Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Pear Crisps with Blue Cheese & Spiced Nuts

pear chips 3

My home would never be described as formal. (Think two teenage boys, their buddies and a plethora of bats, baseballs, basketballs, footballs, guitars, book bags, notebooks, and life-size paper mache science homework projects.) While I could do without some of the commotion at times, I prefer a generally relaxed atmosphere. In keeping with that, I tend to be a casual entertainer. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get a little playful and ‘wow’ my guests.

When I invite friends over for a meal or holiday, I almost always start with a carefully-sourced bit of indulgence…say cheese! Not just any cheese, mind you—if I’m going to treat myself to even a morsel of cheese, I want to make it count (more on this later). Most cheese tastes great with something sweet, so I often serve it with quince paste, fig jam or fruit chutney. All are good choices and can be purchased at a well-stocked cheese counter or shop. But, once in a while, I pair a first-rate cheese with these beautiful, homemade (even Martha Stewart-ish) pear crisps instead. My husband loves them because they are a great gluten-free, cracker/bread substitute. They also make a great addition to a DYI holiday food gift basket.

A little bit about making the pear crisps. Nope—you don’t need a dehydrator. pear chips prep 2However, you will need a mandolin (either that or have some pretty stellar chef-level knife skills.) There are some inexpensive, good quality mandolins available. A mandolin is a great tool to have around your kitchen – it makes quick work out of a lot of vegetable prep (think coleslaw and potato gratin).

Once the pears are thinly sliced, I brush them with a light coating of maple syrup (honey and sugar also work) and then sprinkle on a little black pepper. pear chips on parchmentThey take two to three hours in a low oven to crisp up–so hunker down with a pot of coffee (or bottle of wine) and be patient. The wait is worth the end result–the fruity essence of the pear is captured in these delicate, gorgeous crisps.

Now back to the cheese – let’s just say that shopping for cheese is my form of retail therapy. I’ve been known to linger at a cheese shop for what might be considered an inappropriate, extended length of time.There is a broadening selection of cheese available to explore these days and many of the finest are now coming from local artisanal cheese makers. (Good thing: It’s about time that we  Americans come up with a better cheese to represent this fine, cheese-loving nation. I mean, really, is American cheese the best we can do?)

Whether I end up serving one large piece or a selection of three or four cheeses, I promise that you will never find a bland, mass-produced Brie (which in this country is rarely true Brie) or a hunk of waxy Swiss in the mix (sorry, Dad). I always go for cheese with a little spunk and and some funk: an oozy, tangy goat cheese, a nutty Gruyere, a pungent blue cheese, or a triple cream Camembert layered with some earthy black truffles – yes, please! …So, although I may be laid back about the pile of size 11 (scary) sneakers that seem to be multiplying in my front foyer, I’m anything but when it comes to cheese!

 

Pear Crisps with Blue Cheese and Spiced Nuts

Serving Size: makes approximately 40 chips

Just about any firm pear will do for this recipe. The pear chips will keep in an airtight container for several days. Always serve cheese at room temperature – I pull my cheese out of the refrigerator several hours before serving. Choose any good quality blue cheese or goat cheese for this recipe. Serve with the spiced nuts recipe below or plain roasted nuts of your choice.

Ingredients

  • 2 firm pears
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Hunk of blue cheese (about ½ pound)
  • Spice roasted nuts (recipe below)
  • Honey to drizzle

Instructions

  1. Adjust oven rack to upper and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 225 degrees F. (if you have a convection setting you can use it). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Using a mandolin, slice pears lengthwise into 1/8 inch slices and place on a prepared trays. Brush each pear slice with maple syrup and sprinkle with a smidgen of black pepper (and I mean smidgen).
  3. Place in oven and cook until pears are dry, rotating the trays half way through cooking, about 2 1/2 hours. The edges will curl and they pears will still be a bit chewy. Once they sit at room they will crisp up almost immediately. If you’re unsure weather your chips are done, pull one out and leave it on the counter for a couple of minutes. If it doesn’t crisp up then keep the pears in the oven a bit longer.
  4. To serve–you have two options here. Arrange a platter of the pear crisps, cheese, and nuts with a side dish of honey or make individual canapés with a small piece of cheese on a pear crisp topped with chopped nuts and a little drizzle of honey. Enjoy.
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Spiced Nuts

This recipe was adapted from Union Square Café Cookbook, by Danny Meyer and Michael Romano

Ingredients

  • 1 pound assorted unsalted nuts
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position.
  2. Spread nuts on a rimmed baking sheets and toast in oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
  3. Combine rosemary, butter, sugar, salt, paprika, and chili flakes in large bowl. Toss warm nuts in butter-spice mixture and serve warm or at room temperature.
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Linda Marino
December 20th, 2013 at 8:28 am

I want one right now!

jamie
December 20th, 2013 at 10:58 am

this adds a terrific new spin to my favorite: blue sheep cheese on crisp raw pear. Thanks so much.

myrosha
December 20th, 2013 at 6:26 pm

so yummy! also great for gluten free folks

Maria
December 21st, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Only this morning I was thinking where can I come up with an interesting app. for Christmas dinner. This sounds really yummy.
I am curious where you shop for your cheeses?
Have you tried Roslindale cheese place on birch st? I like that place. Where else?

Eva
December 21st, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Yes – the cheese shop in Rozzi is great. I also think WF carries some nice cheeses and of course – Formagio’s! This taste really good with goat cheese as well as bc.

Miriam
December 24th, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Can’t wait to try this. For something wonderful and immediate with bosc pears, slice a few about 1/4″ thick, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with some parmesan cheese and run under the broil for a minute or 2, until the cheese is melted and they’re crisp on the edges.

Rachel (teacher-chef)
January 11th, 2014 at 6:43 pm

WOW! I am baking up some pear chips now to have as snacks this week, but I think I might need to bake up another sheet and run out to get some delicious cheese ASAP – this looks beyond amazing, love those slideshow photos you have toward the bottom :-)

Eva
April 2nd, 2014 at 8:14 pm

Thanks Rachel for checking out the blog. I hope you got a chance to make the pear chips.

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