Pears are so convertible. Top up or top down, they breeze through town lending a bit of culinary exotica to the dark days of winter. Cooked, they provide a welcome blast of fruity, subtly spicy perfume for many a dessert, think pear tarts, pears poached in syrup of one sort or another, etc., etc., etc. And then there are cooked pears, not sweetened, that lend an aura of mystery to the savory side of the menu. One such is this, adapted from my latest cookbook Bold: A Cookbook
of Big Flavors (Workman, Dec. 2013), co-authored with Susanna Hoffman. While we designed the dish to accompany roast duck, it easily segues to almost any warming meat, poultry, or game dish.
The pea sprouts were inspired by finding “the sprout lady’s stand,” absent for several weeks, suddenly reappear at our local farmers’ market. They add a gentle, verdant crunch that goes well with the silken soft pears. Other sturdy leafy greens, such as frisee, arugula, or one of the chicories, can happily substitute.
3 ripe but still firm pears, preferably Bartlett, Anjou, or Comice
1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Pea sprouts or other crisp greenery, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. Quarter and core the pears, leaving the peels on. Place the pears in an ovenproof dish large enough to hold them in a single layer. Sprinkle with the vinegar and oil and turn to coat all around. Roast, turning twice at 10 minute intervals, until the pears can be pierced with a fork but are still firm enough to hold their shape, 25 to 30 minutes.
3. Spread the sprouts or other greenery on a platter and arrange the pears over the top. Serve right away, at room temperature, or chilled.