I love all cheeses, every one has a special place in my heart. But, some loves take time to blossom. So it was with me and blue cheese. Blue cheese and I had our first meeting when I was around 12. My dad was going to the store and asked me what I wanted, and being a cheese lover even then, I told him “can you get me some cheese and bread? Any kind, I love all cheese.” (Overconfident already!)
So he, probably thinking I would be excited by the uniqueness of his choice, bought me a nice hunk of blue cheese. Upon sighting it, my confidence was shaken – I thought I loved all cheese, but moldy cheese? I had not quite climbed that mountain yet. But I tried it and I was instantly repelled by its strong and, dare I say, funky flavor. I couldn’t eat any more and the cheese sat there on the plate, sad and forsaken. My dad looked disappointed too.
Blue cheese and I did not cross paths again for another five years after that. I am now 17, on a cruise with my family over Christmas break. At dinner one night, a dish on the dessert menu lept out at me over the array of banal cruise fare. Wine poached pear with blue cheese. My first bad date with blue cheese now a distant memory, something inside me compelled me to order it and I was so glad I did. When matched with the sweet, deep flavor of the wine, the warm blue cheese was elevated to something greater than the “funky” flavor I had perceived five years prior; piquant but not too pungent, provocative without overpowering.
I felt jubilant in that moment, eating that dish. And somehow, more grown up. I am now of a certain age where I can appreciate a sophisticated flavor such as blue cheese, I thought to myself. Ever since that moment, I occasionally tried my hand at recreating that magical dish that made me feel so many things. I have come the closest with this recipe, may it bring you as much joy as it has brought me!
Pears poached in red wine, brown sugar and cinnamon are topped with blue cheese, then warmed in the oven just until the cheese begins to soften over the sweet pears. The red wine is reduced to a rich, thick syrup and drizzled over the dish, complementing the salty cheese with a sweet, tangy finish.
Use any red wine you have on hand and that you like (doesn’t need to be expensive!). And same with the blue cheese – I’ve tried this with Roquefort and Gorgonzola, which are both delicious, but my favorite is with Triple Cream Blue Cheese, which lends a richer, more subtle finish.
- 1 bottle red wine
- ¼ c. packed brown sugar
- ¼ c. white sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 firm Bosc pears (see note)
- 4–6 oz. blue cheese
- Preheat oven to 350° (can also be set once pears are finished cooking, before reducing wine)
- Heat red wine, white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon stick in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve sugar.
- Peel pears, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out seeds with a small spoon. Cut out stem end. Add pear halves to saucepan.
- Simmer until pears are soft, about 15-25 minutes depending on ripeness of pears. Turn heat down to medium low if necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Turn pears occasionally during cooking if pears are not completely submerged. Remove pears and set aside.
- Remove cinnamon stick. Continue cooking wine over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and then frequently once wine begins to thicken. Turn off heat once the wine becomes syrupy and there is about ½ – ¾ c. of liquid remaining. Depending on how hard the liquid is boiling, this should take about 15 minutes.
- Place pear halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Place 1 – 1 ½ oz. of blue cheese on each pear half. Bake in preheated oven just until cheese softens and the edges begin to melt, about 2-3 minutes.
- Drizzle wine syrup on each pear half or on serving plate.
- Bosc pears tend to keep their shape even when cooked, but you could try substituting another type of pear as long as it’s firm, just keep an eye on them during cooking to make sure they don’t get too soft.
- Use any type of blue cheese you like (triple cream blue cheese is my favorite here!), but block cheese instead of crumbles works better in this recipe to get a nice, thick layer of cheese over the entire pear.
- You don’t need to eat all the pears at once if you’re only cooking for one or two – the pears and wine syrup can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator for a few days before assembling the dish. Just let the pears come to room temperature before adding the blue cheese and baking, and microwave the syrup for 15 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until liquefied.