“These pears are getting soft,” my daughter announced from the kitchen.
I sighed. I buy so many produce that goes bad because the child that requested it forgets about it. Indeed, I buy so much food that goes bad before anyone uses it. As it happened, at that very moment I had a two or three week old puff pastry sheet in my fridge. I’d bought a package to make mushroom empanadas for my vegan daughter and only used one sheet.
The softening pears I knew I could use – but the puff pastry? I searched online and found people asking if they could use it a few days to a week after putting it in the fridge – but two to three weeks? That seemed crazy! Still, my pastry sheets did not smell bad, they had no hint of mold in them (I do keep my fridge very cold), they were not slimy and they only had a couple of spots were they’d dried out and even then, not too much. So what the heck! I figured I’d use them.
I placed the puff pastry on a cutting board and rolled it a bit with a rolling pin. Then I transferred it to a lined cookie sheet. I sliced the pears somewhat thinly (I used the two large ones I had) and placed the pear slices on the puff pastry. I mixed some raw sugar with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and sprinkled it on the pears. Then I ground some almonds and sprinkled these on top.
I put the baking sheet in the fridge and turn on the oven to 400F. Once it was preheated, I put the baking sheet in the oven and baked it for about 20 minutes.
The results were great. Really, really delicious. And vegan!
Last week my sister came over for a visit, mostly – she says – so that I would cook for her. And because I love her that’s exactly what I did 🙂 One day I made milanesas, another curried peanut chicken and another, because lamb chops were on sale at Safeway, these lamb chops with balsamic sauce from an epicurious.com recipe. The recipe called for poached quince, but Kathy doesn’t like quince, so I substituted with pears. Alas, Mika loved the pears so much that she asked me to make them everyday for dinner – I haven’t yet. The lamb was also a HUGE winner with all of us. This is certainly a better-than-restaurant caliber recipe.
I didn’t make too many other changes to the recipe, though I did double the sauce (it was a bit too much, but it was sooooo yummy and went great with the Israeli couscous I served it with). I’ll definitely make this again.
Lamb Chops with Poached Pears and Balsamic Pan Sauce
* 2 cups unsweetened apple juice
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 2 pears, peeled, cored and cut into thick slices
* dried thyme
* 8 lamb chops
* salt & pepper to taste
* 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
* 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
* 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
* 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Put the apple juice and sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and a dash of thyme. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, until pears are tender. Remove pears from the juice and set both pears and juice aside.
Meanwhile, salt and pepper the lamb chops. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the lamb. Cook until it’s done, 2 1/2 to 5 minutes per side, depending on the sickness of the chops. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Pour off the drippings from the skillet and place back on the burner. Turn down the heat to medium and add the apple juice. Boil until reduced to 1/2 cup – about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the vinegar, butter, oregano, rosemary and a sprinkle of thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the lamb with the sauce and poached pears.
Marga’s Best Recipes
The weather has once again turned cold and rainy, which put me in a mood for braising. A good thing as last week I got a copy of All About Braising. I decided to invite my friends Regina and Boris for dinner and as the only meat Regina eats is chicken, then it was a chicken that I had to braise. This recipe sounded good and seemed relatively simple.
I served it with a rice pilaf (rice cooked in chicken broth with onion, saffron, cinnamon, paprika and thyme) – which was OK but not great – and started the meal with a mixed green salad with Gorgonzola Vinaigrette I’d previously made. Everybody loved it.
I followed the recipe pretty much as in the book, though I used beef stock instead of chicken as I had some leftover and I didn’t have rosemary around, so I used dry thyme instead. I also used cider vinegar instead of white wine vinegar as I didn’t have any of the latter around. The recipe below reflects my modifications. I used Bosc pears, as they are in season right now, though you can also use Forelles.
Everybody loved the recipe and Mike would like me to make it again. I found the flavor a little too mild for my taste, though I’ll add it to my repertoire.
Whole Chicken Braised with Pears
- 1 – 4 1/2 lb chicken
- salt & pepper to taste
- dried thyme to taste
- 3 just-ripe Bosc pears
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 large leek, finely chopped
- 2 shallots, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp. cider or white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Tear off any large chunks of fat from the chicken and discard. Remove the giblets from the chicken and set aside, except for the liver which you should discard. Cut off the last two joints from each wing of the chicken and set aside with the giblets.
Wash the chicken inside and out and pat dry. Salt and pepper it inside and out. Sprinkle dried thyme inside. Cut one of pears in four pieces and put it inside the chicken. Truss it and pat it dry again.
Heat the oven to 300 F.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a pot large enough to hold the chicken or a Dutch oven. Put the chicken and brown on each side. Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the giblets and wing tips and brown. Remove and set aside with the chicken. Pour off the fat from the pot and discard.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in the pot. Add the chopped leek and shallots, salt, pepper and about 1 tsp of dried thyme. Sauté until the vegetables are soft. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and vinegar and boil for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat.
Return chicken to the pot, setting it on top of the vegetables. Put giblets and wings around the chicken. Cover the pot with wax paper, pressing down so it almost touches the chicken. Cover with the lid and put in the oven. Cook until the chicken reaches 170 degree, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Every 20 minutes, baste it with the juices.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the garnish. Peel the remaining two pears, core them and cut them in slices. Melt 2 tbsp. of butter in a skillet and add the pears. Toss them to coat them with butter. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Sauté until the pears start to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When the chicken is ready, remove from the pot and keep warm under a towel or aluminum foil. Strain the braising liquid into a small saucepan and discard the vegetables. Boil the braising liquid until it acquires the consistency of a thick vinaigrette. Add the pear garnish to the sauce and mix well.
Serve the chicken alongside the pear garnish.