Well. Do I have a top-notch surprise for you today, or what? All I can say is, it's lucky Lisa Raffael is so good at baking cakes. Because if she weren't an A-list cake baker, she wouldn't have been featured in places like Bride and the Improper Bostonian and Weddings. And if she hadn't gotten all that good press, she might not have been able to afford such a nice, big, cool refrigerator, which means that Kathleen Kadlik, who shares her workspace, might never have been able to start making cheese.
If Kathleen Kadlik had never been able to start Fromage à Trois, then I wouldn't have been able to make you these gorgonzola-dolce-burata stuffed pears wrapped in flaky pie crust, which believe-you-me would have been a sorry, sorry thing. If I weren't so heart-set on my red velvet cupcakes, I'd cancel my beet order and hire Lisa to bake my wedding cake as a thank you right now. Because excuse my French people, but these gorgonzola pears are damn good. Yes siree Bob, they are.
I probably also ought to go right back to the beginning and thank Michelle, who posted a comment back in August about finding Fromage à Trois at the Falmouth Farmers' Market and about how delightfully enchanted she was. Michelle, I'm sorry it took me so long, but I swear, if you say go, I will never hesitate again.
I actually met Kathleen accidentally at the Sandwich Farmers' Market. She usually sells her cheese there, but on this particular Tuesday she'd been unable to get her milk order in time, and so she was wandering around deciding between peaches and raspberries instead. Someone, I think Lori the lobster lady, had the good sense to introduce us and we set up a date for Saturday at the Provincetown Farmers' Market the next week. I went to see her on a sunny September afternoon, and we talked about life and love and the ubiquitous Vermont Cheese Making Dream and how she'd taken a different route instead and ended up sharing a kitchen with Lisa until my very polite friend had to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that she had been waiting for me, staring at the arugula, for a solid forty-five minutes.
And that sort of carrying on was before I had even tasted the cheese, let alone put the pears in the oven.
At any rate, after much hemming and hawing over whether or not to get mozzarella or string cheese or ricotta or burata and a few more patient nudges from my friend, I ended up bringing home a little tissue paper wrapped bag of the burata stuffed with gorgonzola dolce to try. (I think Kathleen calls it "Blue Bell," but I can't quite remember.) I tried it on salad, and then over hot pasta, and finally, at Kathleen's recommendation, I ate it in little slivers with a balsamic drizzle and chunks of soft, fresh pear. Right about then is when the stroke of genius hit.
What if the cheese was hot and gooey and inside the pear?
In my head, there were all sorts of symbols crashing and violins crescendoing and the room I think even swayed a little bit, and then I got to work. I rolled out a piece of extra pie crust I had in the fridge. I got out my little leaf cookie cutters and a knife and I cored the pears from the bottom almost to the top, leaving the stems. I cut the burata into small, stuffable chunks, cut the pie crust in half, and turned the pears on their sides. I cranked the oven up to 350, put Aretha Franklin on, and stuffed those pears full. I swaddled them in pie crust, smoothed the wrapping so it fit like a glove, and stuck a few cookie cutter pear leaves around the top. Then I danced around the kitchen for 20 long, ecstatic minutes, waiting for the timer to ding.
And when it did—when the buzzer went off—those pears didn't last 5 minutes around me. There was only one of me, and two of them, so you'd think they might have been able to put up a fight, but as soon as I cut them open and the crust flaked off and the burata-gorgonzola river began to stream across the plate, they didn't stand a chance. In Hungry Woman vs. Pear, I won handily.
Before another week goes by, I recommend you do the same. I don't want to hear any excuses about how you missed the market or oooh Falmouth is such a drive or some nonsense about not getting your oven buzzer to work, because there isn't much time to waste. The markets are shutting down, one by one, and for the time being, they're the only place Kathleen sells. So get out your umbrella and your wool socks and your baseball cap, and with any luck, I'll see you there.
BLUE BELL PEARS, in a pastry crust
This recipe was inspired by a number of things. First of all, there's a recipe in one of my French cookbooks for pears wrapped in pastry with a brown sugar-almond stuffing where the picture shows the fruits with their stems. I did a riff on that last week with a macadamia nut-maple syrup stuffing, and I kind of got hooked on baked pears. Secondly, I have been begging my mother for a set of those tiny leaf cookie cutters like the ones they're always making elaborate pumpkin pies with in the Williams Sonoma catalog for ages, and she found me a superb knock-off set that I was itching to put to use. And of course, lastly, there is absolutely nothing better than gorgonzola dolce burata, pie crust, and a fall pear.
4 medium-size pears
4 ounces "Blue Bell" cheese (burata stuffed with gorgonzola dolce)
one batch pie crust (enough for a top and bottom)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Core the pears from the bottom up, taking care to leave the stems attached. Roll out the piecrust in a square and cut it into four equal-sized sections. Place a pear in the center of one of the piecrust sections and stuff one ounce of the cheese into the empty core. Pull the piecrust up around the pear, smoothing out any wrinkles by pressing them with your fingers against the fruit. Pinch off any extra dough at the top and set it aside. Repeat this process with the three other pears.
When all the pears are completely covered with crust, roll out the remaining pinched-off dough and cut it into small leaf-shaped pieces either with a knife or using tiny cookie cutters. Arrange two or three of these "leaves" around the stem of each pear and press them against the piecrust beneath. Place the pears upright in an un-greased casserole dish and bake for roughly 20 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the fruit is soft. Enjoy hot.
To make a meal of them, serve the pears alongside a bed of mixed greens dressed with a sweet balsamic.