Friday, November 23, 2007


Pear Crisp

It is Thanksgiving in the United States of America, my second home. My angelheart Eric returned to LA yesterday after a heavenly 8-day sojourn in New Zealand, which was far too short. Although terribly depressed, as anyone is when apart from his or her most loved one, I am thankful that he was able to come over and spend some time with me, for it may not be months now until we next see each other.

As is typical in a state of sadness, I felt the need to bake. I also wanted to contribute something to the Thanksgiving table. Of course, we don't have cans of pumpkin purée lining our supermarket shelves in New Zealand - at least, not typically - and butternut squash is not in season, so I couldn't make any purée for myself. I headed to the market for other American favourites in the Autumn: pears and pecan nuts.

I first had pecans by way of the infamous Southern delight: pecan pie. Pandoro Panetteria in Parnell (on the inner-city fringe of Auckland) used to make a nutty and sweet pecan pie. I adored its custard filling made with both brown and white sugar. I say this in past tense because I haven't had one for years and don't know if they still make it. I should stop by. It is criminal that I never had one in all of my years (and Thanksgivings) in the USA - or, at least, I didn't have one that I remember.

I do like pecans a great deal, though. I love their oval shape and the ridges cracked into their maple-to-deep brown skin. Pecans are rich in flavour, particularly of butter, which is perfectly heightened with any recipe that involves melted or brown butter. Storing them isn't terribly difficult. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, shelled pecans should be refrigerated or frozen. They need to be kept away from air and light as they have a high oil content; exposure to heat will quickly make the pecan's natural oil go rancid.

Thanksgiving is a time of year that is associated with all things richly hued. This is the season in which I never seem to tire of the clichés that are presented in store fronts or on magazine covers, where everything is brown, orange and burnt red. Deep in a sepia haze, one can be forgiven for wondering what it's like to see "normal" again. Of course, I don't find it suffocating or overwhelming because I don't have the cultural associations that go along with it, whether it be dealing with the emotions caused by family hysteria or by a post-colonial reality. But bring it on: roasted squash, braised mustard greens, carrot puree, fennel gratin, roast turkey (first brined then stuffed with citrus), toffee apples, maple ice cream, brown butter sauce, dark cups of coffee, pumpkin pie, and, of course, all the nuts of the fall: hazelnuts, chestnuts, and pecans...

Pear Crisp
(Adapted from the Brown-Sugar Apple Cake recipe in Martha Stewart Living, October 2006)

95 1/2g (3 1/3oz) butter, melted
2 medium pears (I used Bosc), approximately 2/3 kg (1 1/2lb)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, any colour depending on desired depth of flavour
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

1) Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F).
2) Butter a loaf pan. Mine measures 22 x 13cm (8 1/2 x 5").
3) Peel, core and cut pears into 1cm (> 1/3" but < 1/2") slices. You can dice them, if you prefer a neater presentation when the crisp is inverted after the initial cooling period once baked.
4) Add sliced pears to a medium bowl and toss them with the cinnamon, nutmeg and granulated sugar.
5) Spread the spicy pear slices on the bottom of the loaf pan.
6) In a large bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, flour and salt.
7) Add the egg and butter and whisk until just combined.
8) Stir in the pecans.
9) Pour batter over the spicy pear slices.
10) Bake until the top is a maple brown and a skewer comes out clean, approximately 35 minutes. I checked after 25 minutes and poured out any excess butter that was bubbling on top.
11) Let cool slightly on a rack.
12) Use a knife around the edges of the loaf pan to loosen and invert.
13) Cut into squares or cut across into slices.

The base is chewy and redolent of the butteriness imparted by the pecans, the toasted pieces of which full each mouthful with warmth. The soft slices of pear are spicy in the most comforting of ways - What would Thanksgiving be without spices?

To my angelheart Eric and all my wonderful American friends:
Happy Thanksgiving!

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Beautiful recipe.

Distance sucks. Hang in there, friend.
Oh for some kind of magic that could transport us to be with loved ones whenever we wanted.

I've a real thing for pears at the moment so the pear crisp looks very appealing.
Oh, my...oh, my...oh, my...The crisp is a superbly easy enhancement to virtually any fruit in any season. I hear, Shaun, that the U.S. is enjoying a bumper crop of pecans; the more the merrier. They are among the finest fruit ever shaken from a tree. Essentially an informal tart, this sticky crush of pears and pecans would certainly ease the sorrows of separation.
A deliciously comforting dessert for you!
I am returning to my Tamasin books (have you checked out her new one or is it not out yet?) and finding much inspiration after the break. I want to cook everything!
I can assure you from experience that distance makes the heart grow fonder but sadder at the same time! Fortunately, as you nudge 30, this time passes by much quicker so take solace in that!
Mmm mmm! I loves me some a 'dat (as they say in the south). Looks delish!

