Pears Three Ways: Pickled Salad, Savory Side and Dessert
Though the apple may get more publicity, we’re here to tell you: Don’t underestimate the humble pear.
To showcase this delicious fruit’s versatility in cooking, we have three recipes featuring pears, developed by Allison and Matt Robicelli, to take you through an entire meal. Start with the surprising pickled pear, which makes an appearance here in an arugula salad with blue cheese and almonds, but will also add zing as an ingredient in a grilled cheese sandwich, and whose pickling bring can liven up everything from marinades to cocktails.
As a side dish, the classic gratin featuring layered potatoes and cheese is about as warming and comforting as fall food gets. Try going a non-traditional route with a pears and parsnips gratin for a still-rich side, but with unexpected, delicious new flavors.
Still have room for dessert? A pear bundt cake makes for a beautiful, easy-to-serve end of the meal option. Though beautiful and flavorful on its own, a brandy glaze can’t hurt.
A pickled pear is a thing of beauty. Structurally, most fruits aren’t strong enough to handle an extended vinegar bath, but some pears are up to the challenge. Varieties like Bosc and Anjou are firm and just a bit woody. They look beautiful in a fruit bowl, but they’re often a disappointment to eat raw.
But pickled, they’re a revelation.
Strong hits of acidity are tempered by the natural fructose of pears in a way that isn’t cloying, unlike many other pickling recipes. Pears play well with fall spices, resulting in a treat that’s exciting and bright, while also comfortably warm.
Pickled pears can get you through the coldest days of winter. They can bring so many things to life, working as an alternative to root vegetables in casseroles and roasts, upgrading sandwiches beyond the standard slice of tomato, and elevating salads desperate for a taste of sunshine.
In this salad, pickled pears bring brightness to peppery arugula. They’re further balanced by salty and savory marcona almonds and large crumbles of creamy, piquant Stilton cheese. A vinaigrette that incorporates the pickling brine with an additional splash of pear nectar ties everything together.
Pickled pears can fast become an integral part of your cold-weather kitchen. Layer them into a grilled cheese sandwich made with fontina and rustic bread drizzled with olive oil, or substitute a few slices in place of lemon for pan-seared seafood. Save the brine to add to marinades for poultry or duck, or to add a surprising dose of acidity to cocktails.
- 3 large firm cooking pears, like Bosc or Anjou
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 (¼-inch) piece fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¾ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 5 ounces baby arugula
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup coarsely chopped roasted and salted marcona almonds
- ⅓ pound Stilton cheese
- ¼ cup grapeseed or canola oil
- ⅓ cup pickling liquid
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup pear nectar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Peel, quarter and core pears. Place in 2-quart mason jar or container.
In medium saucepan, combine remaining pickling ingredients and bring to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pour pickling liquid over pears and seal tightly. Refrigerate at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Reserve ½ cup of pickling liquid, and pass through strainer. Set aside.
Place grapeseed oil, reserved picking liquid, pear nectar and Dijon mustard in jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake until well combined. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Dress arugula and red onion lightly with dressing. Crumble in cheese, and toss well. Divide salad onto 4 plates. Cut pears into ½ inch slices and fan out on top. Sprinkle almonds atop salads. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Samuel Adams Rebel IPA; $10 12oz/6 pack, 91 points. This salad has a lot exciting and powerful flavors coming together, this well balanced IPA will help keep it all grounded. The bitter hop flavors wrangle in the creamy stilton and the sweet and vinegar notes of the pears; the brighter citrus notes of the beer team up with salad dressing to bring it all together.
A hot, bubbling gratin straight out of the oven is the definition of “so wrong, yet so right.” Who was the first genius that decided to cook vegetables by drowning them in heavy cream and cheese? Does it matter? That person is in heaven now, where they rightfully deserve to be.
A gratin is usually made with potatoes and gruyere. It’s like a loving hug for your insides, something to eat straight from the casserole while sitting fireside under a warm blanket.
This non-traditional recipe offers tantalizing new flavors and unexpected tastes that can help you avoid potato-gratin fatigue. Potatoes are swapped for parsnips, which convey the natural sweetness of the root vegetable family, but far subtler than most. Parsnips balance faint sugar notes with comparable bitterness. Their savoriness is almost reminiscent of a musky, autumn-inspired perfume.
