Hors d'oeurve Soupe Poisson Viande Entre Salade Dessert Fromage

Grilled Comice Pears Sprinkled With Chocolate Amaretti, With Thyme Crème Anglaise and Blueberry-Black Pepper Coulis

Serves 4

340 g (around 1 1/4 c) whole blanched almonds
55 g 10X (confectioners') sugar
55 g Bensdorp or other high-quality cocoa
7.5 g cornstarch
2 egg whites
pinch kosher salt
110 g turbinado sugar

10 oz blueberries
50 mL (juice of one orange)
pinch orange zest
60 g sugar
300 mL water
4 g pepper, mignonette

500 mL milk
1/4 vanilla bean
3 thyme sprigs
5 egg yolks
75g sugar

3 tablespoons Amaretto
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 firm-ripe Comice pears, halved lengthwise and cored
1/3 cup water
pinch sugar
4 sprigs flowering thyme

The amaretti recipe is a variation of that made at Babbo's, the Manhattan restaurant owned by executive chef Mario Batali. I've simply replaced some of the confectioners' sugar with cocoa. The crushed almonds in the amaretti compliment the almond flavor of the Amaretto-soaked pears. The hint of pepper-blueberry coulis brightens the richness of the thyme crème anglaise.

Preparation for Chocolate Biscotti
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Place almonds, cornstarch, confectioners' sugar and cocoa in robot coupe or Cuisinart and pulse until almonds are very finely chopped. (Be careful not to overheat, at the risk of turning mixture to almond butter.)
  3. Place egg whites and a pinch of salt in a bowl and whisk until foamy and light. Gradually add granulated sugar in steady stream, continuing to beat until egg whites are somewhat stiff and glossy. Fold in the almond mixture.
  4. On an ungreased sheet plan, pipe amaretti from a pastry bag, using a large tip or drop by heaping teaspoonfuls. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  5. Bake cookies for 30 minutes, or until chocolate amaretti begin to crack. Lower temperature to 200F, leaving door ajar for several minutes to rapidly cool. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until cookies are completely dry and crisp in center. Cool on racks.

Preparation for Blueberry-Black Pepper Coulis
  1. Lightly toast crushed peppercorns to release oil.
  2. Combine blueberries, orange juice, zest, sugar, crushed peppercorns and water. Let stand so that the blueberry liquid macerates, about 1 hour.
  3. Bring blueberry mixture to boil in a sautoir. Immediately lower heat and simmer for ~5 minutes, until 1/3 of the liquid evaporates and mixture thickens slightly.
  4. Liquify in a blender. Strain through a etamine (fine mesh) chinois.

Preparation for Thyme Crème Anglaise
  1. Incorporate milk, half of sugar, thyme sprigs, scraped vanilla bean, and pod in a bowl. Infuse for 30 minutes.
  2. In a sautoir, bring milk mixture to a boil and remove from heat to cool slightly.
  3. Using a whisk, mix yolks and remaining sugar until very pale (blanchir).
  4. Set up an ice bath and an etamine (fine) chinois.
  5. Temper yolk mixture with a few ladles of the milk mixture, then gradually add this to the sautoir with milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula. Be sure to stir corners of sautoir, so egg doesn't coagulate.
  6. Crème Anglaise is done when mixture is nappant and holds a horizontal line on the back of a wooden spoon, without running. Strain through the chinois into a bowl over an icebath. Vanner (stir) to release heat. When cool, cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on surface. Set aside in refrigerator.

Preparation for Grilled Comice Pears
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Grill pears, quadrillage.
  3. Mix Amaretto and vinegar in a 9 x 13" baking dish.
  4. Place grilled pears, cut sides down, in dish.
  5. Roast pears 15 minutes. Add water and sprinkle with sugar, roasting ~8 to 10 minutes more. Flash pears under a broiler or salamander to caramelize sugar. Be careful not to burn sugar. Pears are done when tender, but they still hold their shape.

  1. Using a small ladel, pool thyme crème anglaise onto a plate.
  2. Using a squeeze bottle, trace a serpentine pattern with blueberry-black pepper coulis. Drag a knife through the pattern, forming a circle.
  3. Place two pear halves on sauce, slightly off-center.
  4. Crush chocolate amaretti into small pieces and sprinkle over pears.
  5. Garnish with flowering thyme sprig.


wine pairing

Elysium Black Muscat

chocolate and raspberry, with a hint of roses on the nose

I first saw a recipe for Bay Leaf Crème Anglaise in a British magazine. The taste was incredible and, best of all, unexpected. Thyme Crème Anglaise is just as unusual and is a nice counterpoint to the blueberries and pepper.

Blueberries have always been one of my favorite fruits. They aren't too sweet or cloying and, in my opinion, have a natural peppery taste to begin with. Recently I learned that the Italians serve strawberries and black pepper, so I guess this combination isn't quite so bizarre. The Blueberry-Black Pepper Coulis was the starting point for this dessert plate.

The Flowering Thyme was a late discovery I made at the Union Square Farmers' Market. The small lavender flowers are edible and add a splash of color to the dish, complimenting the Thyme Crème Anglaise below.