Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kitchen Experiments: Perfectly Im-PEAR-ed

When you set forth to make a dish for the first time, there is an established process we food people have. Usually, I rely on similar dishes I've been successful with [insert calls to my mother here for her version and advice], and scan a recipe or two for the general ground rules. I've even dug back into some culinary disasters for what not to do. And then there's the adventure of attempting a dish for the first time—from scratch—with no recipe. I turn it into a personal little contest to see if I can pull it off or not. It's fun, and hell, why not just see what you can come up with, right? However, I don't usually do this when cooking for or with someone, for the sole reason there is no recipe. It's a huge gamble on the "garaunteed edible at the end."

But I actually found myself the other day challenged to take on a dish I'd never made before, sans recipe. My challenger had suggested a dessert. And rather than heed the advice of an easily accessible recipe, we agreed to display a blatant dismissal of conventionality, and engage in some serious culinary lawlessness. What form did our anarchy take? Poached Pairs in a Sweet Wine Reduction. The suggestion was perfect, actually: totally doable, and totally destroyable at the same time. I almost smirked at the moment—it was as capricous as us challengers, inspired by a free-wheeling, total disregard for responsibility or reality that can sometimes happen when tempted by a difficult culinary adventure with a like-minded seeker.

Diaglogue was blithe with a dash of audacity: How much poaching liquid? Who cares! What kind of wine? The Muscato, clearly. One vanilla bean or two? Suprise me. Nutmeg, cinnamon, freshly ground pepper? Hell, throw them all in. Did it need something sour? A dash of raspberry vinegar, perhaps? Are you grossed out yet? Never! It smells too spicy...I dare you to drink the poaching liquid... Why don't we just add some sugar instead? Brilliant!

And the success of the dish wavered constantly—between moments of faith it would end up a genuis creation, and moments where there is nothing but extreme certainty it's headed for the trash. But you can't have any expectations when discarding the recipe—like I said, there's no garauntee it's edible at the end. The case in point is that the pears were a bit overdone and the reduction destroyed by a microwave attempt to reheat it. But I'm not one to give up easily. And that's where you remember to improvise. Because served a la mode, the nuanced hint of sweet spiciness that had infused into the pears was startling delicious. Well-worth a future attempt with a few adjustments. So given the right circumstance, I highly recommend trying a new dish and challenging yourself beyond the recipe. Because sometimes NOT following the rules can be unpredicatbly yummy. Not to mention, entertaining.

For a sure-fire recipe I love for Poached Pears, Click Here

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