Pears with Serrano Ham and White Balsamic Dipping Sauce

Most of you are probably aware of my wicked ways by now.  To be more specific, I rely on trickery when convincing my partner to eat things that he doesn’t like, and like a thief in the night I steal produce from my parents back yard and shop in their fridge whenever possible.  I spent the summer subsisting almost entirely off of their zucchini and various fruits, and now that those days are coming to a close we’re into Bosc pear season.  Ooooh…..aaaah…..

I do enjoy a nice pear now and then, and Bosc are one of my favourites because of their versatility.  They hold up well for cooking, they’re crunchy and delicious eaten raw, and they have so much subtle-sweet pear flavor. Can you blame me for playing favorites?  I thought not.  This is a great way to serve some of those pears at the start of the season before you’ve become so fully glutted with them that it’s all you can do to sneak them into a cake or camouflage them in a lamb stew.

I say, TO HELL with melon and prosciutto!  How very bourgeoise.  It needed an update anyway.  This makes a lovely and elegant appetizer which really lets the flavor of each component shine through.  The vinaigrette is served on the side for dipping purposes – if we were to drizzle it right on them than the poor meat, so carefully cured, would get rather soggy and what’s the point in that?  The white balsamic adds a sweet little nip and the thyme brings out the earthiness of the other ingredients as we transition into fall.

Pears with Serrano Ham and White Balsamic Dipping Sauce

  • 3 ripe but firm Bosc pears *
  • 200 g thinly slice serrano ham **
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar ***
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1/2 tsp fresh
  • 1 clove garlic
Optional:
  • 1 lemon for acidulated water
  • mache or baby arugala to garnish

* Bosc pears are firmer and slightly drier than Anjou or Bartlett pears.  The high moisture content and softer body of those two will yield a slightly less pretty and much soggier app.

** If you can’t find thinly sliced serrano ham, prosciutto would be an excellent substitute.

*** white balsamic vinegar is truly fantabulous, and it has a syrupy sweet consistency while still keeping that balsamic bite.  If this is unavailable for you, you can substitute 2 tbsp of white wine vinegar with 1/2 tsp of sugar.

 

Begin with the pears.  After washing the pears, trim the tops and bottoms of each one.  Scoop out the seeds using a knife or a melon baller.  I like to use a melon baller because, well, it just look purty.  Cut each half vertically into quarters.

 

When the pears start to oxidize they will turn brown, so to slow down this process I find that it helps to soak them for 10 minutes in acidulated water.  That’s the Fancy Science Term which basically just means water that you’ve squeezed a lemon or another acidic concentrate into.

If you would also like to soak your pears, fill up a medium large bowl with icy cold water and squeeze in a whole lemon….that’s it….

While the pears soak you can start the dressing.  Using a rasp you can grate in the garlic, or you can press it if that’s your presserence.  Oh god.  I can’t believe I did that either.  That’s not punny, that’s just shameful. I’m sorry guys, I’m sorry.

 

Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil.  This is a very simple dish with a very simple dressing, and what will make the difference between, “hmm, okay.” and “OH GOD, YESSSS” is the quality of your ingredients.  Use a very good quality rich and fruity extra virgin olive oil, if possible.

Slowly pour in the white balsamic, whisking constantly.  Because I need at least one hand to take the picture, just pretend that my other hand is whisking with my wee baby sized whisk there.  God, I love that whisk.  It’s starting to corrode a bit and it’s breaking my shriveled little heart.

 

Add in the thyme and season with salt and pepper.  Give it another good whisking, just for good measure.

 

Now onto the good stuff!!  Take the pears out of the water and gently pat them dry with a clean tea towel or paper towel.  Take a piece of serrano ham and wrap it around each slice of pear, snug as a bug in a rug.

You may only need 1/2 a piece of meat for each, but that depends on the shape that it was cut.  Mine was from near the end of the piece and it was only about 1.5 inches high and 6 – 7 inches long.  If it is cut further up it could be much wider, in which case you would keep the long length and slice it horizontally into 2 pieces.  Or do with it as you please, I’m not the Meat Police. And…and if there ARE Meat Police, other than Michael Ruhlman, I totally want that job.

 

Serve the pears on a platter with the vinaigrette to dip them into on the side.  You may choose to garnish the plate with some mache or baby arugala, as that’s not only a great pairing but the verdant green looks lovely with the pink of the ham and chartreuse of the pears…just saying…..

 

This is such a great fall appetizer, and it would also be a lovely addition to an antipasto spread or even your brunch table.  In fact, we have some people coming over for brunch next weekend and I’m fairly certain that I’ll make it again.  After all, you know what they say about a good thing….

 
  • http://canarygirl.com canarygirl

    Omg I totally thought the pears were pickles from the pic! I’m *such* a dumbass. Of course, then I started reading, and OMFG. This is like freakin Nirvana. Right there. And ever so fancy. 🙂

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    That’s because we share something, you and I – an unfettered and overwhelming love of all things pickled. There is NO SHAME in that, and frankly I shouldn’t admit this but bacon wrapped pickles are like manna of the gods in my opinion.

    And now I want some NOW.

  • http://foodhappens.blogspot.com Lo!

    Love this combination!
    And I’m with you on the white balsamic. It was a fantastic discovery for me… and meant that I could make balsamic pasta salad without it looking like a horribly failed science experiment! 🙂

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    I heartily agree!!! I love balsamic but it isn’t always the most aesthetic choice, is it?

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Did you come up with this all on your lonesome? Because it’s a really amazing idea. And I don’t hand out serious comments very frequently.

    That said, I say we use up as much Serrano ham as we possibly can before McCain gets elected and we aren’t allowed to trade with Spain anymore.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Aw, Kristie, you make me blush. I had pears, I had serrano, and that’s how this came together last Friday about an hour before our guests (who also ate tofu-dip) came over…but then today, the day that it’s posted, I was ogling other people’s blogs and found a link to this blog which posted on Monday: http://artandaioli.blogspot.com/2008/10/silky-subtle-sexy-soup.html

    Now I feel like that girl who dresses up like a cat every Hallowe’en.

    (note: KB, that was not directed at you!!!!!)

  • http://thespitefulchef.blogspot.com Kristie

    Yeah…that chick didn’t think of the Serrano ham. So yours is better. She substituted fruit, you substituted a whole way of thinking. You win!

  • http://artandaioli.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    Hi Tina. Nice site. That is too funny that you put ham on pears. I just had the two lying about and needed a little something on the side of my soup. It was just a sudden thought. A great combo. Yours looks so good with that dipping sauce.

    PS. My two little ones are trying on their costumes as I read your comments. My daughter is going to be a cat! (I think) But it will be the first time.

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com claudia (cook eat FRET)
  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Kristie – I adore you.

    Nicole, thanks for checking out the blog! I love the things that you do on yours, especially after poring over it all afternoon.

    Claudia, I WANT THEM I WANT THEM!!!!

    (and their LITTLE BOWL too….)

    If only I could ride a bicycle through the air as I said that, it would have a lot more effect.

  • http://noblepig.com/ noble pig

    I bet this is to die for with the serrano ham, what a great idea.

  • http://www.eatingindallas.wordpress.com Margie

    That’s beautiful! Of course, it makes me want Comice pears, my favorite. I bet your choice is better for a dish like this, though. Comice tend to be a bit soft and very juicy.

  • http://www.choosy-beggars.com Tina

    Ooh, I’ve never HAD Comice pears, and to be honest I’ve never heard of them before…but, as you can imagine, I’m about to pay a visit to my good friend google…

  • http://tastewiththeeyes.blogspot.com/ Lori Lynn

    Lovely combination of flavors!