allspice, Anjou pears, bay leaf, broth, butter, dried cranberries, dry white wine, flour, gouda cheese, half and half, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, port wine, Shallots, smoked paprika, toasted walnuts
This was one of those recipes that you read and think, “Oh, my God…I need to make this right now”…except it’s two o’clock in the morning and you’re reading cookbooks because…who knows why? Except you aren’t asleep. But, the next morning…okay, later in the morning, I was in the kitchen peeling pears! That cookbook, by the way, is “A Beautiful Bowl of Soup,” (Chronicle Books, 2004), by Paulette Mitchell. It has some really delicious options. It’s that flavor combination that appealed to me, and that early morning thought, was dead on the money! This is a fabulous soup. I’m sure the original recipe is incredible, but of course, I made a couple of changes. Okay…a lot of changes. You knew I would.
Pears and ginger, definitely have an affinity for each other, no question. However, ginger can over-power more delicate flavors, and I consider pears a delicate flavor. And nutmeg…same thing…not a huge fan. So I left those out. Instead, I added just a tiny pinch of ground allspice. Also, I didn’t add the apple juice/sweet wine, but instead used dry white wine and tawny port. I also added additional broth and some lemon juice. I used a combination of Edam and a little smoked Swiss, instead of the smoked Gouda, because we had already eaten that! But, I left the “smoked Gouda” in the recipe.
As to the “salsa”…it really isn’t that…. I omitted the fresh pear and the lime juice. I happened to have a caramelized pear half leftover from Sunday night’s Salmon with Mustard-Maple Glaze and Caramelized Pears. I used that pear instead of the fresh (I didn’t have one and I wasn’t going to risk life-and-limb by going out to get one). I would have used the fresh pear, if I had one. But, I used pomegranate molasses, instead of the lime juice. It was a decision I will happily keep. I also added some finely minced, crisp bacon…that too, is a keeper. Other than that….
Also, I made this base pear/shallot/broth mixture about 4 days ahead, puréed it and put it into the fridge. Then, when I was ready to serve the soup, I just continued with the recipe. You’re basically adding the purée to a thin-ish béchamel, and adding some cheese.
I diced the cheese, but next time, I think it might work better, shredded. The cheese didn’t completely melt. I liked it just fine, but if I were serving this at a dinner party (and I will!), I would want it to be smooth, with only the bits from the garnish.
Also, just a note. I tasted the pear/shallot/broth mixture and it was absolutely delicious. The next time I make this, I’m I think I might omit the cheese and the béchamel…. I loved the pureness of the pear flavor. I would however, add the port, white wine and lemon juice…and the garnish…the garnish is fantastic. I thought about adding some crumbled bleu cheese to the garnish….time will tell!
Pear and Gouda Soup with Dried Cranberry-Toasted Walnut Garnish
- Soup Base:
- 3 large ripe pears (I prefer Anjou), cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup thinly sliced shallots or red onion
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- Large pinch ground allspice
- 1/2 red-skinned unpeeled pear, cored and finely diced
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons minced toasted walnuts
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cranberries or sour cherries
- 2 tablespoons finely minced crisp bacon
- To Finish the Soup:
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or 4 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
- 1/2-1 cup vegetable or chicken broth (if needed)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces baby Gouda cheese, cut into small pieces (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons tawny port
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (optional, but you will probably need it)
- Smoked paprika, for garnish
- Salt and white pepper, to taste
In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine pears, shallot, vegetable stock, allspice and bay leaf. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer until the pear is very tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. When cool to room temp, remove the bay leaf and purée the mixture until smooth. I use an immersion blender, right in the pot, but a blender will give you an even smoother mixture; do not over-fill the blender container.
In a small saucepan melt the butter over a low flame. Add the flour and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. Do not brown the flour. (If using cornstarch, add the cornstarch to the cold milk and continue with the recipe.) Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk. Return to the heat source; bring the milk mixture to a simmer over a medium-low flame, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Slowly pour pear mixture, along with the port, the white wine and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, into the béchamel sauce, whisking constantly. Add the additional broth, if you feel the soup is too thick; the cheese will thicken the soup slightly. Return the soup to the simmer. Remove the pan from the heat source. Stir the cheese into the soup. Let stand for about 1 minute; stir just until melted, but do not over-mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You may need to stir in some additional lemon juice, for balance…it will depend on how ripe and sweet the pears are.
To serve, top each bowl of soup with a dusting of smoked paprika and a small mound of garnish.
NOTE: I think this would be a fabulous autumn soup, by adding a peeled and finely diced parsnip, when cooking the pears…just a thought.
MAKE AHEAD TIP: You can make ahead, up to 4 days, and refrigerate. When ready to continue, slowly add to the thickened béchamel sauce. Continue with the recipe.
Pear and Gouda Soup with Dried Cranberry-Toasted Walnut Garnish Recipe©Marcia Lahens 2020. All rights reserved.
Original recipe idea came from “A Beautiful Bowl of Soup,” (Chronicle Books, 2004), by Paulette Mitchell