Demented Ramblings life is too short to refrain from eating jam out of the jar

17May/080

Experiments with pears

Well, well, now. That was one damned tasty dinner. My camera is still packed away someplace. I shoved all clutter into the spare room and closed the door. Much easier than actually cleaning the house enough to have company.

This morning, the darling boyfriend and I rode our bikes to the farmer’s market. The things which jumped out at us were bi-color corn and new potatoes. I told him that I’d been craving boiled shrimp. I didn’t even think about the sausage and stuff to make it a true low-country boil. I was thinking shrimp with potatoes and corn.

On my way to Fresh Market to pick up shrimp, I called a couple of folks and invited them over. Hey! Another impromptu dinner party! Yay! Those are my favorite kind, since I don’t have enough planning/prep time to let myself freak out.

Since we were going to have more folks, I decided to round out the meal a bit by adding salad and dessert. I immediately thought of the salad we had last week at an awards dinner for Sparks’ sister. It was the best banquet meal I’d EVER had.

I started off by poaching a couple of Anjou pears. I’d never poached a pear, but it seemed like it would be straightforward enough. I googled poached pears and combined a couple of recipes.

Poached Pears

2 Anjou pears, peeled, quartered, and cored
1.5 cups shiraz (leftover from my birthday party!)
¾ cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons vanilla
zest and juice of one lemon

Put everything except the pears in a saucepan and bring to a boil The liquid tasted so good that I had to test it 845 times. It made me roll my eyes with glee each time! Once it’s boiling, reduce to a simmer and add the pears, stirring gently occasionally. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the pears are tender.

Extract the pears to a plate and allow to cool. I used a little of the liquid in my salad dressing and the rest was reduced until thick. It comes up again later!

So, then I made the dressing. I was shooting for a strawberry vinaigrette. It was close. Actually, pretty good once it got the salad under it, though it was iffy beforehand.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

2 T strawberry preserves
balsamic vinegar
olive oil
tarragon
black pepper
kosher salt
liquid from poached pears
Dijon mustard

Melt preserves in a small skillet, mix with a couple of tablespoons each of Dijon and the pear liquid. Throw in a pinch of salt and a good heavy grinding of pepper. Add a bit of tarragon. Stir in some balsamic (sorry, I tend to not measure when I’m making stuff up off the top of my head) and olive oil. Put in a dressing shaker and adjust balsamic/water/oil until it suits you.

For assembling the salad, I thinly sliced a quarter of the poached pear and placed it on one side of each plate. A handful of greens was deposited on the plate. Top the greens with a sliced strawberry, plus another one quartered beside the pear. Thinly shave a bit of stilton bleu on the salad and toss a few toasted slivered almonds on. Then top with the dressing. CHOIRS OF ANGELS WILL NOW SING

Then, time for dinner. We grilled the corn and potatoes. I tossed together a shrimp boil liquid (part of a beer, a whole lot of water, and handful of pepper corns, some lemon rinds {I’d used the juice in the poaching liquid and in making cocktail sauce}, and a couple handfuls of Tony Chachere’s seasoning salt) and got it boiling. When time to eat, we dropped in 2 pounds of key west royal red shrimp (on sale and quite tasty!) and let them cook for all of 2-3 minutes. OH, second course was just as good as the first!

Dessert took a few minutes to assemble. I caramelized a slice of fresh pineapple for each person (sprinkle with sugar and hit with the kitchen torch until crusty and browned), added a bit of the leftover pear and a strawberry. Then top with a scoop of Greater’s Vanilla ice cream and the thicked poaching liquid. Foodgasms were had by all!

Shrimp boil is one of my favorite meals, especially when we can eat in the yard and don’t have to worry about the mess. The salad and dessert were both experiments. I love experiments that turn out well!

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