Recipe: Pears Poached in Marsala with Cinnamon and Pistachios
I don’t really like mushy foods, things like mashed potatoes, mashed yams, smooth purées mixed with butter, or even things like turnips that can be prepared partly lumpy, partly smooth (smashed, as Rachael Ray would call it). That is the main reason I don’t like Thanksgiving all that much. My ideal Thanksgiving dinner would have really crisp turkey skin but none of the meat (it has occurred to me that really crisp turkey skin rolled around a prune would make a great Thanksgiving appetizer, at least at my table). Aside from the turkey skin, I’d like to have rosemary-scented gravy; broccoli rabe with pine nuts, pancetta, and garlic; roasted chestnuts; lots of brunello wine; an arugula salad with a nice piece of mountain gorgonzola; and, to conclude, pears poached in Marsala with cinnamon and pistachios. If only holidays could be that simple and that perfect (in my dreams).
And speaking of alternate Thanksgiving meals, if you’d like a more sensibly considered Italian-inspired menu, take a look at Marco Canora’s offering in the November issue of La Cucina Italiana. He’s got a turkey roasted with sage, orange, and garlic, a roasted fennel soup with hazelnuts that looks amazing, a butternut squash risotto with mostarda di Cremona, broccoli rabe with garlic (ha—great minds think alike), a pignoli tart, and a few other gorgeous side dishes created with a passionate Italian mindset. You can find the entire menu along with beautiful photos at Lacucinaitalianamagazine.com.
Pears Poached in Marsala and Cinnamon with Pistachios
6 firm pears, peeled but with the stems left on
A cup of dry Marsala
About ¼ cup rum
½ teaspoon good vanilla extract
½ a cinnamon stick
2 long strips of lemon peel
¾ cup sugar
½ cup shelled, unsalted whole pistachios
Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear so it will sit up straight in a dish. Then, excavating up from the bottom, pull out the core with an apple corer. (Don’t go so far as to make a hole in the top, though. This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it does make it easier to eat.)
Place the pears in a wide pot so they lie down flat. Pour in the Marsala, the rum, and the vanilla extract, and add the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and sugar. Add water to just cover the pears. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then turn the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the pears are tender when poked through, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the pears. You’ll want to turn them every once in a while so they color evenly.
Lift the pears from the pot with a large strainer spoon, and place them upright in a large serving dish with sides. Boil down the liquid over high heat until you have a medium thick syrup (when the surface looks glossy and large bubbles start forming all over). Let the syrup cool, and then pour it over the pears. Top with a sprinkling of pistachios.