Poached Pears and Honey Walnuts with Roquefort Ice Cream

Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream-1834

Do you remember the first time you tasted Roquefort?  Heheh.  Me too. Took awhile, didn’t it?  Roquefort, like bottarga, scotch and uni, is one of those tastes that waits for your tongue to grow up.  Tangy, salty, sharp like nobody’s business, and in your face with its smell.  Ideally, you’re with someone who will hold your hand as you take your first mouthful of Roquefort, steadfast as your eyes water, until sufficient sensory signals from your tongue accumulate in your brain to ignite Roquefort-appreciation synapses, and they in turn link together in a blazing neuro-culinary ah-ha moment.  Which, given the components of this week’s recipe – fat, sugar, salt – they are sure to do.  Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream, is a very easy dessert, but one for the big people.  It is also, for those hesitant about blue cheese, an excellent introduction, since only a small amount is used, and that is mashed into vanilla ice cream.

Roquefort is a strong blue cheese made in the south of France from sheep’s milk.  It is, along with Gorgonzola, Stilton and Bleu d’Auvergne one of the Four Horsemen of the Blue Cheese-a-lypse. The mold Penicillium roqueforti (think the mold on bread) gives the cheese its distinct blue-green veining and its acrid aroma of butyric acid.  There’s a wheelbarrow’s worth of fascinating information about the aroma of butryic acid, but nothing I can discuss here without pissing off my wife, so let’s leave it alone.  Suffice to say that some of us seemed wired to like these sorts of things; others find them–to quote my mother-in-law’s term of ultimate opprobrium–unattractive.

Personally, I think this dessert comes down on the compelling side.  If you’re still exploring your feelings regarding Roquefort, you can find no milder challenge than a little Roquefort ice cream atop poached pears with honey-glazed walnuts.  It’s a greased slide to dessert elysium.  For adults.  Holding hands.  Enjoy.  Ken

 

Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream-1669

 

 

Poached Pears and Honey Walnuts with Roquefort Ice Cream

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white wine, such as a Reisling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup +2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 4 ripe Bosc pears
  • 2 ounces lightly toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1 ounce Roquefort or other rich blue cheese, at room temperature.
  • ½ pint premium vanilla ice cream

Directions:

  1. Wash the lemon and remove the zest with zester that takes it off in skinny strips (see photo).  Or remove the zest with a peeler and use a knife, cut it into very thin strips.   Squeeze the juice into a bowl.
  2. Combine the water, white wine, sugar, ¼ cup honey, zest, juice, bay leaves and thyme in a non-reactive pan.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to the low.  Allow it to simmer while you peel the pears.
  3. Pull the ice cream from the fridge so it can start to soften.
  4. Peel the pears, leaving the stem on.  Using a small melon baller or spoon, remove the papery bits at the base of the pear.  Put the pears into the poaching liquid and cover with a round of parchment.  See the photos for how to cut the parchment to size.  Cook at the lowest simmer until the pears are tender, 40 minutes or so.   Flip them half way through so they cook evenly.
  5. While the pears poach, make the ice cream.  Put the blue cheese onto a cutting board and mash with a fork.  Add the softened ice cream and mash some more, folding it over on itself to distribute the blue cheese evenly.  I like to use a fork and a bench scraper.  Pretending you’re working at a mix-in ice cream shop.  Place the mixed ice cream in a bowl and return it to the freezer.
  6. Transfer the cooked pears to a plate to cool.
  7. Put the pan back on the stove.  You should have about 3 cups of liquid in the poaching pan.  Increase the heat to medium and reduce the liquids by two thirds–you should end up with about a cup.  Take 3 tablespoons of the liquid and set aside.  Pour the rest over the pears.  When the pears have cooled, slice each one in half lengthwise.  Use the melon baller to remove the core and any stringy bits.
  8. Return the 3 tablespoons of liquid to the pan.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of honey and the walnuts and cook just a minute or so to blend everything and coat the walnuts.  If you cook it longer, it will thicken and harden as soon as it cools.  Add the salt and toss.  Remove from the heat.
  9. Allow the ice cream to soften slightly before serving.  Serve the pears at room temperature in a bit of the poaching liquid with a scoop of ice cream and a spoonful of glazed walnuts.


Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream-4219

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Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream-1783-2

 

Poached Pears with Honey Walnuts and Roquefort Ice Cream-1823

 

Jody Notes

It must have been the anticipated trip to France that inspired these polite poached pears. They’re  more subtle than my typical dessert choice. These are delicate flavored and soft textured, threatening to be boring. But I took care of that. I used my risky savory cook hands and dropped a big blast of Roquefort cheese into vanilla ice cream. And hey, it works. I love that it works. 

