Caramel Pears

Whether out of laziness, haste, aesthetics, or as a gift to my wheat-allergic brother, I’ve decided crusts are for the birds. Or, more likely, for the grain moths. Or the rats. Or the dogs. I think my practice of making tarte tatin with out any crust evolved in the opposite order of that stated above: first as a gift, then because I liked the idea, then because I had only half an hour to make dessert for a dinner party, and finally because I don’t know what else to do.

Seriously. I enter the supermarket in a mental fog, and mumble to myself “dessert…” As sure as a wallpaper pattern my answer to this nonquestion moves from apples to apples to apples. I stare at the Golden Delicious, a little hesitant: is there something else? Not really, but this time I went for pears. A stain on the wallpaper. Same thing, different fruit. Peel them, quarter them, settle them in a hot pan of sugar and butter, boil them.

Until I tried pears, I didn’t want to write anything about the sweet paradigm I had stumbled into. There was something magic about how well the caramel-bathed apples came out each time, with so little effort. I wanted to keep my little loophole secret. This meant, of course, that I harbored a pride about it, which reared its ugly head when I brought my apples (mine, mine) out of the house. One of my hosts, biting into one of these apples, exclaimed in pleasure that it was one of the finest pears he had ever tasted. He was right--soft and stewed in sugar, it did taste like pear. I always hate any exchange of recipes, and especially when they come from myself. But there I was, specifying with gross excitement that the caramel takes six, not five minutes to develop. I could’ve used a bubbling, superheated pool of caramel to jump into.

Mortified, and stuck in a stupefyingly retrograde metaphysics, I had to advance from seeming to the real thing: I had to use pears. I should have known that what tantalized was glimpsing another flavor just on the horizon. To go directly toward the glimpse was as inevitable as it was misguided. It all would have been okay, I keep telling myself, had I used more pears, or less sugar. When it was just cool enough to try, my brother and I bit into this fruity, saucy mess as if it were heaven. It was. We had another bite. Our eyes bulged, and we yearned for water and other flavorlessness. While we had a hard time staying away from all of the preceding plates of buttery apples, more than a few bites of these pears could not be managed. They were too sweet.

Hence crusts. Still, the two of us finished the plate off in a few days.

18 March 2012