Their gentle sway, the round bottom that nestles in my hand, the succulent flesh of a perfectly ripe Comice – I love pears. Succulent and sexy, whether roasted in cream and sugar, baked into a tart or cake, transformed on the stove top into Pear Vanilla Butter, or eaten out of hand, pears are one of the gustatory delights of Winter.
I have a vivid recollection of my first taste of poached pears. Bosc pears, firm and tall with their stems intact, had been peeled and gently poached in sweetened, spiced Port wine. Their flesh yielding to a paring knife, the hostess lifted them from the garnet liquid and placed them in a pool of thick Creme Anglaise. She increased the flame under the poaching liquid and reduced it to a syrup. She dotted the Creme Anglaise with the syrup and deftly ran a paring knife through the dots, connecting them in an elephant walk chain made of linked hearts. A beautiful dessert took shape before my eyes, and I was transfixed. It changed the way I thought about food, and certainly how I thought about pears. It was one of those moments one never forgets, and although the word may be overused, it was a revelation.