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I all that grammatically correct

I all that grammatically correct

Some say that the French can be very narrow in their definitions of things, which is why traditional French cuisine can be so simple, yet spectacular; because the classics don’t get messed with. Other cuisines, however, do get modified to local tastes, like les brochettes de b?uf-fromage, or beef skewers with cheese, at les sushis restaurants, popcorn available as salty or sweet (!?), and while sandwiches stuffed with French fries may be a sandwich américain, I can’t say I’ve ever seen one in Amérique.

Americans spend a fair amount of time defending certain dishes, and some things are (or should be) rightly forbidden, like raisins in cole slaw and dried fruit in bagels, and others are debatable, like beans in chili, sugar or honey in cornbread. (But it’s okay to stop with those football-sized croissants.)

So when I was buying pears from the producteurs at the market, I mentioned to the vendor, who was rifling through all the pears as I pointed to each individual fruit that I wanted her to put in the bag, that I was going to make a sort of upside down pear tarte Tatin from them.

She stopped, mid-packing, with a look of complete and utter disbelief on her face, she told me she had never heard of such a thing. Which seemed funny because pears and apples are so close, that it would seem to be a natural, no? I think I threw her a curveball because a tarte Tatin is an apple tart, but I figured that was a rough way to describe what I was making, rather than a tarte renversée aux poires pochées, et au vin rouge de Carcassonne et aux épices, which was kind of a mouthful for 9am.

I’m not sure she was convinced, nor was I all that grammatically correct*, but I was looking forward to turning out a lovely tart with my mid-winter beauties.

The process takes a couple of days. For do-ahead folks, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s highly advisable to poach the pears 1 to 3 days in advance, so they have time to soak up the flavor and color of the wine.

You start with a fruity red wine. Because I share the French propensity for being thrifty, I bought a very inexpensive bottle of wine from Carcassonne, in the south, for poaching. If the wine is going to be simmered, then reduced to a syrup, there’s no need to pop open a bottle of Petrus. So don’t worry that the people at the cash register in the wine store are going to shoot you any attitude.

The fellow at my wine shop, who also expressed some reservations about this nervy American making an upside down tart with pears, of all things, didn’t bat an eye when I handed over my three one-euro coins for the bottle of wine that I pulled off the shelf.

The pears can be flavored with whatever you’d like; a few branches of thyme, or some crushed allspice berries can be swapped out for the cinnamon. And you could use a few wide strips of orange peel in place of the lemon. The French tend not to heavily season things, so the more singular flavors of the ingredients can shine through in the finished dish. (And in case you’re interested, I still prefer my popcorn salted, rather than sugared.) So just keep the poaching liquid to a couple of flavors and not a potpourri of ingredients that will overwhelm the pears. And the resulting red wine syrup is so good, you’ll thank me later for restraining any natural, or unnatural, urges to overdo it.

When I took the deeply red pears that had been poached a few days ahead outdoors to snap a picture for you, due to the shortened days of winter and my kitchen being too dark to get a nice shot to share, a passer-by asked, “Ce sont des fausse poires?” (“Are those fake pears?”)

But there was nothing fake about them, nor was the enjoyment my French friends expressed after polishing off the tart after dinner, scraping their plates clean. (I didn’t make up a fancy, or extended, name for it. I figured it would speak for itself.) It was so popular that I made it again a few days later. I forgot to bring a slice to the vendor at the market, or the guy at the wine shop, who are probably wondering about the crazy American with the odd ideas about baking, and the dicey French grammar. So I guess I’ll have to make it one more time. At least.

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