Give me a ripe, juicy pear with a wedge of Cheddar on a crisp fall day and I am happy. Combine pears with fennel and cream in a velvety soup and I am blissful. Dice them into a colorful holiday relish and I will drift to the stratosphere. And if awaiting me at home are pears baked with buttery crumbs, I promise I’ll float joyfully back to earth.
Here are the recipes:
CREAM OF FENNEL AND PEAR SOUP (6 servings)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, sliced
2 large bulbs fennel (1-1/2 pounds), trimmed quartered and thinly sliced (save fronds for garnish)
3 cups chicken broth
2 large, ripe Bartlett or Comice pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream, plus more for garnish
Fresh ground white pepper
Melt butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and stir to coat with butter. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the fennel and stir to coat with butter. Cover and cook until fennel is just soft, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the fennel is very tender, 5 more minutes. Stir in the pears and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and continue simmering until the pears are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat and stir in the cream. Cool for 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup into a blender or food processor in batches and puree it. Season with white pepper and more salt, if necessary. Return to the soup pot. Reheat over a low setting just before serving in warm bowls (do not let boil!) Swirl a little extra cream in each bowl and sprinkle with a drift of fennel fronds.
PEAR HOLIDAY CHUTNEY (2 to 3 cups)
4 large, firm (not quite ripe) pears of your choice, cored and cut into small dice
2 whole green onions, chopped
1/4 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons orange juice
Tiny pinch of cinnamon, allspice and ground cloves
Combine pears, onions, cashews, ginger and cranberries. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, orange juice and spices. Pour dressing over the fruit and stir gently. Let marinate for 20 minutes before serving. Taste; add more vinegar or orange juice if needed.
PEAR CRISP (serves 4)
4 ripe/firm large Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 pinch ground cinnamon
1 pinch kosher salt
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the pears in a shallow bowl. Add the lemon zest, juice, vanilla and ginger. Stir gently to mix. Mix in the sugar and flour. Place pears in a buttered baking dish and set aside.
Place flour, butter, sugar, cinnamon and salt into a food processor. Pulse until dough forms a ball. Sprinkle almonds into the dough and gently combine using a rubber spatula.
Crumble the dough evenly over the pears. Place in the oven on a sheet pan to catch any spills. Bake for 45 minutes or until top is lightly browned and fruit is bubbling. You don’t have to serve this with vanilla ice cream, but I’d strongly advise it!