[Apples and Pears with Caramels]
I love having friends over for an impromptu weeknight dinner. I love going out to restaurants too, I’ve probably made that clear by now, but having them at home is something else entirely — warmer and more intimate. It allows you to choose your own musical ambiance (a nice random mix from the Squeezebox), move to the couch for a good cup of tea after dinner, and have conversations that you wouldn’t dream of letting anyone overhear in a crowded bistro. Although admittedly, that means no eavesdropping for you either.
On such occasions I like to keep things casual and homey, and while I sometimes take the opportunity to cook something a little involved, I often prepare dishes that I would make for myself — usually just a main course and a simple dessert. In a way, I think this can make your friends feel even more welcome: they’re part of the family and you’re comfortable enough with them that you don’t need to put on a show and prepare a feast if you’re a bit tired or pressed for time.
Last week when my friend Laurence came to dinner it was freezing, and warm apples and pears sounded like the perfect dessert option. I was about to bake them with just a little sugar, when I saw a little box of salted butter caramels on the counter, a souvenir from Brittany, and thought I would use a few to sweeten the fruit instead.
This was very quickly put together — just a bit of peeling and coring and chopping while we chatted. And as the pears and apples baked, as they turned golden, the caramel chips melted and blended with the syrupy juices seeping from the fruit, creating a fragrant and buttery sauce. A few spoonfuls of this warm and soft compote, served in a glass and topped with a little dollop of crème fraîche, was unanimously described as a crustless tarte tatin — just what we needed.
Pommes et Poires aux Caramels
– 4 apples
– 4 pears
– 2 Tbsp crème fraîche or heavy cream
– 8 salted butter caramels, about 3 ounces
Preheat the oven to 200° C (400° F).
Peel, quarter and core the apples and pears. Cut them in bite-size pieces and toss with the cream in a large baking dish. Chop the caramels and sprinkle over the fruit. Cover the dish with foil and put into the oven to bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until softened and golden. Let cool for a few minutes on the counter and serve warm, on its own or with a little crème fraîche.