Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy New Year!

You know it's been a busy year when I don't have time to cook. I LOVE to cook. It's relaxing and therapeutic to me. But I simply haven't had time. Thus, the blog has suffered.

It was a great, but busy, 2008. Several trips out of state for family and for fun, picking up a second job, and getting my first ranking in aikido has kept my life full, but tiring.

I knew on an intellectual level that I was tired for the latter half of the year, but it was only after a good 5 days at my parents, with nothing to do but sleep in late, go shopping, read a book on wine and scarf down Company Potatoes, that I got perspective on how relaxed I felt, and how stressed I was before.

Coming back to reality, I know that I've still got a lot on my plate, but I've tasted the fruits of relaxation, and they will be a part of my diet from now on.

As a symbolic gesture of this, I actually cooked something fancy, from a recipe even, Sunday night. Pears poached in red wine sauce. The lovely thing about this recipe is it's very elegant, but can be broken up into several parts, many of which can be done in advance. It's a good example for me how I can still find ways to cook and relax in 2009 and keep a better balance of work, rest, and play.

Poached pears in wine sauce

large, somewhat shallow, saucepan, big enough to fit all pears
Vegetable peeler
spoon or ladle
measuring cups

1 bottle fruity red wine
1/2 cup fortified wine, such as port wine, or sherry (or 1/2 cup sweet wine plus a shot of something strong like vodka or rum).
1/2 cup sugar
4 pears, the ones with the green skins, slightly underripe if you can get them that way.
2 Tablespoons chai loose leaf tea (emphatically not the powdered stuff. It has to have twigs and pods and nibs in it. Can substitute 2 T mulling spices plus a 1 inch section of orange rind)

Keep stems on pears, but peel them. Cut off bottoms of pears a little bit so they stand upright. Heat all other ingredients in saucepan over low heat until sugar is just melted. Add pears. Heat mixture until boiling, then back heat down to a low simmer. Cook 30-40 minutes, turning pears every 10 minutes or so. Baste the pears with the liquid each time you turn them.

Remove pears, then turn the heat up and cook the syrup down until it is reduced to about a cup. Be careful here to make sure the syrup doesn't burn. When bubbles start to "stack" on top of each other, you're good to go.

Strain syrup, pour syrup over pears in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to room temperature before serving. Serve by placing each pear, standing up, then spoon some syrup around. Can add whipped cream or ice cream if you want.

The coolest thing about this recipe is how the pears turn from pale green to ruby red as you cook. Talk about alchemy. Yum.

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