 

 

 

 

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43 thoughts

  1. Wow, what a genius idea… There is no greater pleasure than Roquefort and pears, but to add ice cream! I will definitely try this on the weekend, a perfect touch to a chilly Chicago night.

  2. I love your photographs — I was going to compare your drops of syrup and lemon juice to my drool as I was reading the post but realised how unlovely (and unflattering) that sounded. Phew, glad I caught myself in time. Another great-sounding dish, thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks. I’m off-again, on-again about pears. When they’re on, they’re wonderful. When they’re off, well… there’s nothing as disappointing as a mealy pear. Agree with you about poached. We also love them with runny, stinky cheese. Ken

  3. I would eat blue cheese ice cream anytime. That sounds so good I now cannot stop thinking about it. I wonder if Rocquefort or other blue cheese freezes well or would I be offending the French or other? I recently bought a “yonanas” machine and the combo of frozen fruit esp banana and frozen blue cheese sounds good to me to be put through the machine…

    • Hmmm… I’ve never been too concerned about offending the French (“French coffee sucks!” – there, you see, I did it). On the other hand, if you add Roquefort to bananas, well, let’s just say you might get a lot of hate mail from French “affinateurs.” You *can* freeze cheese – you have to freeze the combo of ice cream and Roquefort in this recipe – but I wouldn’t expect cheese, frozen by itself, to maintain its original texture once it’s softened up. I’m a little bit doubtful about banana and Roquefort as a flavor combination (what about apples or pears?), but go ahead–and be sure to let us know how it goes. Ken

      • I had a French homeroom teacher in my senior year in HS. She easily got offended for even though at that point she had lived in Tokyo for probably longer than 10 years.

        The yonanas machine is made by “Dole” so they obviously encourage the use of bananas in everything (and actually say that the first ingredient must be some banana every time) but they do have a point in that fruits/vegs that may be more sticky and glutinous make better “ice cream” when put through this machine, e.g. fig, persimmon, pumpkin, sweet potato, etc.

    • I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, but became an immediate convert on tasting the ice cream–it’s a pretty dramatic swerve away from traditional poached pears, but I think you’ll become a convert too. Let us know when you’re going to be in town.
      Ken

  4. Years ago, we visited a (sadly, industrial) cheese cave in Roquefort and my whole family has laughed about it since. I think we heard the word Penicillium about 1,000 times in the course of the tour. Not to mention the story of the young shepherd leaving his sandwich behind while chasing after the beautiful maiden. And they even had a moving diorama demonstrating tectonic shifts! (Nobody can do that sort of nonsense like the French.)

    What a lovely combination!

  5. Welcome back. And what a brilliant idea, Roquefort ice cream! How brilliantly adult and sublime with pears and walnuts. I actually like talking about unattractive things, particularly when it comes to food, or really anything. I suppose you could also call it ‘honest’. I think it was Anthony Burgess who called cheese ‘the corpse of milk’ which is one of the more unattractive and honest descriptions but somehow appealing, at least to me. A spellbinding recipe, thank you.

    • Anthony Burgess!! The man was a god! I stumbled into his work as a college freshman and in subsequent years read everything of his I could find, including his companion to FINNEGAN’S WAKE (a better experience than FW itself, as it turned out). As a college junior I had the good luck to hang out with him for a couple of hours when he arrived wildly late after a series of airline mishaps for a speaking engagement at my school. His talk had been cancelled – everyone assumed he wasn’t coming – and he gamely wandered into the English department, willing to talk to anyone interested in writing fiction. I was one of the lucky half-dozen whom he entertained with stories while smoking a strangely crooked cigar. “…the corpse of milk…” – that sounds about right.

      Since you opened the door: butryric acid is the principal aroma of vomit. It’s present in butter, Parmesan and other cheeses, particularly those made from sheep’s milk. It’s closely associated with anaerobic fermentation, which explains why you can smell it in cheese and spoiled milk and butter. Roquefort has also been used as a primitive antibiotic by shephards, pressed into open wounds to prevent infection. Ken

  6. I love poached pears… Never have been a blue cheese lover but with vanilla ice cream maybe I can be a convert. As always, I enjoy reading the blog.. Makes me smile!!

  7. Oh sigh. This is a heavenly dessert, Ken and Jody! Yes, I do remember the first time I ever tried roquefort and thankfully my palate has matured enough to appreciate this family of cheeses. I think it is completely brilliant that you have added it to vanilla ice-cream and I can’t wait to try it! Happy New Year to the both of you!

  8. Absolutely glorious. How did I miss it? It is a real pity that your commitments have slowed your posting schedule.
    Best and a belated Happy New Year to you both, if it’s not too late to do this.
    Best,
    Conor

    • I think that maxim is on my coat of arms: Jamais embêter les femmes. This is a surprising treat. Fun to serve people who’ve never thought of themselves as fans of roquefort. Thanks. Ken

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