On cold, short winter days, we tend to turn to comfort food for, well, comfort. Food professionals—chefs, bakers, restaurant owners and the like—are no different. At this time of year, homey braises, filling pastas and old-fashioned desserts are on their menus at home. When we asked local food pros to share their favorite winter dishes, the ones they serve family and friends, we got recipes that run the gamut from an intoxicatingly complex pork-and-hominy stew to a simple meal ender of wine-poached pears with mascarpone whipped cream. Delish!
As the manager of Oak Park Farmers Market, JOANY TITHERINGTON has access to fabulous fresh food. So it’s no surprise that, come holiday time, she makes a show-stopping dessert for family and friends that spotlights products from the market—in this case, local pears and honey.
1 cup water
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey (divided)
1½ cups Moscato wine or other dessert wine
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole star anise
1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 pinch salt
6 firm Bosc pears
2 cups cold whipping cream
8 ounces mascarpone, softened at room temperature
In a saucepan large enough to hold all the pears, combine water, lemon juice and 1 cup honey. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until honey dissolves. Add Moscato wine, cinnamon stick, star anise, nutmeg and salt and bring to a simmer.
Peel the pears, keeping the stems attached. Place the peeled pears into the poaching liquid and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until tender, rotating the pears every 5 minutes to ensure they poach evenly on all sides, including the tops.
When the pears are tender, remove them from the liquid and allow them to cool. You can then refrigerate them until serving or serve them at room temperature.
Continue to simmer the poaching liquid until it thickens to a syrup and is reduced by half, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Remove the cinnamon stick and star anise and discard. Set aside.
To make mascarpone whipped cream, whisk the heavy cream and the mascarpone in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons honey and continue whisking until medium-stiff peaks form. Use immediately or refrigerate until serving.
Place one pear on each plate. Pour a little of the syrup on top of each pear and serve with a large dollop of mascarpone whipped cream.