Saturday, July 25, 2009

Seared Peaches with Balsamic Glaze

I went peach picking yesterday and now have a counter filled with ripe and almost ripe peaches. The original goal was to grill some with dinner, but Mother Nature rained out my plans. So, I had to go with Plan B. When I read that Cooking Light billed this recipe as one that would taste straight out of an upscale restaurant, I figured it was worth a shot. Too bad I was missing half the ingredients and didn't feel like a run to the store in the rain. Never fear. I'm getting good at substitutes, so that's what I did here. Below is the original recipe in case your pantry and fridge are better stocked than mine. In Lessons Learned, I detail how I altered it to make it my own.

Seared Peaches and Figs with Balsamic Glaze

1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 teaspoons butter, divided
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
4 firm ripe white peaches (about 1 3/4 pounds), halved and pitted
8 firm ripe Black Mission figs, halved lengthwise (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup crème fraîche
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Cook peppercorns in a small skillet over medium heat 6 minutes or until fragrant and toasted. Cool. Place peppercorns in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; seal. Crush peppercorns with a meat mallet or rolling pin; set aside.

2. Melt 1 teaspoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; stir in 1 teaspoon thyme. Add peaches, cut sides down, to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until browned. Remove from pan. Place 1 peach half, cut sides up, on each of 8 plates. Melt remaining 1 teaspoon butter in pan; stir in remaining 1 teaspoon thyme. Add figs, cut sides down, to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Place two fig halves on each plate.

3. Add vinegar to pan; cook over medium-low heat until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 3 minutes). Cool slightly. Spoon about 2 teaspoons crème fraîche into the center of each peach half; drizzle about 1 teaspoon vinegar mixture over each serving. Sprinkle each serving with about 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle evenly with salt.

Serves 8

Lessons Learned: I didn't have figs or creme fraiche and I didn't feel like roasting pepper corns. So, here's what I did: After mentally halving the recipe, I cut the peaches into quarters. I had semi-cling peaches, so separating them into pretty halves just wasn't an option. They were firm enough, however, that I could separate them into quarters. I tossed them into a saute pan with 1 teaspoon of butter. (I forgot to add the thyme.) They didn't quite reach the carmelization that I wanted, so I tossed them into a cake pan, added a dash of salt over them and stuck them under the broiler for a few minutes. Perfect results -- nice carmelization and color with just the right amount of natural sweetness.
As stated, I didn't have creme fraiche, but sour cream will work as a quick substitute. I mixed in about a tablespoon of sugar to a half cup of sour cream and let it sit until the sugar dissolved. I didn't feel like reducing balsamic vinegar, but I have an absolutely decadent and concentrated balsamic glaze from Williams Sonoma. I served up the peaches with a few drops of that glaze on each peach, then topped them with the sour cream mixture (no pepper). Simply divine and ready to go in less than 10 minutes! This will definitely be a go-to recipe in case I need a quick dessert for unannounced guests.
One final note, don't ever bother buying the $2 bottle of balsamic vinegar. It's cheap and completely lacking in balsamic flavor. You'll use three times as much of it as you will a more concentrated version and you still won't like the results. I won't buy anything other than the Olivier brand at Williams Sonoma. It is thick, fruity and not very vinegary, unlike that cheap stuff you find on the top shelf of the salad dressing aisle at the grocery store. Sure, it's $24/bottle, but one taste and you'll never want to use anything else again.

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