Vanilla-Poached Pears with Mascarpone Cream




We’re headed to US Botanic Garden this weekend for their Junior Botanist Festival Saturday Sept. 26, 10 am-3 pm. Come join us for demos using vanilla beans. The Garden has a vanilla orchid as part of its collection, so you can see how the bean grows in real time. Vanilla-poached pears are a fall fave. Adrienne will be demoing this. Danielle is working up an apple-vanilla concoction and we’ll post it as soon as it’s perfected. Come taste something delicious Saturday at 100 Maryland Ave SW. The Pope will be long gone.

Poached Pears:

4 firm Bosc or Comice pears (do not use ripe or soft pears)
2 C red wine
1 vanilla bean, whole or 1 t vanilla extract for poaching liquid
2 cinnamon sticks
1 C sugar
2 T cold butter, divided in half

Peel and cut the pear in half lengthwise. Use a melon baller or spoon to scoop out the seeds and core. You are creating a small “bowl” in the pear half that will later hold the marscapone cream. In a deep saucepan, bring wine and 2 C water to a simmer. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and add to wine and water mixture. Add cinnamon and sugar. Add pears to liquid and simmer for 20 to 35 minutes or until tender but not too soft. Remove pears from liquid and reserve. (If making ahead, hold pears in poaching liquid, removing the cinnamon, vanilla and bay leaf. Cool the liquid and pears down to below 70F, then store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Remove pears from liquid and bring to room temperature, then proceed with the recipe.)

Remove the cinnamon, bay leaves and vanilla bean from the wine mixture. Continue to simmer and reduce the liquid until thick and syrupy, about five minutes. Be sure not to over-reduce or burn the syrup. Whisk in butter, quickly, one tablespoon at a time. Cover sauce and remove from heat; hold until ready to serve.

Mascarpone Cream:

1 (8-ounce) containers of Mascarpone cheese (may substitute cream cheese)
1/4 t vanilla extract
1/4 C heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Combine in a small bowl the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, pinch cinnamon, vanilla extract and powdered sugar until smooth.

To serve, place a small dollop of the Mascarpone Cream on a dessert dish. Place a poached pear half on top of the dollop, which keeps it from sliding. Fill the “bowl” of the pear with mascarpone cream. Spoon or drizzle pear with red wine syrup. Repeat with remaining pears.

Many thanks to Rachel Reuben, for original recipe.



Classic Coq au Vin

½ C (4 oz) salt pork
3# chicken parts, to include breast, thighs, drumsticks, bone-in on all of them
1 T olive or good cooking oil
1/3 C Cognac or brandy
2 cloves garlic minced
1 bay leaf
1/4 t thyme
½ C fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
2 C Zinfandel or other young red wine
1 C chicken stock; more as needed
1½ T butter
1½ T flour
20 small pearl onions, peeled and sauteed until golden
3 C fresh mushrooms, trimmed, quartered or sliced and sauteed until golden
Chopped parsley

Cut salt pork into lardons 1×1/4 inches. Bring a small pan of water to a boil and
drop lardons in to blanch 2 minutes. Remove and dry on paper towels. Heat a
large pan and add lardons; saute to render the fat, adding olive or cooking oil as
needed. Discard cooked salt pork. Pat chicken pieces dry, season with salt and
pepper and add to hot oil in pan. Brown thoroughly on all sides, adding butter
or oil if needed. When chicken pieces are well-browned, turn off heat. Pour in
brandy, letting it heat briefly; ignite with a match and swirl pan to burn off the
alcohol, about 20 seconds. Turn heat back on low, add garlic and herbs, mix well
and cook gently about five minutes. Add wine and stock. Cover pan tightly and
simmer very gently 30 minutes, until chicken is tender when pressed. Remove
chicken to a side dish and degrease the sauce, using a degreaser or by refrigerating it for a few hours or overnight and removing the solidified oil.

Heat the degreased sauce and taste for seasoning; bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. In a small bowl, combine the flour and butter to make a beurre manie. Using a whisk and with rapid motion, whisk into the sauce. Stir gently until the sauce thickens, adding stock as needed. Add onions and mushrooms and pour over hot chicken. Garnish with parsley.