Ingredient Focus: Asian Pear

This is a part of a series where we discuss a special ingredient and how it can be used in the kitchen.
This is a part of a series where we discuss a special ingredient and how it can be used in the kitchen.

I’ve always loved the mild sweetness and light, crispy, grainy texture of the Asian pear. Since their peak season in the U.S. is between September and November, there’s no time time like the present to enjoy this pear variety that’s native to East Asia. Unlike other types of pears, Asian pears are round and have speckled light brown to yellow skin. They also have a high water content that makes them a poor option for pies or jams, but perfect for enjoying raw or added to a salad or stir fry. When selecting an Asian pear, you want one that is firm, unbruised, and fragrant.

Rather than merely eating it raw, I changed things up by adapting a soup recipe from Ian Kleinman’s Maui Onion and Asian Pear Soup with Tarragon. I substituted sage for tarragon because I was interested in an herb that would impart a warm earthiness to the rich soup rather than the minty, anise flavor of tarragon. The result was a creamy, delicately sweet, and savory soup that is just in time for autumn.

Asian Pear Soup (Yield 8-10 servings)

Ingredients:

1T butter, 2T olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

2 ½ large Asian pears, peeled and chopped; last half thinly sliced to garnish
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1T onion powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp dried cardamom
5 sprigs of sage (about 8-10 leaves total;keep on stem to remove later)
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
1T salt
Pepper and lemon juice to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Saute and stir until softened and caramelized – about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Add the Asian pears and cook until the pears soften – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the oregano, onion powder, cinnamon and garlic, and stir until fragrant – 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock, heavy cream, half-and-half, and salt. Add the sage.
  5. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover, and cook for about 1 ½ – 2 hours until the soup has thickened.
  6. Remove the sage and discard. Blend in a food processor (or use a hand blender) until smooth. Reheat as necessary.
  7. Season with pepper and lemon juice to taste. Serve with extra slices of fresh Asian pear.
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