Remember how MacGyver could build a wind turbine, nuclear fusion reactor, or inordinately complicated whatsis from rubber bands, paper clips, a car battery and a roll of scotch tape? No biggie I say. Sure, Mac could defuse a bomb, escape his weekly perilous predicament and save the world in a mere 60 minutes (including commercials). But could he whip up a tasty dessert for three chick-flick movie night viewers with a serious case of the munchies? I think not. And, could the wizard of aluminum foil and rubber band engineering do this with two pears past their prime, some really good wine, a modest pantry and a Hershey bar? Give it up Mac. You’re clearly out of your depth.
Imagine if you will, an impromptu gal pal (and a guy) movie night, happily thrown together over an even more spur of the moment lunch earlier that day. There we are, all snug with cozy slippers and fluffy blankie, remote poised to dive into an evening of chick flick. Then someone says it — the innocuous comment about craving something sweet. Brainpan gears start turning, and just like a yawn spawning more yawn, all three of us are channeling Homer Simpson-esque “Ooo…something sweet” thoughts. Now when I was back in Gotham these thoughts could easily turn to a pint of Cherry Garcia or package of Mallomars with a quick phone call or pj-clad run to Duane Reade. But when you are on the top of a mountain on a rainy night in rural Washington, alternatives are necessary. Enter MacGIRLver.
Instead of rubber bands, two slightly past their prime pears. Instead of a car battery and paperclips, some vanilla ice-cream, finely ground coffee and a Hershey bar. A half bottle of wine, a splash of balsamic, a pinch of cinnamon and slow simmer later….the sugar-jonesing trio is digging in, the munchies are sated, the guy gets the girl, love triumphs again and all is right in the world. All in 30 minutes. Take that, MacGyver!
Spiced Wine Poached Pears with Chocolate Sauce
Here is another example of something that is more technique than precise recipe, since the ingredients were what was found in the kitchen, and the occasion very spur of the moment. Overripe pears mean a tarter poaching liquid, and ice cream is a perfect stand in for cream when making a chocolate sauce, especially when you have some good finely ground coffee (or instant in a pinch) to balance the sweetness of the ice cream. Since the pears I started with were already pretty soft, they didn’t need a long time in the poaching liquid either.
For the pears: (Works best with overripe pears)
- Overripe pears – one per person
- 1/2 – 3/4 of a bottle of red wine (you could substitute cranberry or pomegranate juice if you like, just omit the balsamic)
- 2-3 TBSP honey or sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- pinch salt
- 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Peel very ripe pears (one per person), cut out any rotten spots, scoop out the seeds from the bottom using a melon baller or small spoon. Set aside as you make the poaching liquid.
In a saucepan large enough to fit the pears lying on their sides in one layer, heat together some red wine, a splash (1-2 teaspoons) of balsamic vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons of sugar or honey, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 pinch cloves and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and put the pears in the pan. The poaching liquid should come almost to the top of the pears but not cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, turn the pears, and simmer another 10 minutes. Remove the pears to a plate, turn the heat up under the poaching liquid and boil down until reduced by a little more than half. Taste and adjust for sweetness if needed. (It shouldn’t be overly sweet – a little tartness is nice.)
While the pears are poaching, make the chocolate sauce:
- 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, melted (Coffee ice cream would be great too)
- 1 milk chocolate bar
- 1-2 tsp very finely ground coffee
- pinch salt
Heat together all the ingredients over low until the chocolate is melted. Stir well until the sauce is smooth.
To serve: Pour a little of the poaching liquid on the plate. Slice the pear in half lengthwise and place, cut side down, on top of poaching liquid. Drizzle chocolate sauce over the pears.
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