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Add these flavorful roasted pears to your holiday dessert offerings and your guests will love you.
When it comes to holiday desserts, home cooks have lots of options. Traditional family dishes are certainly must-haves (in my family, it’s apple pie, cranberry bread and caramels), but it’s tempting to add to our menus when we see all those gorgeous recipes online and in magazines, or we hear about those ‘killer’ recipes from our hairdressers and cat sitters. Needless to say, the myriad of pie, cake, cookie, pudding and candy options can be a little overwhelming, and it’s especially challenging for folks trying to cut down on sugar and flour, while also feeling like they’re celebrating the holiday season.
To add even more options to your planning, consider making fruit the star of a dish! One I absolutely adore at holiday time is pears and, since many varieties are in season right now, it’s a great time to pick some up. Bosc pears, in particular, are in peak season between late September and April. The beautiful heirloom variety is grown mainly in the Northwestern states, and has that distinctively long, elegant neck and goldish-brown skin. They’re delicious to snack on due to their crunchy texture and rich, not-too-sweet flesh, but Bosc pears are especially great for baking, grilling and roasting because they’re sturdy and can retain their precious juices.
Roasting pears is an easy cooking method that produces amazing results. By searing the pears in a warm pan with butter you start the process of caramelization, which continues when you place the skillet in the oven to finish the cooking process. All those delicious, natural juices and sugars combine to soften the pears and make them rich and silky. When topped with a vanilla-fig sauce and crunchy walnuts, it becomes an elegant dish that will be welcome by all your holiday guests!
To prepare this recipe, I was fortunate to have some wonderful, fresh ingredients at my fingertips, all found here in the Sarasota area. I picked up the gorgeous Bosc pears at the Sarasota Farmers Market; the honey came from Peter Burkard's farm (he’s one of the Market’s original vendors); the sweet, delicious butter came from the dedicated farmers at Dakin Dairy Farm (they’re based in Myakka City, but sell many of their products at Detweiler’s, Whole Foods, local Fresh Markets, Winn Dixie, and Brown’s Grove, to name a few); and the walnuts and figs came from P&J’s Nuts at the Englewood Farmers Market!
Roasted Bosc Pears with Vanilla-Fig Sauce
2 Bosc pears
1.5 Tb. unsalted butter
2/3 c. water
2 Tb. honey
1 Tb. granulated sugar
1/2 vanilla bean and seeds
1/2 c. dried Kalamata figs, chopped
Dash kosher salt
1 Tb. unsalted butter
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
Sprinkle of finishing salt (Maldon, other) - optional
1) Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2) Remove the skin from each pear, cut them in half and remove the cores.
3) Add butter to a large non-stick/oven proof skillet over medium heat.
4) Place pears in skillet, flat side down. Cook about 3 minutes (until browned).
5) Turn off heat and transfer skillet to oven for 20-25 minutes. At the halfway point, flip the pears to brown the other side.
While pears roast, prepare Vanilla-Fig Sauce:
6) In a small saucepan, combine water, honey and sugar and bring to simmer.
7) Cut vanilla bean in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds from one side with the point of a small knife. Add seeds to water/sugar mixture, along with 1/2 seed pod (tightly wrap other half and reserve for another recipe).
8) Add chopped figs and salt and simmer 8-10 minutes until the mixture starts to thicken. Turn off heat and stir in butter; set aside until pears are ready.
9) Remove pears from oven and transfer to serving dishes. Spoon over Vanilla-Fig Sauce and top with walnuts (and finishing salt, if using).
Nicole Coudal is a writer and home-chef based in southwest Florida, where she fishes and cooks using local ingredients. When not on the water, she visits farms, farmer’s markets, and other food-related venues to highlight what’s in-season and to create tasty recipes. Read more at MyDeliciousBlog.com.