Poached Pears with Butterscotch Ice Cream


Photograph by Iaian Bagwell

From Aaron Russell, Restaurant Eugene

For poached pears:
2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 pears (see notes below)

For butterscotch ice cream:
1 1/2 sticks butter
15 egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar plus 1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
6 cups milk

To prepare pears:
Peel and core pears from the base, leaving the stem intact. Reserve pears in acidulated water (1/2 quart of water mixed with 2 Tbsp lemon juice) to keep them from oxidizing. Bring first 6 ingredients to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add pears. Simmer until a paring knife easily penetrates the flesh, typically 15 to 25 minutes. Allow pears to cool in the poaching liquid. Reserve them in the poaching liquid in an airtight container until ready to serve. If you wish to serve the pears warm, reheat them gently in the microwave or, better yet, in their liquid in a pot. Place each pear, standing, in a bowl, and garnish with a scoop of ice cream.

Notes: For practical purposes, Russell recommends choosing a pear with very firm flesh, as it can be poached longer without becoming too mushy. (The longer the pear poaches, the more flavor it absorbs.) Bosc and Anjou pears are great for poaching, but even underripe pears of other varieties will work. For aesthetic purposes, try to select pears that still have stems attached.

To prepare ice cream:
Melt the butter in a small pot and cook over medium-high heat, swirling frequently, until the milk solids brown and smell nutty. Pour into a heatproof container and allow to cool to room temperature. Thoroughly whisk together the yolks, 3 Tbsp sugar, starch, and salt. Cover and set aside. Bring the milk to a boil, remove it from the heat, and set it aside to stay warm. In a large pot, mix the 1 3/4 cups sugar with a little water until it has the consistency of wet sand. Cook over moderate heat until the sugar melts and obtains a deep golden caramel color. Very slowly and very carefully, pour the hot milk into the caramel while whisking. Simmer, stirring, until the caramel dissolves. Add one-third of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into the pot and cook over low heat, stirring, until the liquid thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon. Pour into a bowl and chill over ice. Whisk in brown butter. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to machine’s instructions.