When broken down into simple steps, classic cuisine becomes simple and requires no more than basic kitchen skills.
This is one of the deserts we are serving to 25 guests on Thanksgiving Day.
This recipe will serve four.
For Madeira Poached Pears you will need:
The Whipped Vanilla Cream
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 fresh vanilla bean sliced lengthwise to expose the inside
Pour the cream into a non~reactive saucepan (stainless, enamel, etc), and simmer the split vanilla bean for at least two hours. This solution should not boil. When the cream has taken on a fragrant vanilla flavour, pour into a small bowl, cover tightly, and set aside in the Fridge.
NOTE: I do the above step the day before, as the cream will taste even better held overnight.
The Toasted Almonds
About 1/3 cup of sliced or slivered almonds
Heat an absolutely clean, heavy frying pan (cast iron), to medium high heat. Toss in the almonds. Shake the frying pan, moving the almonds until they turn golden, toasty brown. Set aside in a covered bowl. Do not refrigerate.
6 small pears ~~~ they should be quite firm, not over~ripe or they will dissolve when poached.
3 cups ice cold water & three Tbs lemon juice in a non~reactive mixing bowl (glass, ceramic, stainless).
Peel, halve & core the pears. Place the prepared pear halves into the cold acidified water, which will prevent them from discolouring (I usually cover this & then put it into the Fridge).
The Poaching Solution
2 cups of Madeira wine
2 Tbs lemon juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar (do not use confectioners sugar)
1/2 Tsp powdered cinnamon
To a non~reactive saucepan (enamel, stainless, etc), add the wine, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Stir over medium heat until all are incorporated and then cover and bring to a low boil. Now add the pear halves.
Allow the pear halves to simmer for about 10 minutes, turning only once with a slotted spoon. The pears will become soft and fragile, be a little careful. After about ten minutes, remove from heat and allow the saucepan of pears to cool, covered, for about 20 to 30 minutes. This resting time is actually important.
While the pears are resting, whip the vanilla cream to stiff peaks in a mixing bowl, cover and return to the fridge.
When the pears are nearly room temperature, carefully remove them from the poaching solution with a slotted spoon and set out on a baking rack to drain.
While the pear halves are draining, boil down the Madeira syrup to reduce it's volume to about 1/2 or less. You are going to love how the syrup smells.
NOW..., everything can be set aside for later. Do not refrigerate the pears. Do not refrigerate the syrup. While your guests are enjoying the last bit of their main courses, slip off to the kitchen.
In four shallow bowls, spoon a puddle of the Madeira syrup. One portion is three pear halves, laid flat side down and narrow side in (rounded larger side outward toward the edge of the bowl, onto the syrup). Using a pastry tube, or a spoon, arrange a pretty mound of the whipped vanilla cream in the center of each bowl on top of the pears. Drip 1 Tsp of the syrup onto the whipped cream. Decorate the top and edges of each bowl with some toasted almonds. Wipe the edges of each bowl with paper towels to make a clean edge. Stick a tiny sprig of fresh mint into the whipped cream if you'd like.