Pears. Sake-poached and hidden under a blanket of Sake Zabaglione

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As one is always wont to say after disappearing from one’s blog for an extended period of time, I did not mean to be away for this long. But here we are, several months since my last post.  And the reason for this is simple, life happens.  As unseasonably cold as this year’s summer was in Brussels (I think it rained for all of June), it was also an unseasonably busy summer at work. And between work, travel and an exciting project I will hopefully be able to tell you about soon, I have been spending less time than usual in the kitchen, behind my camera or writing at my desk  to prepare posts for this space. But I am excited to get back into it.

So let’s talk about pears. After the abundance of brightly coloured summer fruit, autumn’s, at times meagre, offerings can seem a bit depressing. And whereas summer fruit is best eaten over the sink to catch any dripping juices, autumn fruits like (and in the case of quince, need) a bit of heat to coax out their best flavours, be it through poaching, roasting or nestled into cake batter.  Pears can be tricky. On the one end of the spectrum you can be unlucky and find yourself with rock-hard pears that are neither sweet nor juicy. And on the other end of the spectrum there are pears so soft (and tooth-achingly sweet) they are practically impossible to transport.  But when you pick up a pear at that perfectly ripe sweet spot, it can be a wonderful thing.

I grew up in a house where jars of pears in syrup lined the pantry shelves more years than not. So I am partial to cooked pears in some form or another. They are wonderful for topping porridge, rice pudding or cooked semolina. Or hidden under a blanket of custard, zabaglione for example.

Although zabaglione is the kind of thing most of us likely only ever order in an Italian restaurant (and likely an old school one at that), making zabaglione is not difficult at all. But it is one of those desserts that requires a bit of patience if you want to execute it well. It is tempting to stop whisking the mixture as soon as the yolks have tripled in volume and the mixture is light and airy, at about the 5 minute mark. But you should resist the temptation and continue whisking the zabaglione until it has thickened considerably with only a few small bubbles showing (this can take around 10 minutes in total).

While zabaglione is traditionally made with sweet dessert wines such as Marsala, as ever, I like experimenting with the basic formula and make the most of what ingredients I already have at home.  Sake is not to everyone’s liking, but I adore it. Rightly or wrongly, its flavour reminds me of grappa and thanks to its lower alcohol content I much prefer sipping sake than grappa.  As sake is not a dessert wine by any definition, using sake also makes for a far lighter zabaglione than is traditional (although you can of course up the sugar content in the recipe, should you so wish).  Sake’s delicate flavour also pairs wonderfully with pears, so what better way to serve a sake zabaglione than poured over some pear quarters poached in sake?

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Pears. Sake-poached and hidden under a blanket of Sake Zabaglione

Notes: You can poach the pears in advance but the zabaglione should be made right before you want to serve it (and while you are making the zabaglione, you can gently warm up the poached pears again – eating the poached pears warm with the freshly made zabaglione is glorious indeed).

For 4 portions

Ingredients

For the poached pears

2 firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
200ml sake
2 tbsp sugar

For the zabaglione

8 egg yolks
8 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp sake

Directions

Start by poaching the pears.

  1. Place the quartered pears, sugar and sake in a medium-sized sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a simmer on medium heat and leave to simmer until the pears are easily pierced with a knife (this should take around 10 minutes).  Set aside.

Next, make the zabaglione.

  1. In a heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks with the sugar on medium speed until the mixture has tripled in volume.  While continuing to whisk the mixture, slowly pour in the sake.
  2. Once all the sake has been added, place the heatproof bowl suspended over a pot of simmering water (making sure the bowl does not touch the water).
  3. Continue whisking until the zabaglione has thickened considerably with only a few smaller bubbles showing (this will take around 10 minutes).
  4. Serve immediately.

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