are, fours pears in a pan, huddled together.

 

Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. The time depends on how ripe they were to begin with. Softer, riper pears will cook much faster than hard as a rock, plucked-too-soon pears.

 

Slide a knife in to test and if it glides right in, they’re ready. If they turn into a broken-down mush, they’ve gone too far, if I may be so obvious. Keep in mind they’ll cook for another minute from the residual heat.

 

Turn off the heat and pour them into a plastic container. Let them cool in the liquid, and store them in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. They will deepen in flavor as they sit.

To serve, slice them in half, core them with a melon baller or a small paring knife.

Leave the stem on for a touch of elegance.

 

For the port poached pears:

Stuff.

 

The methods’s the same. The zest, wine, vanilla and sugar got in a small pot.

 

Peel ‘em.

 

Toss ‘em in. Poach.

 

Cool.

 

Finis.



Poached Pears

This is not a recipe one needs to adhere to closely. I’ve included 2 examples, but you can make several variations that sound appealing with a mix-and-match system. All you need is 4 cups liquid, be it water or white wine or red, 2 cups sweetener, be it sugar or honey, and flavorings like vanilla and spices.

Spiced Poached Pears
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon, rind and juice
1 one-inch piece of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
4 pears — I’ve had success with just about any pear, but typically can get my hands on a Bosc or Bartlett in stores

or 

Port Poached Pears
4 cups water
3 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
orange zest
4 pears — I’ve had success with just about any pear, but typically can get my hands on a Bosc or Bartlett in stores

For the spiced poached pears:
1. First I get my poaching liquid ready, so this way I can throw the pears in as a peel them to keep them from browing. Using a vegetable peeler, cut the zest off the lemon in strips.
2. Grab a smallish pot that will fit 4 pears comfortably. (A pot that’s too big will make the liquid too shallow to cover the pears fully.) Add the water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise and ginger. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into the water. Throw the husks in too for good measure.
3. Peel the pears. I like to keep the strips even from top to bottom, so the pear looks all smooth and purdy on the outside. As you peel each one, plop it in the liquid.
4. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. The time depends on how ripe they were to begin with. Softer, riper pears will cook much faster than hard as a rock, plucked-too-soon pears.
5. Slide a knife in to test and if it glides right in, they’re ready. If they turn into a broken-down mush, they’ve gone too far, if I may be so obvious. Keep in mind they’ll cook for another minute from the residual heat.
6. Turn off the heat and pour them into a plastic container. Let them cool in the liquid, and store them in the refrigerator, for up to 5 days. They will deepen in flavor as they sit.To serve, slice them in half, core them with a melon baller or a small paring knife. Leave the stem on for a touch of elegance.For the port poached pears:The method is exactly the same.Peel the pears, and add them to the pot filled with port, sugar, vanilla and orange zest strips. Bring to a boil, then simmer until tender. Cool in the poaching liquid and store up to 5 days.






14 Responses to “Poached Pears”

  1. Amy says:

    Wow, Irina! That’s pretty exciting that your mentor is taking over at Jean Georges!!!! Will you be going to eat there sometime soon!?!?? ;-)

  2. PastryPal says:

    Amy, that’s still on my bucket list :).

  3. Awww, the port-poached pear looks so cool halved *after* it’s cooked.

    Also for the port poached pears is it 4 cups of port or do you use port on top of the 4 cups of water?

  4. Kris says:

    Hi, Irina. I’m very-very love your site, cause this is beauty and amazing baking-site. Well, do you have cream puff or choux pastry recipe?

  5. PastryPal says:

    Hiya Zo, It’s 4 cups of liquid, period. So that would make it just 4 cups of port, no water.

  6. PastryPal says:

    Kris — I do! I plan to post something about it in the next couple of weeks…

  7. Tina says:

    Irina,

    Can I subscribe to your email or newsletter so I would not miss any of your blog? I have tried several of your recipes and they are DELICIOUS. Beautiful website too!

  8. Amanda says:

    These poached pears look so delicious. Perfect for a cold winters day-like today! They look super easy to make too! Our food lovers would LOVE this. We’d love if you’d check it out and contribute! http://bit.ly/yI0sZU Cheers! “

  9. PastryPal says:

    Tina — Sure, all you have to do is add your email to the box on the right sidebar that has the macaron primer.

  10. Stan says:

    This is a great and simple recipe! Thanks for sharing. My wife and I are both looking forward to trying this the next time we have pears.

    Please keep up the great posts!

  11. SilBsAs says:

    As usual this post is awsome. Love the photos, the steps… I’d like to know how to make petit fours so keep that in mind if you happen to “run out of ideas” =)

  12. Astrid says:

    I’m not normally a fan of poached pears, but your pear and almond cream stacks hypnotized me and I came over here to see how exactly one poaches pears.

    I have a question: even though you don’t consume all the poaching liquid, isn’t 3 cups of sugar (for 4 pears!) a little much? Especially since your head note says: “All you need is 4 cups liquid, be it water or white wine or red, 2 cups sweetener, be it sugar or honey”?

    Thanks for your fabulous posts!

  13. PastryPal says:

    Hi Astrid — Three cups of sugar sounds like a lot, but really, it’s just a matter of flavoring the water with the right ratio. (I fixed my head note, by the way, thank you.) You end up with a simple syrup that only lightly penetrates the pears. Most of the sugar still ends up in the liquid. Feel free to use 2 cups sugar, though the water will be lightly sweetened. You can also poach as many pears as will fit in the pot — it doesn’t have to be just 4. Also, you can store that poaching liquid in the fridge for a couple of weeks and reuse it to poach more fruit.

  14. Sharon says:

    Hi! I am really enjoying your recipes and blog. Living in Japan, I find it difficult to locate any other pears except Japanese Nashi pears. Would Nashi pears be suitable for poaching? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

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