For Grandma Annie, a fresh, juicy pear was the ultimate treat.
It took me rather a long time to appreciate pears. I found the taste a bit metallic and far too subtle on my young palate. Give me an orange instead, later an apple. That was then.
I was an adult before I began to savor the pear, which I now realize is a more sophisticated cousin of the apple.
A few months ago, as we settled into autumn in the southwest of France, I bought two bottles of cider, pear and apple. Pear was sweet and light, while the apple was vinegar-y and heavy to my American-bred palate. I tossed it out.
Baked Pear with Calvados and Mascarpone Cheese
Two Red Bartlett pears
1/4 cup Calvados
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
For the cheese topping
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
dash vanilla extract
2 tablespoons roasted walnuts
Halve the pears, cutting from the top down, and hollow out the center. A grapefruit spoon or a sturdy melon baller is perfect for this task. Set aside.
Melt butter and sugar, add the Calvados and a pinch of cinnamon. Pour over the pears and allow them to absorb the liquid for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 375. Place the pears cut side up in a buttered baking dish. Drizzle the remaining liquid over the pears, allowing it to pool in the center of the pear halves. Bake for 30-40 minutes until pears are softer, but still firm.
While pears are baking, blend mascarpone with vanilla and sugar.
Remove pears from oven. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stuff center of pears with mascarpone cheese. Top with roasted walnuts.
The taste is subtle, the sensation on the tongue is crisp, creamy and crunchy.