Pear Tartlets with Spiced Port Reduction

20121212-135428.jpgThese past few months I’ve learned what it means to be a parent. I’ve learned how much more important family is to me then I ever knew possible. I’ve watched my husband turn into the most wonderful father possible. And I’ve seen the amazing process of my own father turning into a grandpa. It really is something quite wonderful. There was a time, when I thought I didn’t want kids, and wondered how my parents would feel about never having grandchildren. Thank god I changed my mind, because these grandparents are loving it.

20121212-135539.jpgThis week was my dads birthday. I knew I wanted to make him something really special this year. He and my mother have been so amazing. They visited us at the hospital almost every single day. For four weeks. And let me tell you, once the terrifying aspect of having your baby in the hospital wears off, it gets really boring, really fast. They took care of our poor dogs when we couldn’t. They brought us food, gifts and hugs.

20121212-135642.jpgNow that we’re home they still come by like crazy. I’ve taken to having them over for dinner weekly as well. I don’t think we will ever be able to repay them for everything they have done for us over the years, but food is my way of starting.

20121212-135825.jpgI got inspired by these tarts. It was the port reduction that did it for me. My dad and I both share a love of port, so this seemed like the perfect place to start. I decided to cook my reduction down even further then the original recipe suggests. Turning it into something thick, dark, moody and syrupy.

20121212-140053.jpgIn my mind, this sauce is what makes this dessert. It has that perfect hint of winter to it, slightly spiced, with richness and depth from the port. I kind of impressed myself with this dessert.

20121212-140220.jpgIt wasn’t difficult, in fact I did most of it while entertaining a baby. I’m fairly certain I narrated the entire cooking process for her. I like this dessert because it seems so elegant, yet it’s beautifully simple. This would be a great way to really wow your dinner guests this holiday season. And you can do it all ahead of time.

p.s. I got a new camera, can you tell? I’m pretty much in love with it.

20121212-140343.jpg

Pear Tartlets with Spiced Port Reduction

Makes 6 tartlets

For the crust:

6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 rounded cup flour

For the filling:

2 large pears, any variety
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

For the cream

1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 vanilla bean

For the spiced port reduction:

1 1/2 cup port wine
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cloves

Directions

1. Preheat oven 410 degrees. In an ovenproof bowl mix butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar and salt. Place in oven and heat for a few minutes until melted and bubbling.

2. Remove from oven and add flour. Mix until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the edges of the bowl. Place dough in tart pans and slowly spread to edges, bring dough up sides as well. Prick bottom of dough several times with a fork. Bake un-filled for approximately 10 minutes until edges just start to brown.

3. While the shells are baking, make the filling. Slice a few thin slices off of the pears to use as garnish. Place slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with sugar. put in the oven, with the oven off, while still warm from making the tart shells. Dice remaining pears. Add to a medium pan, along with water, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium heat 20-30 minutes until tender. Mash with a potato masher. Push pears through a fine metal sieve to remove skins. Return to heat and cook another 10 minutes. Divide pear purée among tarts. Cool completely.

4. In a small saucepan heat the port, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes, until it has reduced by half.

5. In a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Add the seeds from the vanilla bean and confectioners sugar. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

20121212-140459.jpgAlmost like whipped butter.

6. Pipe the cream onto tarts. Arrange your sliced pears on tops of cream. Serve drizzled with spiced port reduction.

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