I can’t quite remember when my fascination with Campari started and what particular drink brought it on. Maybe it was a visual attraction at first, the combination of the ruby colored liquid and its vaguely modernist label. What I know for certain is that I was way into adulthood when I started drinking it, light drinker that I have always been, but I have never looked back. Some might find it a bit too bitter but I always felt its bitterness is ever so slightly balanced by a sweet finish that my palate thinks perfect.
Campari is a quintessential Italian drink – not just because it is made in Italy. It has become one of those iconic products, like a Bialetti mocha, the Cinquecento or the Vespa. It also lends itself to food preparation, a side business that hasn’t been quite mined yet. A few years ago we published a recipe for a Campari and orange cake and, yesterday, a reader sent me two recipes she spotted in an Italian American magazine: one was for jello, a food I quite abhor, Campari-flavored or otherwise, and the other for poached pears. Why didn’t I think of it?
I have poached pears in wine, in anise liquor and in Chambord but never in Campari. This recipe, which takes inspiration from the Negroni cocktail, is pretty heavy on the liquor but do not fear: most of it cooks off and what remains is sweetened by the sugar and the pears. It is a very adult dessert and one that even novice cooks can tackle.
• 1 cup Campari
• 1 cup gin
• 1 cup sweet vermouth
• ½ cup water
• ¼ cup sugar
• 3 or so strips orange peel (white part only)
• 4 small Bosc pears
• 1 lemon, cut in half
1. Find a heavy pot large enough to accommodate the pears on their sides. Add the Campari, gin, sweet vermouth, water, sugar and orange peels. Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Cover and reduce heat to low.
- Peel the pears using a vegetable peeler, leaving the stem intact. Rub the pears with the cut lemon halves to prevent them from browning. Cut a thin slice off the bottom to allow the pears to stand straight. Core the pears from the bottom. Add the pears to the pot and cook until the pears are soft but firm, about 20 minutes depending on the size of your pot and pears. Give the pears a turn every 5 minute or so to allow them to soak in the liquid.
- Remove the pears from the liquid with a slotted spoon a place on a plate. Allow the pears to cool. Refrigerate until cold.
Simmer the remaining poaching liquid over medium heat until thick and syrupy, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.
Place a pear on a plate and using a spoon, drizzle the Negroni syrup over the pear. Serve with a bit of whipped mascarpone or ice cream on the side.
Recipe by Joe and Michele Becci
Many thanks to Francesca H. for putting it on my radar.