I started becoming interested in recipes.
Yes, the ones where you have to gather the contents yourself and strenuously mix them together to finally present a delectable dish. Up until that point, I was happily oblivious to culinary methods, instead I comfortably relished in the efforts of others; chefs, hosts, siblings, friends, and naturally my mother. I never bothered asking for recipes, because of course I wasn't going to make them. I would just sing my praises and leave happily satiated.
Yet once I had that ring on the my left hand, I knew I had to start inquiring into these mysterious cooking techniques and learning my way in the kitchen. I was setting my expectations pleasantly low and made sure to inform the fiancee to expect the worse and pray for the best.
Until I met Mrs. O.
You all know her. She is perfectly dressed and manicured daily, even when she's cleaning. Her home is actually spotless on motzei shabbos even though she has more children than can fit on one hand. Her bookshelf doesn't hold a book that is misaligned. Her kids are dressed impeccably, wear bows in their hair, and own monogrammed pillows. She is so effortlessly calm that you wish you can find a run in her stockings as evidence that she is indeed normal and human. Oh, and she is so nice and sweet you feel bad eyeing her fancy china set.
Yes, she will remain nicknamed Martha Stewart in my heart.
So on a chilly, winter Saturday night, she hosted my fiance and I for a "casual" meal where she served a lineup of homemade things, as well as: poached pears. Poached pears. They looked so elegant on her square plates. I wanted to be elegant, too. They were so tasty and bursting with flavors. I wanted to make tasty things, too.
So I resolved that I too will be Mrs. Martha O. Stewart. That meant gourmet food, an impeccable home, perfect children, and a royal comportment. (Well, I've made strides with the first, but have quickly given up on the rest.)
Fast-forward many months post-wedding. I learned that you bake at 350 degrees and add the past after the water has boiled. I felt able in the kitchen. So I happily phoned Mrs. O. and scribbled down her recipe for poached pears.
And I realized how incredibly easy they were to make! I let out a sly "Ha! That's it?!"
Needless to say, I confidently served my guests the sweetened pears and naturally took the compliments in stride. After all, these winter fruit make a simple, striking presentation and find fancy in diverse palates. Everyone loved them.
Enjoy making them at your next gathering.
(note: Mrs. O. has revealed to be quite down-to-earth since I've gotten to know her. And though we live on different coasts, we continually share laughs and giggles. She will remain my first Martha Stewart model.)
6 firm, ripe pears, peeled and quartered
3 cups of red wine
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
3-5 cinnamon sticks
- In a wide, shallow saucepan on medium heat, combine the wine and water and dissolve the sugar
- Once the liquid has reached a slight boil, slide the pears and cinnamon sticks
- Cover the saucepan with parchment paper to keep the pears below the liquid (see notes)
- Reduce to a simmer, leave uncovered, and let it cook until the pears are tender, about 30-45 minutes
- If you want the liquid to become a thick syrup, you can remove the pears and cinnamon sticks and let the liquid cook on medium high until it's reduced by half
- When cooking the pears, you want to make sure they don't poke out of the liquid or you'll end up having rough edges and they won't cook evenly. A neat trick I learned online is that you can cut parchment paper and cover the pears with the paper which will weigh them down, ensuring the pears remain below the liquid.
- I like to use Bosc pears, and some like Anjou, whichever ones you have are fine expect maybe Bartlett which will likely fall apart during poaching
- Red or white wine can be used, though I prefer the deep, textured taste of red wine
- Instead of sugar, you can substitute with honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar