WITH BUTTERMILK SNOW
Plump pears are roasted and basted with honey, wine and spices, then paired with a tangy, refreshing buttermilk granita. When selecting pears for this recipe, look for specimens that are firm but fragrant. The clever idea to use buttermilk as a granita base comes from Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa of the blog Ideas in Food.
2 cups (500 mL) shaken buttermilk, preferably organic
6 tbsp (90 mL) sugar
Large pinch fine sea salt
6 firm-ripe Bosc pears
1½ cups (375 mL) fruity red wine, such as Spanish Garnacha or Australian Shiraz ⅓ cup (80 mL) honey
3 wide strips orange zest 1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches (8 cm) 3 cloves
Mint leaves to garnish (optional)
1 For the buttermilk snow, whisk buttermilk, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl until sugar is dissolved. Pour into an 8- to 9-inch (20- to 23-cm) square non-reactive baking dish and place in freezer. After 1 hour, stir, scrape and mash with a fork to prevent large ice crystals from forming. Stir, scrape and mash every 30 minutes until dry and fluffy, another 2 to 3 hours more. (Snow will keep covered and frozen for 5 days. Fluff with fork before serving.)
For the pears, preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
3 Cut a ¼-inch (5-mm) slice off bottoms of pears. Remove cores from bottom with a melon baller or tip of a sharp paring knife. Peel pears and place on sides in a baking dish. 4 In a small saucepan, combine wine, honey, orange zest, cinnamon stick and cloves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve honey. Pour boiling wine mixture over pears. Bake pears, turning and basting every 10 to 15 minutes, until tender and the liquid is syrupy, about 1 hour 15 minutes. (Add a splash of water if the liquid gets too thick.) Remove from oven.
5 Stand pears up and occasionally baste with syrup as they cool. (Pears can be cooled, transferred to airtight container, and refrigerated up to 3 days.)
6 Pears can be reheated in a microwave or in a cooling oven from dinner or served at room temperature. Place standing up on chilled plates on a bed of buttermilk snow. Garnish with mint leaves, if desired.