March 15th is National Pears Helene Day.
Pears Helene is a French dessert known as Poire belle Hélène. It is made of pears poached in sugar syrup and served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and crystallized violets. Modern versions opt for sliced almonds over the violets.
The dish was created around 1864 by Auguste Escoffier and named after the operetta La belle Hélène by Jacques Offenbach.
It’s a simple, yet elegant, dessert and easy to make.
4 firm Bartlett or Bosc pears
1 lemon, juiced
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
vanilla ice cream
candied violets or toasted slivered almonds
Peel pears, then cut in half lengthwise and core. Sprinkle with lemon to prevent discoloration. Set aside.
Combine sugar, vanilla bean, and water in a wide, shallow pan (one that will fit the pears in one layers), then bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, or until it thickens and turns golden brown.
Add pears, cut side down, to the pan. Spoon syrup over pears, cover, and simmer 10 minutes.
Turn pears over, cover, and simmer 10 minutes more.
Continue poaching until the pears are cooked and translucent. They should feel tender, but not mushy.
Remove from heat and cool, keep covered while cooling.
To serve, place two pear halves on a plate or in a bowl. Add a scoop of ice cream, then drizzled with chocolate sauce. Garnish with candied violets or toasted almonds.