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Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Super-Easy Appetizer: Brandy-Roasted Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese

Brandy-Roasted Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese

A Super-Easy Appetizer:  Brandy-Roasted Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese
by Victoria Challancin

It all starts somewhere.  Inspiration, I mean.  And the impetus for the recipe in this blog started back in November on Thanksgiving at my friends' house, when a younger member of the family brought wine-poached pears to go with the cheese plate. pears.  Hadn't had them in years.  Hadn't made them since before then.  Delicious.  Hmmm...

I wanted to honor my friend by giving a little pre-Christmas party for her family, who were visiting from the States.  After considering the guests, I knew an international theme would work and the menu for the family Christmas party started coming together nicely in my head.  The starring role would be filled by some lovely hot-smoked salmon another friend had brought us from Seattle.  Let's see...some olives, pickled beets and cocktail onions, lemons, capers, red onion, dill, watercress...where are the cornichons?

A Hot-Smoked Salmon Platter

And egg, of course.  Egg in the form of a Syrian-Style Egg Salad (so lovely...I'll write about this recipe by Greg Malouf soon) would go nicely with the salmon.

Syrian-Style Egg Salad with Pine Nuts, Olives, and Sumac à la Greg Malouf

A Beet Tapenade with more capers sounds like another good accompaniment for salmon, yes?

Beet Tapenade with Capers

Goat Cheese with Dates and Walnuts.  OK.  No picture?  I AM slipping... And some crackers, sumac-topped toasted pita chips, crostini...Let's round out the menu.

Muhammara, always Muhammara, (a Syrian roasted red pepper dip with walnuts and pomegranate molasses that I wrote about here with my recipe).  Can I actually entertain without Muhammara making an appearance?  I think not.

Muhammara with lightly-steamed tiny French green beans

And again, because you can Never have enough Muhammara...even in photos

And a tiny version on a favorite Moroccan plate for the kids in case they liked it...well, they loved the beans anyway...

Something hot?  Mini Leek and Mushroom Frittatas sounded comforting, as did Crimini Mushrooms baked with a filling of Welsh Rarebit made from Guinness stout and a very sharp cheddar.  Unlovely, both of them, but comforting on a cold night...

Mini Leek and Mushroom Frittatas 

Crimini Mushrooms baked with a filling of Welsh Rarebit

For drinks:  Bubbly something, wine, and Ponche Navideño (Mexican Christmas Punch) that I wrote about here.  Something sweet for the little kids and the big?  Candied Ginger Black Pepper and Cardamom  Cookies that I featured recently.

Steaming hot Ponche Navideño:  Mexican Christmas Punch

Candied Ginger, Black Pepper, and Cardamom Cookies

And that circles me back to the pears and cheese.  I already had a nice hunk of creamy, rich Gorgonzola cheese in the fridge that begged to be served with a sweet or spicy counterpoint.  And as that inspiration from the poached pears at Thanksgiving was still with me, I began a search for a new variation on that lovely theme.  Then I found a wonderful recipe by for Roasted Pears with Pecorino by Martha Stewart (the original recipe is here), which interested me.  I changed the method of cooking the pears rather drastically and came up with the following version.  Considering that at the end of the evening the plate looked as if it had been licked clean, I think it worked out just fine.   And really, it is super-easy.  And yummy as well.

Brandy-Roasted Pears with Gorgonzola Cheese
(Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart)

4 ripe Bosc or Anjou pears
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1/3 cup brandy
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Pecorino or another strong cheese of choice

Crackers or crostini for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Halve and core the pears, but do not peel.  Slice each half into four wedges.

Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Scatter the pear slices over the melted butter, sprinkle with brown sugar, and cook, tilting the pan back and forth gently from time to time, until the sugar dissolves and forms a golden caramel sauce.  Remove from the heat.

Remove the pear slices with a slotted spoon and place in a heat-proof baking dish.  Set aside the skillet with the caramelized sauce.  Bake the pears for 10 minutes, or until tender when tested with a fork.
Meanwhile, add the brandy to the caramelized syrup in the skillet.  Heat gently over medium heat.  Ignite the brandy and allow the flames to die down.  Lower the heat, add the rosemary, and cook until the mixture thickens slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Place the cheese on a serving plate with the roasted pears alongside.  Pour the hot caramelized syrup over the pears and serve with crackers or crostini.

The table, partially ready

Once again, the links for some of the other recipes featured in this post are:

Wishing each of you a healthy, peaceful, prosperous 2011!

Victoria Challancin
Flavors of the Sun International Cooking School
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.


Ben said...

Everything looks amazing, but those pears! I just made baked pears yesterday and I wish I had seen this post before. It'll be for next time!

Dimah said...

Everything looks wonderful and delicious!

Nagi@RecipeTinEats said...

Everything looks irresistible but the pears are the best! :)