Pears are one of Pam McKinstry of SVKitchen.com least loved fruits when eaten out of hand, but when they're poached in butter, sugar, vanilla, and spice, well, that's another story. Normally, you immerse the pears in a flavorful liquid, such as wine or sugar syrup, and cook them on the stove top. Then, after they're poached, the cooking liquid needs to be reduced to concentrate its flavors.
Pam says that poaching the pears sous vide, however, creates pears that are perfectly soft without the need for several cups of liquid. Instead, a sweetened compound butter melts and moistens the pears. While they cook, the pears release their luscious juices, and voile -- the undiluted essence of pear and vanilla is captured in the food bag. To serve, slice and fan the pear halves, top with the buttery juices, and before you know it, you've got a lovely dessert.
If you're craving a more dramatic presentation, drizzle the pears with chocolate or caramel sauce. Whip up some heavy cream, flavor it with the juices in the food bag, and garnish each serving with a generous dollop. Just in case you're feeling indulgent, Pam's included her recipe for Sea Salt Caramel Sauce.
If you would like more information about the modernist techniques, ingredients, and equipment used in the Sous Vide Vanilla Poached Pears you can check out the following.
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Preheat the water bath to 185°F (85°C).
Drizzle lemon juice over all surfaces of the pears to prevent discoloration.
Mash the butter with the sugar, vanilla paste, and star anise until well blended. Place half of the compound butter in a food bag and add 2 pear halves and a vanilla bean half. Vacuum seal. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Cook the pears in the water oven for 1 hour, or until the pears are just tender. Depending on the variety and ripeness of your pears, this could take an additional 15 to 30 minutes.
Remove the pears from the bags and reserve the juices. Using a small knife, make several parallel cuts starting 1 inch below the top (stem end) of the pear, slicing lengthwise to the base. Press gently to fan the slices. Repeat with the remaining pears. Drizzle with the warm juices and serve immediately.
By Pam's standards, salt and caramel are a match made in heaven. She likes to serve this rich, buttery sauce with the Vanilla Poached Pears, but it's also terrific with ice cream or drizzled over a dense chocolate torte. Because of the cream and butter, this version of caramel sauce is not shelf-stable, so be sure to refrigerate anything left over. Pam says that never happens in her house, but perhaps you have more restraint....
Combine the sugar and water in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan. Pam finds it easier to make caramel in a 12- or 14-inch skillet. Because of the skillet's greater surface area, the sugar caramelizes more rapidly and evenly, and she feels more in control of the process.
Place the pan of your choice over medium heat and stir until the sugar melts. Raise the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook without stirring until the syrup is a deep amber hue, swirling the pan as the syrup begins to color to ensure that it caramelizes evenly. Add the cream carefully as the mixture will bubble and spit. Reduce the heat to low and whisk until the sauce is thick and creamy. Then stir in the butter and the salt, whisking until smooth.
Serve the sauce hot or warm. It can be kept covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week. Reheat over very low heat or in the microwave until the sauce reaches pourable consistency.
If you like this recipe you can get more than 85 other inspiring recipes to get you on your way to sous vide success. It's all in my best selling book Modernist Cooking Made Easy: Sous Vide - Get Your Copy Today!