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Video: Preparing perfect cocktail-party pears

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    >>> this morning on "today's" holiday kitchen the perfect pairings for a cocktail party . we are inspired by one ingredient, pares. vanessa, why pears?

    >> i love pears. you can incorporate them in so many ways into your holiday parties, cocktails, sweet, savory.

    >> so we're doing a cocktail party .

    >> yes.

    >> you have a pear cocktail.

    >> yes. when your guests arrive always start with a special if i cty cocktail. this is a spiced winter cocktail. it has a little bit of pear nectar. you can use pear juice as well. i like nectar. it's a little thicker.

    >> you can find it in stores pretty easily.

    >> absolutely. this is a cinnamon simple syrup you can make in advance. we'll put freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice to cut the sweetness.

    >> what were you pouring this into?

    >> this has my favorite spirit which i just discovered this summer. it's distilled grape. it's called remi martin v. i love it because it is clear and doesn't change the color of your drink. it has a nice, fresh flavor and is great for mixing cocktails. so this lemon juice is great. it's meyer lemon . if you can't find meyer lemons use regular. mix it around. i like to use a pitcher because you can, if you're serving a lot of people. then strain it into a little martini glass and some freshly grated nut meg.

    >> okay.

    >> that's where the spiced comes from.

    >> very nice. we're making kind of a pear pizza almost.

    >> this is great. i love making flat braeeads because you prepare all the ingredients in advance. the flat bread takes about ten minutes in the oven so once your guests get there just mix and match with toppings.

    >> how do you make the dough?

    >> well, i have a wes phave a recipe you can find on today show website. i have a really nice recipe. i like a nice dough. we're going to brush a little olive oil on here.

    >> right.

    >> then some salt and pepper . this recipe we're going to use brie, pancetta and arugula.

    >> very nice.

    >> you can use brie. if you don't, actually pear works so nicely with so many cheeses. you could use cheddar or creamy goat cheese .

    >> then fan this out.

    >> yeah.

    >> how long do you bake it?

    >> about ten to 15 minutes .

    >> now we got a nice sweet back here.

    >> yeah. so like i said, pear is good for everything -- sweet, savory, cocktails. you know, you like caramel apples ?

    >> sure.

    >> i like caramel pears. take the pear. put it in with the caramel. then we'll put some salted peanuts.

    >> nice.

    >> i like the salted peanuts because they add that salty sweet.

    >> sure.

    >> kind of like a pay day bar with the fruit in the middle.

    >> exactly.

    >> very nice.

    >> vanessa, thank you so much.

    >> thank you. the recipes are on the website today.com. .

TODAY recipes
updated 11/30/2011 2:05:49 PM ET 2011-11-30T19:05:49

Recipe: Spiced pear martini

Ingredients
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 750-ml bottle Remy V
  • 5 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 3 tablespoons pear nectar
  • Freshly-grated nutmeg, for serving
Preparation

In a small saucepan, warm the sugar, water and cinnamon stick pieces over low heat until the sugar dissolves and a syrup forms, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool the mixture completely; discard the cinnamon. In a large pitcher, combine the cooled cinnamon syrup with the Remy V, lemon juice and pear nectar. Cover the pitcher with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.

Add 12 ice cubes to the drink and stir briskly with a wooden spoon (this will melt some of the ice into the drink). Dividing evenly, pour the cocktail through a fine-mesh strainer into 12 chilled Martini glasses. Dust each drink with a pinch of freshly-grated nutmeg and serve.

Serving Size

Serves 12 (makes 12 cups)

Recipe: Pear and arugula flatbreads with brie and pancetta

Ingredients
  • Flatbread
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup plus 7 tablespoons warm water heated to between 115 degrees F to 120 degrees F
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon rapid rise active dry yeast
  • Topping
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
  • 5 cups baby arugula (about 4 ounces), divided into 4 equal portions
  • 2 ripe but firm Bosc pears cut into 1/4-inch thick slices and divided into 4 equal portions
  • 8 ounces sliced Brie cheese, divided into 4 equal portions
  • 8 ounces pancetta, diced and divided into 4 equal portions
Preparation

To make the flatbreads, combine all of the flatbread ingredients in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix at low speed until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes. After the dough has rested, mix it again, on low speed using the dough hook, until soft and smooth, about 3 minutes. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the dough's surface, and cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rise again, until it is very light and slightly puffed, about 1 hour. Gently punch down the dough and turn it onto a lightly-floured surface. Using additional flour as needed, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and shape each piece into a small ball. Place the dough balls on a baking sheet and cover with a towel; refrigerate for about 45 minutes.