Pears are a perfect companion for such an ingredient. Just as parsnip often acts as the carrot’s less-popular cousin, pears regularly find themselves playing second fiddle to apples. Bringing the two together in sweet harmony in this dish is a helping of heavy cream and gobfuls of luscious Brie.
- 8 ounces Brie
- 5 medium parsnips
- 4 large Bosc pears
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 6 sprigs thyme, stripped, divided
- 2½ cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ¼ cup cornstarch or potato starch
Place Brie in freezer at least 20 minutes.
Heat oven to 400°F. Grease 9 x13 baking pan or medium casserole dish.
Peel parsnips and pears. Cut pears in half from top to bottom. Remove cores with paring knife or melon baller.
Using mandoline or chef’s knife, cut parsnips and pears into ¼-inch slices. Place pear slices in bowl, and toss with potato starch. Remove Brie from freezer and shred. Set one-third of the cheese aside to top gratin.
Place baking pan onto sheet pan.
Arrange three layers of parsnips in baking pan. Season with salt and pepper. Top with single layer of pears, shaking off any additional potato starch from slices first. Sprinkle cheese over pear layer with a bit of thyme. Slowly drizzle heavy cream to cover. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used.
Bake gratin for 30 minutes, or until it begins to bubble. Sprinkle remaining Brie over gratin. Turn on oven broiler. Place under broiler for 5–10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let gratin rest 10 minutes before serving. Serves 12 as a side.
Domaine Bertrand 2015 Pisse-Vieille (Brouilly); $25, 90 points. This juicy red wine with plenty of acidity gently lifts this cozy, gooey dish. Bright fruit flavors are a natural companion for brie while the smoky accents of the wine play well with the earthy flavors of the parsnips.
There are some things that are worth the wait, where if you exert some self-control, you’ll be rewarded tenfold.
This is the secret superpower of the humble bundt cake. It’s a dessert that’s perfect to enjoy for breakfast the next morning, again as an afternoon snack and so on, until the entire ring disappears in measured slivers.
Bundt cake can be a dramatic centerpiece for entertaining, its center piled high with freshly whipped cream, platter garnished with cascades of seasonal fruit dotted with sprigs of mint.
The lack of frosting and shabby-chic aesthetic make it a showstopper that even a beginner can master. But while bundt cake doesn’t require any extra flash, a thin coating of sweet glaze and a splash of brandy never hurt anybody.
Pears and brandy go together like chocolate and peanut butter. They’re wonderful on their own, but together they transform into a force of nature.
Keep at room temperature covered with a cake dome or tented with aluminum foil, and as the days go on, the flavors of this cake will meld to make each piece more enjoyable than the last. It won’t begin to stale for several days, but truthfully, the odds of being able to keep your hands off it that long aren’t very good.
- 1 cup white sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
- 2 cups shredded Bosc pears
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
- ½ teaspoon clove
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 4 eggs
- 1½ cups canola oil
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 10-inch bundt pan well with cooking spray or melted butter. Add 3 tablespoons sugar to pan. Rotate pan and shake gently to coat. Lightly tap out excess sugar.
Peel and grate pears. Use hands to squeeze juice from pears into bowl. Reserve pear juice for glaze.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In mixing bowl, toss shredded pears, 1 cup white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and brandy until well combined and sandy. Add eggsm and whisk thoroughly. Slowly add oil while continuing to mix. Add reserved dry ingredients, and mix into smooth batter.
Pour batter into prepared pan, Gently tap pan on counter to remove any air pockets. Bake in center of oven for about 50 minutes, or until wooden skewer inserted into cake comes out clean. Remove from oven onto cooling rack. Let sit for 10 minutes. Place platter or sheet pan over top of cake. Carefully invert platter and cake pan, then slowly lift pan from cake. Let cool completely. Serves 12.
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons reserved pear liquid
- 1 teaspoon brandy
Sift powdered sugar into bowl. Whisk in pear juice and brandy. Use additional pear juice as needed until thin glaze forms. Pour over cake, and allow to harden at room temperature before serving.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht 2015 Hengst Grand Cru Gewurztraminer (Alsace); $80, 94 points. The honeyed ripe fruit flavors of this off-dry wine will match the sweetness of the cake and play well with the spices. The wine’s zesty acidity keeps all the sugar in check.
- 1Pickled Pear Salad
- 2Pear and Parsnip Gratin
- 3Pear Bundt Cake