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10.24.14 Baked Pears with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce + Other Fall Fun

10.24.14 Baked Pears with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce + Other Fall Fun

I meant to just write a normal blog post today. Really, I did. But then I realized I had way too many things to share. You see, I’ve been embracing fall with a lot of cooking projects, and I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t share several of them with you immediately. After all, fall won’t last forever, and I want to make sure you have maximum fall time left to enjoy all of these tasty autumn edibles. So today, instead of just one recipe, I’m bringing you four delicious ways to celebrate fall. You lucky ducks.

First off, let’s talk hot sauce. Admittedly, I’m a pretty serious chilehead. And when fall rolls around, bringing with it a spectacular hot pepper harvest, well obviously, I’m going to have to do something about it. Like make hot sauce. Now, I had never made hot sauce before, assuming it was somehow way too difficult, and preferring to just buy it at the store. But when I ended up with a semi-ridiculous amount of beautiful red and orange habanero peppers, I knew it was time to give homemade hot sauce a try.

I’ll be honest, it was way easier to make than I had thought. I started using this recipe as a base, took a few creative liberties, and before long, I had whipped up some seriously delicious fermented habanero garlic hot sauce. I mean, look at that stuff. That lovely orange color alone almost makes it worthwhile, but trust me, the flavor is on a whole other level. And the best part is, you can easily make it too! Just throw ½ pound hot chile peppers, stemmed and halved, into a food processor (you can use whatever peppers you like, or a mix!). Add 1 Tbsp kosher salt, and 4 garlic cloves, and puree until a thick, coarse paste is formed. Transfer chile paste to a mason jar, cover, and let sit on your counter to ferment for 1-3 days. Add 1 cup vinegar to the jar, stir to combine, and let sit another 1-2 days (or up to a week if you can wait that long. The longer it sits, the deeper the flavor). Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, and discard solids. Mix in 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, and your hot sauce is ready to go! Store it in the fridge, and shake before using, as it will separate a little as it sits.

Now after all that hot sauce, you’re probably going to be wanting a nice cooling treat. And I’ve got just the ticket for you - the hard cider float. This is so simple, it’s not even really a recipe. Just pour your favorite hard cider into a glass, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or better yet, cinnamon ice cream), and try not to get a brain freeze as you inhale this stuff. That’s it. But trust me, it’s amazing.

Another important part of fall in our household is watching of scary movies. I mean, what could be better than spending a chilly fall evening inside by the fire, getting the crap scared out of you by whatever terrifying film you happen to be watching? I’ll tell you what - watching said scary movie with a big bowl of homemade kettle corn, that’s what. Kettle corn is another one of those things I always assumed was way too difficult make yourself. Boy was I wrong. Just heat 2 Tbsp canola oil in a large lidded pot over medium high heat. After about 5 minutes of heating the oil, add 1 Tbsp sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves into the oil. Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels, give ’em a quick stir to coat with oil, then put the lid on the pot. The kernels should start popping almost immediately. To keep the sugar from burning on the bottom, give the pot a good shake every 15-20 seconds. Once kernels have stopped popping, remove pot from heat, set aside for a minute or two to cool, then pour into a bowl, toss with a little salt, and devour.

And finally, I feel like the only way to end this post is with one truly awesome dessert. This is a little something I came up with a few weeks ago, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since. It started with some lovely pears I acquired at the farmer’s market, picked up some inspiration from these apple cider caramels I made recently, and, well, the result was kindof amazing. Warm baked pears bathed in a buttery apple cider caramel sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Who knew you could make a dessert like that with only 6 ingredients?

Baked Pears with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce

serves 2-4

  • 2 semi-firm pears such as harrow, bartlett, or bosc, halved and cored
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • vanilla ice cream
  • flaky sea salt, such as maldon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place pears in a high sided glass or ceramic baking dish.

3. In a small saucepan, bring apple cider to a boil over medium heat. Continue to let cider boil at medium heat until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, then add the butter and stir in until melted. Let caramel mixture cook for an additional 1 minute, then pour over pears in pan.

5. Bake pears for 30-35 minutes, or until pears are juicy and tender. Remove pears from oven, cool slightly, and serve topped with the caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

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