I also made this appetizer dish for the Independence Day celebration with my family – it isn’t really “4th of July” or “red white and blue” themed, but it IS delicious! The poached pears were sweet and contrasted the pungent gorgonzola cheese well. The peppery watercress (and the watercress I bought WAS peppery!) added yet another dimension of complexity to the dish, and the crunch of the curly endive and candied walnuts complemented the soft “melt in your mouth” texture of the pears and cheese (oh wait, the cheese was already melty!). It looks like a simple dish, but was made with love and was a huge hit (well, except for Grandpa – who saw the lettuce and exclaimed “That’s rabbit food – I don’t eat rabbit food” haha – but he did like the pear at least!).
While pears are normally a winter time food (no, I could not buy them at the farmer’s market), this dish is all about being fresh and light for summer. Well, I take that back. I think this dish could work really in any season, flavor-wise. I apologize to the locavore gods for buying a fruit out of season!
I’m sure that many many people have made poached pears and put cheese on them before, but I didn’t look up any recipes or anything for inspiration even! It was all in my head and then transferred to the plate, and I was quite pleased with the result!
I know the ingredient list looks forever long, but do not be intimidated! There are just steps like any other recipe, but nothing is hard I promise – though it does take a little planning and time – this was a dish made with a labor of love. Sometimes a tasty dish and a chance to share that with your family are just worth the time and effort and love you put into it. I feel like when I share my food, I am sharing a little piece of myself. The food I make is an expression of my soul, and few things make me happier than to know that others took pleasure in tasting what I had to share.
And so without further ado….
Salad of Gorgonzola Stuffed Poached Pears
Ingredients (8 Servings):
For the Candied Walnuts:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
For Poaching the Pears:
1 bottle sherry
1/2 cup maple syrup
For the Gorgonzola Stuffing:
2 onions, THINLY sliced
1 tbs. EVOO
3 tbs. sugar
chopped tarragon and sage (fresh)
8 oz. gorgonzola dolce cheese (or the mildest variety you can find – the gorgonzola is meant to be distinct here but is not meant to be the only star of the meal)
For the Salad:
1 bunch watercress
1 head curly endive or other crunchy green of your choice
1/2 cup chive blossom vinegar (or a red wine vinegar would work too)
1/2 cup EVOO
salt & pepper
1. The first thing is to candy the walnuts – you can make a large batch of these and keep them for a long time, and they are super yummy with a lot of good uses. Toast your walnuts, then melt the sugar in a pan and stir in the walnuts. Elise at Simply Recipes has some really good clear directions on making candied walnuts. Lay them out on a plate and let them cool.
2. Next is to start the pears poaching – first peel the pears and cut them in half, and cut out the cores. Place them in a pot (one large enough to house all 8 halves), and pour into the pot the bottle of sherry and maple syrup, and add any water needed to bring the level just high enough to cover the pears. When poaching the pears, I turned the heat on to medium, and brought the liquid *just* to a simmer, and then kept it barely at a simmer the rest of the time. Total cooking time depends largely on the size of the pears and the ripeness of the pears (the more ripe they are, the less time it will take, etc.). I’d say plan on 15 minutes, but it could take at least double that time depending on your pears. You can tell when they are done by checking them with a fork. If you can stick a fork in them easily, then they are done. Otherwise, let them go a bit longer. You don’t want to overdo them though, then they will turn to mush. So this requires you to check on them a little bit.
3. Meanwhile, while the pears are poaching, I would go ahead and start the onions. Cook them in a small pan with 1 tbs. EVOO on medium, until the onions soften. Then add the sugar in, give it a good stir, and cover for about 10 minutes until they caramelize and brown. I checked on them every few minutes to make sure that things weren’t sticking to the bottom too much.
4. Mix the onions and fresh herbs and 1/2 a cup of the candied walnuts with the gorgonzola – the cheese is really creamy, so this shouldn’t be difficult at all. This is going to be the “stuffing” for the pears.
5. When the pears are done poaching, remove the pears from the liquid and place them in an oven safe dish, core side up. Keep the poaching liquid though! Reduce the liquid down to about 1/2 a cup. The pears will probably cool some during this time but it’s ok because they are going to be going into the oven soon enough.
6. Mix up the salad dressing – reduced poaching liquid, vinegar, EVOO, salt and pepper. I would also plate your salads (the greens) now too. That way as soon as the pears are done you can plate and serve immediately.
7. Turn on the broiler in the oven. Spoon about a 2 tbs. sized bit of gorgonzola stuffing into the well where the core of the pear used to be. Do this for all 8 halves. Pop the dish into the oven, and broil for just a couple minutes until the cheese gets all melty and gooey.
8. Take the pears out of the oven, plate on your salads, top with more walnuts if desired, and add your dressing! I also spooned little bits of any leftover gorgonzola stuffing onto the salads as well.