This year, I am a little late to the pre-Christmas party. It wasn’t until today that I heard the first Last Christmas (I gave you my heart) of the year. Six measly days before Christmas. And we all know the festive season doesn’t start until you hear Wham.
Luckily, I got a head-start on the season before it officially began. Lookit, I have the menu for 26 December all planned out:
- Parmesan grissini, crusty white bread
- Sweet and sour pumpkin pickles
- Prosciutto and salami
- Olive oil
- Tagliatelle with buttery mushrooms
- Meat balls in tomato sauce
- More crusty bread
- Fennel gratin
- Green salad
- Poached pears with chocolate sauce
The man and I are cooking for his family, in rented holiday accommodation. If you have heard me bitch and complain about the knives and chopping boards in our honeymoon apartment, it will come as no surprise that I am planning to bring all essential cooking equipment. There will be no chopping boards that could double as fruit bowls in my hands ever. again.
Still, to avoid dragging the entire contents of our kitchen to Belgium, it seemed sensible to pick food that does not require fancy equipment. A chopping board, a knife, a garlic press, some pans and a large bowl and I think we’re good to go. Ooh, and a pasta maker. But that doesn’t count. Pasta dough is like play-do, which is a toy and so a pasta maker is a… toy-extension, not kitchen equipment. True story.
The pears (a recipe I found at Orangette) only require a sharp little knife, a teaspoon and a large pan. But I would bring a whole lot more than that for these beauties. They are that good. Sweet with vanilla, cold grainy flesh played off by warm, smooth chocolate sauce. I am drooling a little writing this. Which must stop, because it is not v. Christmassy and the season has now started. On with the recipe, then.
Poached pears with chocolate sauce
Combine 1 liter of water with 100gr of sugar (light brown if you have it, but white works too), a split vanilla pod and a squeeze of lemon juice in a medium pot (the liquid should come at least half way up the pot). Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When boiling, turn down the heat so the liquid simmers. Meanwhile, peel one ripe, juicy pear per person, cut it in half and take out the pips and the fibrous bit that runs the length of the pear. Slip peeled pear halves into the simmering liquid as you go so they don’t turn brown. Poach the pears for 15 to 30 minutes, until tender and translucent (and oh so pretty). Cool in their liquid, until completely cold. You might have to work in batches. This amount of liquid was plenty for my seven pears, but I did have to poach in two rounds to avoid overflowing the pan.
When you’re ready to eat, put 200 gr of dark chocolate* in a microwave-proof bowl, cover with about 200 ml of cream and a splash of strong coffee and heat in the microwave until the chocolate starts to melt. Give it a good stir, and heat a bit longer if necessary to fully melt all of it. When the chocolate has melted (but not burned, easy does it on this one), add a chunk of butter- about 2 tablespoons. Stir until incorporated into the silky chocolate.
Plate two pear halves per person (straight from the fridge), top with a generous amount of warm chocolate sauce and serve.
*The original recipe apparently gives this amount for four pears. I found it was enough for at least seven.