Cowgirl chef: Creative ways to cook pears this autumn

Posted Monday, Oct. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Apple brandy sauce Makes about 1 cup Super-fast and yummy, this sauce refrigerates well and is great over a scoop or two of ice cream. 3 tablespoons butter 1/3 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup cream 2 tablespoons apple brandy Melt the butter and brown sugar over medium-low heat. Whisk in the cream, then the apple brandy. Serve right away or make in advance and warm over very gentle heat. Nutritional analysis per 2-tablespoon serving: 106 calories, 8 grams fat, 6 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 25 milligrams cholesterol, 52 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber, 73 percent of calories from fat.
Coral lentils with Italian sausages and roasted pears and potatoes Serves 6 This is inspired by the classic fall French dish petit salé, lentils topped with big links of sausage. I’ve never seen it served with roasted potatoes and pears, but I love these flavors together. Plus, the roasted pears and potatoes give the dish even more color. • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use • Half a white onion, chopped (about 1/3 cup) • 2 cloves garlic, minced • 11 ounces coral lentils • 1 (15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes • 1 teaspoon cumin • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste • 2 to 3 cups water • 1/2 pound pears • 1/2 pound red-skinned potatoes • Pepper • About 2 pounds Italian sausage (you’ll want 12 sausages so that you have 2 per serving) 1. To make the lentils: Put 2 tablespoons olive oil, chopped onion and garlic in a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Cook until you can smell the garlic and onion (and the onion is translucent), about 5 to 10 minutes. Add lentils, tomatoes, cumin, cayenne and salt. Now add enough water so there’s room for the lentils to expand — you’ll probably need to add a bit more as they cook. Let these cook on medium heat for 30 to 45 minutes. 2. While the lentils are cooking, roast the pears and potatoes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil. Place the pears and potatoes on the cookie sheet, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper, to taste, mixing everything with your hands. Bake for 30 minutes or so, checking frequently and flipping the pears and potatoes so that they brown evenly. 3. Cook the sausages over medium heat in the biggest skillet you have (grilling would be a great option). This should take about 20 minutes, depending on the size, so start cooking the sausages when you put the pears and potatoes into the oven. 4. To serve, ladle lentils into a shallow bowl, and add sausages, pears and potatoes. Serve right away. Nutritional analysis per serving: 363 calories, 13 grams fat, 48 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams protein, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 545 milligrams sodium, 18 grams dietary fiber, 31 percent of calories from fat.
Phyllo-wrapped pears with Roquefort and honey Serves 6 You can roast pears with Roquefort sans the phyllo dough, but this way is more elegant — and not that much more difficult. These are great served for dessert at a dinner party. 3 medium-firm pears, such as Bartlett 1 package phyllo dough 2 tablespoons butter, melted 6 tablespoons Roquefort crumbles 1 (7-ounce) package arugula, for serving Honey, for drizzling 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. 2. Cut the pears in half, scooping out the seeds and removing the stem at the middle of the pear’s flesh. Keep the end of the stem intact — it’s prettier. 3. Unroll phyllo dough and cut into pieces big enough to wrap each half. This will depend on the size of the pears — I cut pieces of dough approximately 4 inches by 5 inches. Be sure and cut 4 pieces of phyllo for each pear, working quickly so the phyllo doesn’t dry out. 4. Make 6 stacks of phyllo, brushing each layer with a little bit of butter so it will crisp. Put a pear half in the center and gently fold up the phyllo so it comes up the sides and just on top of the pear. Using butter, seal the edges together — and don’t worry if it’s not perfect. These actually look nicer with edges that aren’t all the same. 5. Sprinkle the Roquefort cheese crumbles in the center of each pear half and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the pears soften and the cheese melts. 6. Divide the arugula among 6 salad plates and top with a warm pear. Drizzle some honey over the top and serve right away. Nutritional analysis per serving: 308 calories, 10 grams fat, 18 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams protein, 17 milligrams cholesterol, 468 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
Pear-apple ginger crumble with apple brandy sauce Serves 10 Fresh ginger, a pecan-centric crunchy topping and a creamy apple brandy sauce — hello, fall. Ice cream is optional. This is perfect for late nights in front of the fire. 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter plus 2 to 3 tablespoons, divided 1/2 pound firm apples, such as Granny Smith 1/2 pound medium-firm pears, such as Bartlett 1 cup brown sugar, divided 2 tablespoons cornstarch 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 1 cup oatmeal (quick cooking) 1/2 cup flour 1 teaspoon sea salt 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped Apple brandy sauce (recipe follows) 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease 10 (4-ounce) ramekins with 2 to 3 tablespoons butter total. Put these on a foil- or parchment-lined cookie sheet and set aside. 2. Chop apples and pears into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with 1/2 cup brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and fresh ginger. 3. Make the crumble topping: Mix together, either by hand or in a food processor, oatmeal, flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, sea salt and remaining butter. Mix until combined, then fold in the chopped pecans by hand — this way, you’ll have bigger pecan pieces throughout. 4. Divide the apple-pear mixture among the ramekins and top with a tablespoon or two of crumble topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until the tops are brown and crispy. Serve warm with apple brandy sauce drizzled on top — and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, too, if you’re feeling decadent. Cowgirl tip: Make a double batch of the crumble topping and keep the extra in the freezer. It’s great for last-minute desserts. Nutritional analysis per serving, without sauce: 281 calories, 16 grams fat, 33 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 31 milligrams cholesterol, 311 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 50 percent of calories from fat.

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Pears are my peaches of fall, the fruit that I look forward to with the greatest anticipation, and like peaches, you buy them … and then wait. Wait until there’s a bit of give when you press the skin with your thumbs. Not too much, but just enough to know that inside, it’s ready to be eaten.

A perfectly juicy pear is a delicious thing.

The great thing about pears is they’re incredibly versatile. Sure, you can throw them in a pie or a tart and make all sorts of cakes or pear breads with them. But they also do very well in savory dishes. Their subtle perfume — like a drop behind the ears — adds a bit of mystery to a main course, whether it’s pork, lamb, chicken or even a white fish.

My favorite pear is the Comice, a fatty of a pear that’s usually light green with some reddish or pinkish streaks, and flesh that’s downright buttery — what’s not to love about that?

Bartletts, both green and red varieties, are great all-purpose pears, and often the easiest to find in your neighborhood grocery store. There are also the Anjou and the squatty Asian pears, too — all beauties.

The thing to remember about pears is to keep a close eye on them for firmness, depending on what you plan to use them for. They can go from perfect-for-baking to too soft in a day or two, which means that you’ll have to eat them as you go and keep buying more. Which isn’t a bad problem to have.

Bon automne, everyone.

Ellise Pierce is the Cowgirl Chef and author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press, $25). www.cowgirlchef.com; @cowgirlchef.

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