Photo by Maria Robledo
To make Essential Roasted Pears, click here for the recipe.
As I've gotten older, I find my cooking revolves around simple, essential approaches and base formulas rather than actual recipes. I use them as jumping off points from which to improvise, which makes cooking fluid, in-the-moment, and often surprising.
Throughout fall and winter, one of my favorite improvisational "base" preparations is roasted pears. These are pears that are roasted with a bit of sugar, lemon juice, butter, and a split vanilla bean or even herbs, until they become tender and caramelized, with a concentrated pear flavor. Roasted pears are one of those miraculous recipes that are easy to make and have endless applications, both sweet and savory.
You can roast just about any kind of pear from tiny Seckel pears to Comice or Anjou, to interesting varieties found in the farmer's market, as long as they are slightly firm and fragrant.
Very small pears like Seckel take especially well to savory treatments; when roasted whole or halved with the stem intact, several can be clustered in a serving. Here are some ways I've used them over the years to give an idea of the possibilities:
• As an accompaniment for Thanksgiving turkey instead of cranberry sauce