Last week was my second time to do a cooking demonstration for the annual Octuberfest, hosted by and benefiting the People of Progress, affectionately known here in the North State as P.O.P.
For my first Octuberfest cooking demo I kept with P.O.P.'s tuber topic and prepared potato latkes. This was back when I did a lot of cooking classes in my former home, in my Igo dream kitchen, back when I was still married and all that jazz; just two months before my"life quake", as one friend calls it.
That was my last cooking demonstration, until Melinda Brown, P.O.P. director, invited me back for this year's Octuberfest, to which I said, "Hey, why not? It's time to get back on that horse."
So I did.
Once again, Octuberfest was held in the basement of the First United Methodist Church in Redding. Allow me to digress here and say that If I were inclined to church-shop (which I'm not), the First United Methodist Church would be a top contender, if only for it's fantastic commercial kitchen. Plus, it's in my Garden Tract neighborhood, plus it rings church bells on Sundays, which is lovely.
But the cooking demo doesn't take place in that glorious ginormous kitchen, rather, it's in the auditorium, where the demonstration was a warm-up of sorts before the evening's real meal, a variety of soups, salads and desserts.
I suppose I could have stuck with tuber tradition and prepared something in the potato family. But after my final latke demo, I wasn't feeling so charitable about potatoes. Not that I'm superstitious, but this year I strayed from the obvious and decided on pears, which I believe are still wonderfully autumnal.
Besides, potatoes and pears have a lot in common. Both begin with 'p' and they're roughly the same size, and they're white on the inside (I'm not talking about Yukons or sweet potatoes.)
So pears it was for Octuberfest, specifically, Crepes filled with sauteed pears drizzled with a wine reduction, topped with whipped cream.
As an aside, I was part way through my demonstration and was mentioning the wine reduction when I overheard Bill Stegall (he was sitting toward the front, plus, I have great hearing), the former pastor of that Methodist Church, laugh and mention something about whether or not it was "legal", and by "it" I assumed he was joking about the wine. Or maybe he was referring to my gas-fired burners. Either way, rut ro.
Well, keep calm and carry on, as I like to say.
Oh, right now might be a good time to credit my trusty assistant, Diana McConnel, who prepared and served samples, and only grumbled a tiny bit about the fact that I didn't have a squirt bottle with which to drizzle the wine reduction, so she was a sticky mess by the end of the demo. Thank you, Diana, and I'm sorry.
Oh, and I would have been in deep trouble if James Pratt, the church custodian, hadn't helped me with my portable gas stoves. Thank you, James.
Now, a word about the pears. This is the part where I become an apologist for canned pears, actually, canned fruit in general, including tomatoes, especially if they're from California. Actually, I'm a huge fan of canned fruit, because usually the fruit is packed at the peak of its ripeness. Besides, everything's peeled.
If you guessed I used canned pears for my cooking demo, you'd be right. But the crepes were made from scratch, and so was the wine reduction. I'll share both recipes with you.
Of course, as with all recipes, you have lots of flexibility. You can use fresh pears, or swap out for something else, like apples or peaches. Or, you can omit the wine reduction, and use a chocolate sauce instead. Or serve it with a scoop of ice cream. Whatever you want. You're the boss, applesauce.
Poached Pears in Crepes with Wine Reduction1 large can pears, sliced and drained (save the juice) 2 tablespoons butter 1 tablespoon sugar Reserved pear juice Wine reduction (see recipe link, below) Crepes (see recipe, below)
Melt the better in a saute pan until it turns light brown. Add the sugar and dissolve in the butter. Place pears in pan and saute gently, allowing to get slightly caramelized. Add the pear juice and a few tablespoons of the wine reduction. Turn down the heat and allow the pears to simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Remove the pears with a slotted spoon and allow to drain. Then transfer to the waiting crepes. Drizzle a bit more of the wine reduction, then fold or roll the crepe over the pears. Top with whipped cream, and drizzle more reduction, if desired.
Crepes2 eggs 1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoon melted butter 1 cup flour 1/4 teaspoon salt
Lightly beat the eggs. Then mix in the milk, water and melted butter. Slowly whisk in the flour and salt, beating well until the batter is smooth. It should resemble thin pancake batter.
Brush a little butter in the bottom of a non-stick pan or skillet with a bottom that's about the size you want your crepes. Heat the pan over medium heat.
Pour between 1/8 to 1/4 cup of batter directly in the center of the pan, then, holding the pan handle, quickly tilt the pan to cover the pan surface. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crepe starts to set, then quickly flip it to the other side to just cook it slightly. Place on a plate and repeat with the next crepes, stacking one crepe on top of the other, until all the batter is finished. Brush the pan with butter every so often if the crepes start to stick. (I keep a cup with melted butter nearby on stand-by.)
Set the crepes aside until ready to use. Note, if the batter seems too thick, you can thin with a little milk. Also, the first crepe always turns out ugly. The others will look better.
Serves approximately 8.
*About cooking classes. Watch for information about upcoming private cooking classes in my home. Fall classes cover pasta and pasta sauces. December classes include holiday challah and English toffee, and cooking for kids.
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment.