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Honey Roasted Pear with Sauternes Sabayon

Honey Roasted Pear with Sauternes Sabayon
Sunday September 12, 2004

I make this dish for my family every year at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This holiday usually falls in September when the first pears come on the market; this dish ushers in the fall fruit harvest. In addition these pears, when they are cooked, produce an orange-amber honey-pear caramel that is perfectly symbolic of the sweet new year to come, encompassing the traditional symbols of the holiday, honey and fall fruit. When the pears come out of the oven, they are absolutely beautiful: shiny and caramelized with a multitude of colors - browns, blacks and golds.

I try to use Anjou pears. If they are not available, you can use Comice or Bartlett. Bosc pears are also nice, especially because of their long, graceful stems. Beware of using very under-ripe pears. They take a very long time to cook and the final product is sometimes mealy. Likewise, do not use an overly ripe pear because it will disintegrate during the cooking process. Ideally, the pears should be firm but have some give when you press on them; you should also be able to smell the pears' perfume.

This pear dish is somewhat labor intensive and requires the use of a hot oven for about two hours, so I'd recommend roasting these pears while you plan to be in the kitchen working on another dish. If you have a convection oven, use it because the pears will roast faster and take on a bit more color. I recommend serving these pears with a sauternes sabayon which follows this recipe but lightly whipped cream or crème fraiche are also great accompaniments to these pears.

10 medium ripe pears
1 lemon
2 Tablespoons butter
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. honey
2 1/2 cups of water
Sauternes Sabayon (page TK)

Special tool and pots
Use a metal roasting pan (12" x 8" metal roasting pan), aluminum or copper if you have it. A heavy metal roaster conducts heat better and the pears will brown better and cook faster.

Step 1 - Preparing the Pears
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel pears and leave on the long stems or short stems if they have not already fallen off. Also use your peeler to peel the lemon zest off the lemon in four long strokes. Slice the bottom of the pear so that it stands up in the roasting pan. Your slice should be no more than an inch in diameter and a 1/3" thick. Stand pears up in your roasting pan and add all the remaining ingredients, including the four strips of lemon zest. You do not need to mix the ingredients together ahead of time because they will all melt together into a syrup in the oven.

Step 2 - Braising the Pears
Place roasting pan on a cookie tray just in case the juices boil over. Place pan in oven on the top shelf of your oven and bake for 30 minutes until all the sugar and honey has dissolved and the tops of the pears are beginning to brown.

Remove roasting pan from the oven, push pears over so they are lying on their side and continue to bake for another 20 minutes. Take pears out and roll them over so the opposite side is up and bake for another 20 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to rotate pears in this cooking process; a metal tool will pierce and bruise the pears. Pear will continue to take on color. Do not be alarmed if the tops of the pears become a very dark brown. You want them to caramelize.

Step 3 - Checking to See that the Pears are Poached
At this point remove pears from the oven and pierce one with a paring knife and check to see that it is cooked through. The knife should slide right into the center of the pear with little resistance. The pear should be somewhat soft to your touch. If the pears seem hard and uncooked bake them lying down for another 20 minutes. During the roasting process, the cooking liquids will have reduced and become sweeter.

Step 4 - Roasting the Pears
When the pears are pierceable, stand the pears back up and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste pears with the caramelized juices (which will continue to reduce and thicken like syrup). Return pears to the oven and repeat this three more times. The pears are done when the tops are almost black and the flesh is a shiny deep caramel color. You might need to bake for another 10 to 20 minutes to get this beautiful caramel shine. Once you remove pears from the oven, baste them one last time. The basting syrup should be a thick syrupy caramel.

Step 5 - Finishing the pears before serving
Remove pears from the roasting pan and save caramel sauce (pick out the four strips of lemon and discard). Let pears cool and remove the core from the bottom with a small melon baller. If you do not have a melon baller you can use a pairing knife. You need to carve out a cone shape from the bottom to remove the pear's seeds. To serve, reheat the pears in the oven.

Serving Suggestions
Place each pear on a plate with a dollop of whipped cream or crème fraiche or sauternes sabayon and a drizzle of the pear caramel sauce (cooking liquid from the pears).