Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day One- Partridge in a Pear Tree

To introduce this segment, let me explain.  A few weeks before Christmas, I devised the grand scheme that it would be a fun idea to cook the 12 Days of Christmas.  Unfortunately, a few days later, I realized that we would be in Cleveland for Christmas, at Alec's parents' house.  Where, granted, there is a fully-equipped kitchen.  But... honestly, we really didn't spend that much time at the house.  Because there are a ton of delicious places to eat in Cleveland!

I tried to resign myself to the fact that I would wait till next year to undertake this project.  But, really?  I can't wait for anything.  So I just started late, and am currently working on catching up to where we are now: Day 5.

One thing I learned early on in this challenge is that the 12 Days of Christmas start on or after Christmas, depending on the tradition.  I'd always lived under the assumption that they were the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but no!  For the sake of catching up, I'm going to say that my 12 days started on the 26th of December.  The 12 Days is also known as Christmastide or Twelvetide, and marks the period leading up to the Feat of Epiphany on January 6th.

To start this out right, here's one of my favorite renditions of The 12 Days of Christmas, John Denver and the Muppets!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...

For the first day of Christmas, I made Wine-Poached Pears with Honey, Ginger, and Cinnamon Syrup, in a Phyllo Cup.
from Food Network
Serves 4

1 750 ml bottle Moscato wine
2 c. simple syrup (2 c. sugar + 2 c. water, brought to a boil and simmered 5 minutes, till sugar dissolves)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tbs honey
1 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled

3 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 c. melted butter
2 tbs cinnamon sugar

Vanilla ice cream, if you want (and why wouldn't you?)

In a large saucepan, combine wine, syrup, cinnamon sticks, honey, and ginger.  Scrape in the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean, then add the vanilla bean in too.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until honey has melted.  Add in the pears and simmer, turning occasionally, until tender.  The original recipe claimed 15-20 minutes, but my pears were rather large, so it took longer.  Pierce with a fork to test tenderness.

 Remove the pears and allow to cool.  I put them in the fridge for later.

Continue to simmer the liquid until it thickens significantly, darkens, and is reduced by at least half.  Again, the original recipe said 15-20 minutes, but mine was not nearly thick enough by then. It should be a definite syrup-y consistency.  Strain the solids from the mixture and cool to room temperature.  Again, I stuck this in the fridge for later.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

For the phyllo cups, you will need to thaw the phyllo sheets according to the box directions.  Stack the layers carefully, brushing each layer of dough with the melted butter and sprinkling with the cinnamon sugar.  Cut into quarters, so you have four rectangles of dough.  Place four custard cups face down on a baking sheet and grease tops and sides.  Hopefully you, unlike me, have custard cups of the same size.  If not, oh well.  Drape the phyllo rectangles over the cups.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the phyllo cups from the custard cups.  Let cool completely.

To assemble, place a pear in the middle of each phyllo cup.  Spoon as much syrup as you want over the pear.  Add ice cream, as desired.