This weekend I went to my very first
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My goodness, what a fun thing to do
To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect, but less than five minutes into it, I had my notebook out, a pen in hand, and didn't stop writing until the very end. The two chefs who stood in front of the class shared philosophies, let us in on their kitchen gadget secrets, gave cooking advice, and told funny stories about what happens then they cook dinner at home for their families on an ordinary Monday night.
The time flew by, and I can't wait for their next one.
One of the things we learned how to do was poach, starting with shrimp, and ending with pears. Poaching has always seemed mysterious to me. Turns out the whole thing is quite simple (!)
Poaching is a gentle, stovetop cooking process. Food is cooked in a liquid where the temperature is kept steady, somewhere between 140 to 180 degrees F.
Why would you want to use poaching as a cooking technique? Because it is so easy to over-cook our food if we're not careful. Take shrimp, for example; it is a very delicate fish that can easily turn tough and leathery if sautéed in a pan over higher heat, or the cooking time too long.
When something is poached, it will (almost) always turn out moist and tender, because the cooking liquid will be at a low and constant temperature, lessening the chances of over-cooking.
The other advantage of this method is the ability to impart flavors by way of the liquid the item is being poached in. In the case of the pears, the poaching liquid can be customized to suit your taste by adding various spices or other liquids. Some ideas? Fresh ginger, cinnamon, honey, wine (he sold us when he mentioned port)
Today we found it was nice to keep it relatively simple. It's great to make things lively, but too many flavors can also spoil the broth.
A couple of things to watch out for with the pears: during cooking, you'll want to keep them from poking out of the water, and not cooking them long enough. The best way to test if yours are done is by poking one with a paring knife. If it meets no resistance, it's done
After your pears have finished cooking and you've removed them with a slotted spoon, strain out the spices and cook the remaining liquid over medium-high heat until it's reduced by about half. It makes for a delicious syrup to pour over the pears before serving.
I imagine any fruit would work, as long as it's sturdy enough to hold their shape.
ps: Thank-you to Goals in Motion for sponsoring the class
Poached Pears with Honeyed Goat Cheese
- Poached Pears
- 3 cups apple cider
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 cup port wine
- 2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 cloves
- 4 whole pears
- Honeyed Goat Cheese
- 4 oz goat cheese
- 2 ½ Tbsp honey
- In a small bowl, combine the apple cider, orange juice, port, and spices. Stir to mix evenly.
- Coat the bottom of a small to a medium-size pot with the pomegranate molasses
- Peel the pears and leave the stems. Remove the core from the bottom of each pear. Add them to the pot.
- Add the liquid/spice mix to the pot. Turn the burner to a medium-low setting and raise the liquid's temperature to 170° F
- Hold the temp steady while the pears cook (ours took about an hour), turning the pears frequently (The liquid's temp should be just below a simmer)
- The pears are done cooking when the sharp end of a knife slides out easily when they're poked
- Transfer the pears to individual serving plates.
- Serve with Honeyed Goat Cheese.
- If you'd like, the left-over sauce can be reduced and drizzled over the pears as well
- Honeyed Goat Cheese
- Whip goat cheese and honey until creamy