I think of pears as the lesser known, but no less interesting, cousin of apples. They overlap in season with apples, and where they are widely grown–certain parts of New England, the Pacific Northwest–pears are kept through the winter and into spring. According to Pears USA, American farmers raise nearly a dozen common varieties–from Green and Red Anjous to Bartletts, Sekels and Starkrimsons. And, like apples, they are a welcome crunchy tree fruit that might grace our tables from fall through spring, in winter chutneys, pies and fresh salads with nuts and cold-hardy greens.
In these parts, the Milk Pail in Water Mill–open year round–is still selling Asian pears (which are half apple-half pear and juicier than their all-pear counterparts). They are done with Bosc and other pears for the year; it was a short season due to some damage sustained during Hurricane Irene. Wickham’s in Cutchogue is selling three types of pears and stays open until December 31. Brieremere has some too, fresh and in preserves. Try your farmstand if there’s one still open by you. Or your local green grocer.
At Almond Restaurant in Bridgehampton and New York City, Chef Jason Weiner, is a big fan of the fruit. He slices pears into a savory potato gratinee, and was kind enough to share the recipe below. “I run it with the Grassfed Porterhouse For Two on Fridays sometimes.” The potatoes are from Tom Falkowski, whose Country Gardens stand on Scuttle Hole road is still selling potatoes. (Chef Weiner also uses Falkowski spuds in his very fresh made, and very popular, French fries.)
The gratinee would also go well with a Thanksgiving bird, not to mention on its own with a glass of fruity Long Island chardonnay. Chef Weiner also uses pear in a pear, Roquefort, endive, walnut salad. And while he’s not a fan of Asian pears–“too juicy”–he does say they could work in a salad. The pear and blue cheese combination is a classic, of course. Speaking of cheese, if you’re making a cheese plate, sliced pear is a natural substitute for sliced bread.Potato & Bosc Pear Gratin Chef Jason Weiner, Almond Restaurants Yield:6 servings 2 tablespoons butter 2 Bosc pears (peeled & cored) 3 Russet potatoes (peeled) 1/2 bunch sage Salt Freshly cracked black pepper 1 1/2 cups half &half (warmed up) 1 cup crumbled Roquefort or another similiar ewe’s milk blue cheese 1 bunch chives (chopped)
1.Preheat your oven to 350° 2.Grease the casserole with the butter. 3.With a mandolin, thinly slice one of the potatoes and shingle it neatly in the casserole. 4.Repeat the process with the pear. 5.Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage leaves. 6.Repeat the process alternating layers of potatoes and pears until all the potatoes and pears are gone. Work quickly so the pears and potatoes don’t oxidize. 7.Pour the half and half over the assembled gratin. 8.Wrap the casserole in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes ot until tender 9.Unwrap the gratin turn up the oven to 500°. Sprinkle the cheese on the top. Cook for another three to five minutes under the broiler to color the top of the gratin. 10.Allow to cool for 10 minutes. 11. Garnish with the chives.