It’s our anniversary. Not Jim and I- that was last month! No, it’s me and you!! My blog has been welcomed into your homes for three years today.
When I first started compiling my thoughts and recipes at this computer, I had no idea where the path would lead. Would this be an exercise in self-expression, that maybe 10 or so people may find tolerable? Would it just become the depository for the recipes from my childhood, as I took scraps of paper with my mom’s recipes and transferred them into meta data? Would I run out of things to say, and dishes to cook? True, I have had creative peaks and valleys. There were days, even a week or so, where I thought, “I have nothing new to share. I don’t know what to cook. Just order a pizza, and call it a blogging life.” But surprisingly, those times quickly faded as I was suddenly inspired by something or someone. And the cooking continues.
And along the way, I have found so many appreciative ears and eyes, and hopefully bellies! I get so much wonderful feedback from all of you!!! There have been times where I have posted a recipe in the morning, and by that evening, I was already receiving photos of the finished recipe, from one of you dear readers. And I will never take this for granted, I promise. Hopefully you all don’t mind the ramblings in my posts!
And this week, this little blog, taking up such little space in the world wide web, was honoured here in Canada. Each year, Taste Canada, a board which tirelessly scours all the Canadian books and blogs that food authors release each year, honours those that rise to the top of their specific fields of food writing. This year they had an especially challenging assignment, as the cookbooks released by Canadians has never been more prolific or globally acclaimed. These are books that are on shelves in kitchens around the world. You can see all the winners in the above link.
As for the cooking blogs, you guys know just how many blogs exist today. Having to narrow it down to the ones that they felt have the content, writing style, recipe accuracy, and usefulness of blog navigation to deserve a brief moment of applause, must have been arduous. I was amazed, and somewhat aghast that mine was being considered for just such an honour. The other short-listed blogs in my category are wonderful, and ones that I personally access for ideas and tips. I was in the lovely company of ‘Baked-The Blog’, ‘Baking for Friends’, ‘Rhubarb and Cod’, and ‘Stems and Forks’. I hope you can check each of these gems out- they all have something unique to share!
So, this past Monday, we were all together, more than 400 people in total, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel here in Toronto for the gala event. It was scrumptious and spectacular! Top chefs and talent from around the country shared their creations. A highlight of the evening was awarding two culinary school student teams with silver and gold for their recipe and execution at a crazy, energetic competition the night before. And I had the privilege of being one of the judges!!
And towards the very end of the evening, after the book awards, the blog awards were presented. I won Silver!! It was beyond belief! If it weren’t for different ones in the audience sending me their phone videos of my speech, I would have no idea of what I said. It was not completely dorky, thank goodness. Jim was so busy listening, he forgot to capture me on his phone! I don’t mind- I don’t do well in front of the camera! The Gold went to Susan Keefe of Rhubarb and Cod. She is such a darling in person, and her blog pays tribute to her maritime heritage, as well as the multiculturalism of Toronto. Congrats Susan!
So how do I celebrate both an anniversary and this lovely blog award? I usually share something from my German heritage on this yearly post. But in all the hoopla, I completely forgot to work on something! Oops. So instead I am going to share a wonderful recipe that I worked on over the last few weeks, that is quite celebratory in itself. Roasted Pears.
These aren’t just any roasted pears. The key is the combo of red wine, sugar, and spices. When red wine and spices are warmed through and served to drink, this is called Glühwein in German. It’s Gløgg in Swedish. When the cold weather hits, warmed (not boiled- you don’t want to boil off the alcohol!) wine and spices like cardamom, cinnamon and anise seed, as well as sliced oranges, make for a cozy drink. You’ll find it served from dinner parties to market stalls throughout northern Europe. So, when I decided I was going to try a version of this to create a glaze for roasted pears, I decided to add star anise, cloves, cinnamon and black cardamom to my red wine.
Instead of poaching halved pears, I left the pears whole, and stood them up in the baking dish. You want to use a dish that is deep enough to hold all the wine, but where the pears don’t have too much room to fall over. They should fit somewhat snugly. The roasting (as opposed to poaching) allows the skin to become one of the stars of the dish. It gets just a touch crusty, and totally wrinkled as it comes out of the oven. For this reason I choose Bosc pears. The flesh holds up well, but the outside skin becomes the most luscious burnt umber colour!
As soon as the pears are cooked through (about 45 or so minutes) they come out and rest. And that’s when you get to have fun with the wine, and turn it into a glaze. Just dump all the liquid from the baking dish into a small sauce pan. And cook it down over moderately high heat. Let it bubble away till it is as thick or thin as you want. Do you want more of a sauce? Then cook it down for less time. The longer you cook it, the thicker it will become, until it turns into the most delectable syrup. Don’t let it go for so long that it becomes so thick that it hardens as it cools. Then it just becomes a sticky mess! I leave all the whole spices in the pan as I cook it down, just so that they can continue to add their unique flavours to the finished sauce. It’s easy enough to pick them out later on.
Serve a whole pear on a small plate or bowl. Add a slice of Stilton or any other blue cheese on the side. Or if the crowd is less savoury, you can naturally add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. And over it all, drizzle some of your sauce/syrup. Oh my!! Having made this several times already, and getting such rave reviews from Jim and other guests, this will continue to be a dessert go-to all winter long! It’s so easy. No baking required! The hardest part is stirring the wine reduction. In fact, if you just want to make the wine reduction, go for it!! It would a fantastic syrup over almost anything: chocolate ice gelato, cheesecake, sautéed plums etc, even over grilled ham and brie sandwiches!
The question was asked, and I will include the answer here. Yes, you can roast these off and serve them at room temperature. The sauce can also be made in advance. As I mentioned above, if you reduce it to make a syrup, don’t reduce it too much. As it cools, it will thicken even more and turn into more of a candy! I actually reduced this while everyone was visiting, and the resulting warmth is wonderful as it melts into ice cream.
Here’s to a new year of experimenting, cooking, eating and sharing. And reading along. Thank you, each and every one of you!
Spiced Wine Roasted Pears
Warm spices and sugar combine with red wine to help roast these pears into a perfect winter treat. The skin of the pears become one of the stars, and the wine is reduced into a fabulous sauce that works well with fruit, cheese, cake or even over ice cream.
- 4 Bosc pears
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 star anise
- 4-6 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 black cardamom pod cracked
Preheat the oven to 400F
Place the whole pears into a small baking dish that will allow them to stand up without toppling over. But deep enough to hold the wine. Place this baking dish onto a baking sheet for easy transport in and out of the oven.
Pour the wine over and around the pears.
Sprinkle the sugar over the pears.
Add all the whole spices to the wine.
Bake on the centre rack until tender (I use a wooden skewer to poke a hole to check the tenderness to the centre). This may take 45 minutes or so, depending on the size of the pears and your oven.
The wine and sugar will have enhanced the skins beautifully. Remove the pears to a plate.
Transfer the remaining wine, sugar and spices to a small saucepan.
Heat the saucepan over moderately high heat. Once bubbling, stir regularly to keep it from sticking on the bottom. Reduce till it is the thickness you would like. This will depend on how much wine reduced in the oven, and also how thick you desire it. For a sauce it will take less time, than a syrup. If you want a syrup, continue reducing, but do not reduce to the point where it becomes too thick. Once it cools, it will harden, and not in a pleasant way. You still want it to be liquid enough to pour nicely.
Pick out any spices before pouring.
To serve, place a pear on a plate or small bowl. Add a side of ice cream or even blue cheese. Drizzle some of the sauce all over. You can serve extra sauce in a small pitcher.