Oh dear, it’s almost Thanksgiving–whatever happened to autumn? Ever since our Labor Day vacation in Ogunquit, Maine, the weeks just flew by in a blur. M has been extra busy with his work and travels. I filled the days with rehearsing for a dance competition, planning for the Pie Party and now it’s almost time for cooking for Thanksgiving and baking for the Cookie Swap in a few weeks. Oh, yes, there was some work in there, too.
Between the two of us, it has been hard to find time to do . . . nothing. So, it will be truly a pleasure to be upstate for Thanksgiving. We will have no family to entertain and no dinner parties to plan. It will just be the two of us spending down time with each other. I will cook us breakfast as if it were a Sunday brunch, herbed omelets with smoked salmon from Russ and Daughters, buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup, perhaps even with sauté caramel apples. We’ll have rustic soups like white beans and escarole or silky butternut squash bisque. Dinner, no doubt I will make seafood dishes that M loves. We’ll see what’s fresh at the market next week.
Last but not least, we’ll have desserts in front of the tube, catching up on movies and some shows. These will be desserts that are easy, almost effortless, but with a high comfort quotient that fits the country atmosphere where squirrels and chipmunks outnumber the human neighbors.
Apples, pears, figs and cranberries are all favorites, but I’ll add another unexpected dimension or two. Baking/roasting fruit not only softens the texture but intensifies the flavor. This super gingery blueberry pear crisp embodies that plus the crispiest topping I’ve been able to concoct. The quadruple application of ginger gives the dessert warmth, balance, and a strong flavor statement that probably goes beyond a standard comfort profile. Dried wild blueberries soaked in Canton (ginger liquor) not only add a luminescent magenta to the pale flesh of the pears but an unexpected chewy texture that accents the other textures—al dente fruit and crunchy topping.
If you make this Ginger Blueberry Pear Crisp individually or as a family-style dessert, it will revive your palette and energy from a full-on Thanksgiving feast. Even though we are not having a ten side-dish feast, M and I will plan on having this dessert, perhaps with an addition of ginger whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream to play off the warm and cold aspects. The only worry I have is that we might finish this dessert for four all on our own.
Ginger Blueberry Pear Crisp
recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
yield 4-6 servings
2 tablespoons dried blueberry
2 tablespoons Canton (ginger liquor)
3/4 cup almonds (3 ounces)
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (2-1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar (1-3/4 ounces)
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons chopped crystalized ginger
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1-2 teaspoon cornstarch, depends on the juiciness of pears
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
3 pounds ripe but firm bartlett pears (6-7 medium)
1. Combine blueberries and ginger liquor in a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on medium power for a minute. Remove from microwave, set aside and cool, with cover on, for 15 minutes.
2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400℉.
3. Pulse almonds, flour, brown sugar, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, ground ginger, crystallized ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in food processor until nuts are finely chopped, about 10-15 seconds. Drizzle butter over flour mixture and pulse until mixture resembles crumbly wet sand, about 5 seconds. Set aside while preparing fruit.
4. Whisk remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, cornstarch, fresh ginger, lemon juice, and pinch of salt together in large bowl. Peel pears, then halve and core. Cut each half into 1-inch chunks. Gently toss pears, blueberries and it’s soaking liquid with sugar mixture and divide among 4-6 small baking dishes or a 8-inch square baking dish.