Monday, January 6, 2014

Cheap Poached Pears in Cheap Red Wine with Cheap Mascarpone Cheese

Notice a theme in the title?

I'm an unemployed immigrant who really, really loves food, and who happens to live in a city with some pretty delicious, albeit expensive, restaurants. If it were up to me, I would eat out every day. My budget, however, disagrees with this idea, and thus I'm left with not much money for food.

Last week, a Citymarket ad had giant boxes of pears for only €1. One can only imagine my delight, seeing as I'm always on the lookout for reasonably-priced fruit this time of year. Most of the produce available in shops this time of year comes from southern parts of the EU, because it's generally too cold for anything to grow here in the winter(even though this year we've had no winter so far).

It wasn't until I left the store that i realized I had no idea what to do with all of the pears. I thought about it for a while, until I finally remembered something I had seen on the Food Network many years ago; Poached pears. At the time, I was completely turned off by the idea. But, now that I'm more well-acquainted with wine, I figured I had nothing to lose. I was too lazy to try and search for a recipe, so I decided I would just go with a kind of wine that I liked, and then spice it with flavors that compliment pears. This recipe is really great if one needs a pseudo-fancy dessert to impress people one barely knows, or for brunch, or for getting rid of pears.

(Scroll down for the recipe!)

I started by going to Alko(the booze store!) and searching for a Merlot or Shiraz, and Shiraz I did find! I paid €8 for this lovely 75 cl bottle of deliciousness.

Product of Italy, yum!

So, after I returned home, I began to assemble my poaching liquid. I poured the entire bottle of wine into my pot, followed by sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice, and put the liquid over medium heat. While I waited for the liquid to boil, my boyfriend and I prepared the pears.

I really wanted the pears to stand up on their own, so we chopped off just a tiny bit of their bottoms, so they were flat. Then we pealed them, but we left the stems on. I just thought it would look pretty.

Once the pears were ready, they went for a little bath in the boiling liquid.

Now, my original plan was to have the pears stand up as they poached, but I found that practically submerging them was much easier, since my pot is quite large. I let them hang out for about half an hour, periodically rolling them over to make sure they were evenly poached. I also turned down the heat after the first five or so minutes, so my boil became a nice little simmer. While the pears did their thing, I watched Finland play Sweden in the IIHF World Juniors for the Gold medal.

After about a half an hour, I removed my pears from the liquid, but let it simmer away for another 5 or so minutes, just so it would reduce a little more.

Unfortunately, my liquid didn't get as thick as I'd like. I think the next time I make this, I'll add a bit more sugar.

For serving, I placed two pears in a cereal bowl, and poured the "sauce" over them. After that, I placed a generous dollop of Mascarpone cheese in between. Mascarpone is a thick, Italian cream cheese that tastes good on just about anything, but works especially well with these pears. I used a simple tub of Pirkka-brand Mascarpone, costing about €2.

So, here's a price breakdown of my pears:
Pears - €1
Wine - €8
Lemon - about €.50
Mascarpone - €2
Sugar and cinnamon - Free, because I had them in my pantry!
Total: €11.50, or €2.87 per serving. Not bad, eh? A similar dessert at a Finnish restaurant would have cost me anywhere from €5 to €8 for one serving, so I'd say I did pretty well!


Prep: 5-7 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes
Makes 4 servings.

-8 pears, stem-on, pealed, and with the very bottom chopped off so they stand up.
-750 cl(1 bottle) of cheap Merlot or Shiraz
-2 tablespoons cinnamon
-2 cups sugar
-the juice of one lemon

Put all of the ingredients, except for the pears, into a pot and bring them to a boil. Add the pears and let them boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a simmer and let sit for 25-30 minutes, occasionally turning the pears. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid, and let the liquid stay on the heat for another five minutes. When ready to serve, place two pears in a bowl, pour over a little sauce, and then put a little(or a lot) of Mascarpone cheese on top. 

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