(Poire belle Hélène)
March 15: National Pears Helene Day
We have posted recipes for Peach Melba and Melba Toast on our blog before. Now we are trying Pears Helene. All of these dishes were invented by a French chef during the 19th century.
Auguste Escoffier created Peach Melba at the Savoy Hotel in London, England, in 1892 or 1893, in honor of Australian opera singer Nellie Melba (he revised the recipe in 1900 when he became head chef at the Carlton Hotel). In 1897, Escoffier also made Melba Toast for her when she was ill.
Apparently, even great chefs need inspiration and motivation. Before Escoffier named his culinary creations after Nellie Melba, he was moved to make a fruity dessert from the operetta “La belle Hélène” by Jacques Offenbach (the operetta parodies the story of Helen’s elopement with Paris, which set off the Trojan War). And voilà—he invented Poire belle Hélène in 1864.
When we get stuck in a rut and routine in our kitchen, what inspires and motivates us is the theme for a food holiday. It gives us an idea of what to make for our meal as well as for our blog, and we also get to try out new and different recipes so cooking does not get to be the same old boring chore.
For National Pears Helene Day, we were inspired to make Poire belle Hélène. Simple poached pears are upgraded to a fancy dessert status when chocolate sauce is drizzled on them, sprinkled with toasted almond slices and served à la mode! Channel Chef Escoffier and be motivated to make Pears Helene for National Pears Helene Day.
- 4 firm pears, Bosc or Bartlett, with stems
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- almonds, sliced and toasted
- 4 ounces (1 package) semi-sweet chocolate
- ¼ cup milk
- vanilla ice cream
Wash and peel the pears, leaving the stems intact. Place them in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the pears. Stir in the sugar and vanilla extract. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pears are softened. Drain and set aside to cool until ready to use.
Toast the almonds in a skillet to bring out the nutty flavor. Set aside to cool until ready to use. In a bowl, combine the chocolate with milk. Melt and stir until smooth.
Assemble a poached pear in a dessert dish. Pour chocolate sauce over the fruit. Scoop vanilla ice cream into the dish next to the pear. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.
- Bottled fudge sauce, found near the ice cream section of the grocery store, is a quick substitute for the chocolate sauce in this recipe.
- Here is a list of other foods and dishes named after people.