Parnell is a cool place least it was last time I was there.

Glad you got to spend time with your loved one. Hope youa re reunited soon :-)

Happy Thanksgiving!
So happy to hear that you got to spend some time together with Eric! Soon there will be time when you don't have to settle for brief visits alone..
Until then- enjoy the lovely crisps and bakes:)
Wonderful that Eric was able to visit, I'm sure that the 8 days passed by too quickly.

Baking can be so comforting. This pear crisp sounds and looks delicious.
Being apart totally sucks. Hope it's not too long before you see each other again.
I was wondering what was up with your absence on the blog I know. I am so glad Eric was able to spend time with you!
The pear crisp looks marvelous. I am glad to see you using pears. Sometimes they just get pushed aside in the fall becuase apples, squash and pumpkins seem to steel the scene!
Sending warm thoughts to you. Being apart is awful.
Adore pears but rarely do anything but eat a whole one. This looks lovely. :)
To all you kind people who have left messages that include comments about the difficulty of separation, I offer my most sincere thanks. I am lucky to know you. The messages below just deal with food-related comments because I feared that I might get too emotional with the responses if I had to write how horrible the situation is - it's still too palpable.

Christina ~ I have discovered that the crisp is best cold the next day, if one's teeth are still in pretty good condition. If not, then the tough crisp base can be tempered with a little soaking into a hot cup of joe.

Amanda ~ Pears are fabulous during Autumn. My favourite variety is the Barlett with its very mild tropical scent.

Susan, lovie ~ Truth be known, I don't know where we get our pecans from. I always assume they're from somewhere humid and warm, like Australia or some parts of the US, which I believe contributes 95% of the world's pecan production. They are an incredible nut, whose uses are not wholly explored, or at least are not more fully explored than, say, the chestnut or almond.

Freya, love ~ No, I have not seen Tamasin's latest book in the stores yet. Is it not a kitchen memoir, as opposed to a "regular" cookery book? I was reading through her section on game in Tamasin's Kitchen Bible before going to sleep last night. It has been a while since I did some serious, laborious work in the kitchen, and I'm hanging out to do it.

Anthony ~ Parnell itself hasn't changed that much over the years, only some of the stores and restaurants. It is good to know that local haunts of Parnell Rise, like Cibo, are still doing good business.

Pille ~ The crisps and baked goods are comforting to some degree. What I really want is a full day in the kitchen - breakfast, lunch and dinner. I can't wait to have time to do that - probably after the thesis is due and once Christmas is out of the way.

Nora B. ~ The good thing about this crisp is that it is good either warm or cold, though I prefer the latter. I should have thought to serve it warm with boozy cream - brandy, of course!

Cynthia ~ Thank you. In the meantime, I will get into the kitchen and read food blogs whenever I can to help me through it all.

Deb ~ In the fall and winter, I am especially drawn to pears, quince and pomegranates...especially quince, since its season is criminally short. I loved living in Southern Califnoria because there were pomegranates galore for a good few months. The colours, flavours and aromas of these fruits are especially soul-warming during the colder seasons. But don't get me wrong - pumpkins, apples and squash have their place, too.

Wendy ~ I'm forever poaching pears, though I'd prefer to eat a whole pear instead of a whole apple on most days; they have a richer performance on the palate and more body in general.
Hi Shaun,

Brandy! Of course. ;-)

I used brandy recently - I grilled white peaches, then served it with a brandy scented mascarpone cream. yummm! Everyone was almost licking their bowls after.
It's so sad when we are apart from loved ones, but at every day is a day nearer the next time...

From your sorrow comes a delightful pudding, gorgeous!

Nora B. ~ Thanks for the recipe link. It sounds like a good thing to make in a jiffy, which is important as it's crunch time right now (on the home stretch!). I can't wait to enjoy Summer once the thesis is over...I've been looking through the cookery books for inspiration.

Kelly-Jane ~ You're right. One more day down until the next day...The crisp is so very nutty and spicy, but not out of place with vanilla bean ice cream to enjoy on a Summer's day.
Keep you chin up Shaun, I hope the next few months pass quickly for you both. Your crisp looks wonderful! Also I see in your sidebar that you have the new Jamie Oliver book. It isn't out here yet - do you like it?
Sara, darling ~ Thanks! Yeah, things are okay. I'm trucking along, mucking in as one does.

I do like the look of the Jamie Oliver book. I have to confess that I haven't made anything from it yet, but I am always sold on his pasta and salad recipes. He has great recipes for various garden goodies, which is why I think you'll like it. He explains simply how to grow certain things and what one can do with them.

The production values for the book are excellent, as always. And you can't help but love that cheeky grin, though I know that has nothing to do with the success of the recipes.
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