A few weeks ago, I took my first drive through the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile route through the orchards and farms that surround Mt. Hood. The end of September was the start of pear season and local orchards offered tastings of over a dozen varieties of pears.
I love Stark Crimson. They are perfectly sweet, reasonably firm, and have that distinct, grainy texture as they melt in your mouth. Their deep red color often entices me into buying a few unripe pears to decorate the table.
I wanted a recipe where the pears were an essential element of the main course. Pear salads and desserts are easy to find—for good reason, they’re delicious—but I rarely cook with pears. I chose this recipe because the savoriness of the dried sage and salty pork contrasts with the sweetness of the pears and the slight heat of the crystallized ginger. It’s important to season the pork well, or the sugar from the pears and crystallized ginger can take over. In fact, I cut the added sugar in this dish almost in half, and next time might leave it out entirely. The ingredients contain enough sugar to create a slightly syrupy sauce without it.
Because the pears are sautéed, it’s important to choose a firmer variety. Some pears do best raw, others are great for roasting or baking. This introduction to cooking and baking with pears is useful if you’re feeling uncertain. I cooked my pork loin chops to just shy of medium, and even though they were juicy, when they are done in the skillet they will never be fork-tender. I am tempted to adapt the recipe into a slow-roasted oven dish, with the pears basically poaching in the wine. The benefit of the skillet method is that this meal is ready in 30 minutes or less, and it’s special enough to serve to company. The Naked Chardonnay paired nicely with the final dish, so I would definitely use it again.
If you have a well-loved pear recipe, I would love to hear about it. The season of pears is upon us!
Bon Appétit November 1994