Appearances are often deceiving.
Take the Asian Pear for instance, which, at first glance, can easily be mistaken for an apple. Asian Pears are stout and round like apples, and lack the curvy bottoms of their sisters Bosc, Bartlett, or Anjou pears.
(It's kinda like how Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are both ninjas. You can immediately tell that Storm Shadow is a ninja because he looks like a ninja. But when you first take a gander at Snake Eyes, he can easily be mistaken for a welder. Or an S&M enthusiast. Or both. But in fact, Snake Eyes is indeed a ninja. A mute ninja armed with hand grenades. And a dog. But a ninja nonetheless.)
And despite being shaped more like Ina Garten than Rachael Ray, Asian Pears are pears nonetheless. Aside from shape, Asian Pears are also different in that they are often more firm, crisp, and juicy than other pear varietals. As such, I thought that Asian Pears would be a great vehicle for poaching since their inherent firmness would make them less likely to disintegrate into a mushy peary pulp after a long simmer in pandan-perfumed liquid.
Yup. Pandan-Poached Asian Pears.
It has a nice ring to it doesn't it?
There are recipes for poached pears in which the poaching liquid is nothing more than water and sugar (such as Manggy's delicious-looking recipe for Poached Pears), and other recipes in which the poaching liquid can be one of two wines: Port or Riesling. I definitely wanted to use wine in my recipe. Since I wanted to flavor the poaching liquid with pandan--that oh so fragrant leaf used in many SE Asian dishes, I figured the bold flavors of Port would be too overpowering and went with the Riesling route instead.
As I mentioned in my last post, the aromas and flavors imparted by pandan leaves are mysterious and indescribable, but very tasty. And as I found out from a very useful tip in the comments section of that last post, you can extract maximum flavor from pandan leaves by piercing them with a fork and then shredding them:
To make my Pandan-Poached Asian Pears, I just emptied an entire bottle of Riesling (yes, the whole thing) into a large saucepan with some sugar and a couple of pandan leaves. I then cored and peeled some Asian Pears and plopped them into the pot and simmered away for 30-40 minutes (because Asian Pears are more firm than other pears, they take longer to poach). I then let the pears cool in the poaching liquid and then refrigerated them overnight. The next day, I reduced the poaching liquid into a nice syrup and drizzled the syrup over the chilled pears.
Turns out that pandan, pears, and Riesling wine are all quite complimentary to each other. The pears end up a bit soft and sweet, but still have a nice bite to them, and the reduced wine and pandan create an almost honey-like sauce.
Pandan-Poached Asian Pears
Makes 4-8 servings
1 750ml bottle of Riesling wine
1 cup sugar
3 pandan leaves, each tied into a knot and shredded with a fork
4 firm Asian Pears
In a large saucepan or pot, combine the wine, sugar and 2 of the pandan leaves over medium low heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally until sugar disolves.
Meanwhile, using a small melon baller, remove the bottom stem of the pear and continue to scoop up into the pear until all the seeds and core are removed--you are basically hollowing out the pear from the bottom up and stopping when all the seeds are gone. Then peel the pears and immediately place them into the pot of wine to prevent them from oxidizing and browning. Add just enough water to the pot to submerge the pears and raise the heat to high. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover pot, and continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes until pears are tender but are still holding their shape. When the pears are easily pierced with a knife, and then the knife slides right out, the pears are done.
Remove the pot from heat and allow the pears to come to room temperature in the poaching liquid. Cover and refrigerate the pears and the poaching liquid overnight. The next day, pour half of the poaching liquid into a large wide saute pan and add the third unused pandan leaf (you should have only used 2 pandan leaves so far). Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat and continue to boil until the liquid has reduced to about one cup, about 20 minutes. After the liquid has reduced, allow to cool to room temperature.
Serve the pears in individual shallow bowls and drizzle with the reduced sauce. You can serve the pears whole, or cut them in half to double the servings. Serve with Pandan Ice Cream on the side if desired.