For the topping, heat the oven to 500 degrees F for at least 45 minutes. If using a pizza stone, place it in oven to heat up. (If you don't have a pizza stone, place a large, heavy baking sheet upside down in the oven to heat up). Meanwhile, working on a lightly-floured surface, stretch each ball of dough to 9-inch round. Place 1 round on a floured pizza peel (or a rimless baking sheet dusted with flour) and brush lightly with some of the olive oil. Season to taste with the sea salt and pepper and top with one portion of the arugula. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top of the arugula and top with one portion each of the sliced pear, cheese and pancetta.

Slide the flatbread onto the hot pizza stone or upside-down baking sheet and bake, until the crust is golden brown and crisp and the cheese is melted, rotating it once or twice, about 10 to 11 minutes. Repeat with the remaining flatbreads; serve. Make ahead: The flatbreads can be assembled and baked up to 8 hours ahead of time and kept refrigerated. Bring them to room temperature before serving.

Serving Size

Makes 4 9-inch flatbreads

Recipe: Salty-and-sweet mini caramel pears with peanuts

Ingredients
  • 1 16-ounce box dark brown sugar
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2/3 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for baking sheets
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 24 8-inch wooden popsicle sticks
  • 24 mini pears, such as Forelles, unpeeled (see note)
  • 2 cups chopped roasted, salted peanuts
Preparation

To make the caramel, in a 2 1/2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepot over medium-low heat combine the first 8 ingredients. Cook, stirring often with a wooden spoon and occasionally brushing the inside edge of the pot with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves, about 15 minutes.

Increase the heat to medium high and cook at a rolling boil, stirring constantly but slowly with a wooden spoon, until the caramel reaches 236 degrees F on a candy thermometer, 12 more minutes, continuing to brush the inside edge of the pot with a wet pastry brush as needed. Pour the caramel into a metal bowl (do not scrape the pot out); submerge the thermometer bulb into the caramel to cool, without stirring until the temperature drops to 200 degrees F, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile line 2 baking sheets with parchment and butter the parchment. Insert 1 stick into the top of each pear, pushing it half way down into the pear. Holding the end of the stick, dip the pear into the cooled caramel, submerging all but the very top-end of the fruit, allowing the excess caramel to drip back into the bowl.

Turn the pear right side up to let the caramel set. Place the pear onto the prepared baking sheets. Repeat this process with the remaining pears and caramel, spacing the pears about 2 inches apart (the caramel may pool on the baking sheet). If the caramel becomes too thick to dip, whisk in 1 to 2 tablespoons of the cream, or as needed, and gently reheat the caramel in the bowl over a very low heat, stirring until it thins.

Refrigerate the coated pears until the caramel is partially set, about 15 minutes. Lift the pears one by one off the parchment and, using your hands, press and pull the cooling caramel around the fruit to cover it completely. Roll the coated pears in the crushed peanuts; let them rest about an hour before serving.

Tips

Forelles, and other small varieties of pears, are often available at farmer's markets in November and December. If you cannot find Forelles, use whatever pears you can find. The prepared pears can be kept, refrigerated, for about one week.

Recipe: Chicken and pear skewers with roasted pepper and basil

Ingredients
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 2 ripe Anjou pears (about 1 1/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 16-ounce jar whole, fire-roasted red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup whole, fresh basil leaves
Serving

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the chicken breasts all over with the olive oil and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Place the chicken on a sheet pan and roast until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Place the hot chicken breasts immediately in a shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the chicken steam for about 20 minutes (this makes the chicken very tender). Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside. In a medium skillet, heat the butter and maple syrup over medium-high heat and cook the pear, tossing often, until tender but still firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside. Thread wooden or bamboo cocktail skewers, alternating the pear, chicken, bell pepper and basil leaves; serve.

Serving Size

Serves 4; makes 24 cocktail-size skewers

Recipe: Dolce La Poire cocktail

Ingredients
  • 3 parts Martini Moscato d
  • 1 part Grey Goose La Poire
  • 1⁄4 part simple syrup
  • Squeeze fresh lemon
Preparation

In a shaker filled with ice shake Martini Moscato d'Asti, vodka, simple syrup and lemon juice. Strain into a tall highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a slice of fresh pear (or lemon wedge).

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