When you reach to pull this dish out of the oven, dark brown juices bubbling and thick around softened, caramelized fruit, prepare yourself: what you will smell will be as good as pine needles in December or the crisp, cold air outside after a fresh snow.
And when, after you let it cool for a bit, you scoop some into a bowl, pouring that still-warm, coppery sauce all over, faint hints of steam escaping as you blow on a spoonful heading towards your lips, even that will yet be topped by the unbelievable taste to come: a sensation at once devastatingly sweet and slightly tart, with subtle lemon cutting through deepened, darkened sugar glaze.
These citrus-caramel roasted fruits are pure decadence, and by that, I mean they are the shining moments, and if the kitchen were a story, these would be the happy climaxes, which make all the rising action and disappointment fade away.
Truth is, I’ve been thinking about shining moments, how they change as we grow older (from the joy and rapture of knowing it is summer vacation and there is no! school!, for example, to the deep peace and satisfaction of sitting around a table with passionate people you’ve met for the first time but with whom you’ve found instant connection, instant friendship).
I know the shining moments would not be possible without the lack of them, that if life were all caramelized pears and apples, with no burned bok choy or crispy cookies, that it would be harder to see the goodness in them.
I thought about it earlier this week, in the moments of sitting down with friends who lost their beautiful, curly-haired first child and are now creating a home for those who need one, filled with love that infects and overflows when you’re around them, it is amazing. I thought about it the day before I saw them too, when I met a little girl from another continent, who needed a home and now, has one; and when, hours after that, I shared lunch with friends who have known me before I could drive.
These are some of the sweetest things there are in life—the shining moments—and they can’t be the only things (or, like if we only ate roasted pears, we’d be unaware of what we have), but they are things worth savoring, because, in part, they are what so many, or maybe all, of the other things have been leading up to.
Citrus Caramel Apples and Pears
Adapted from AllRecipes.com
Similar to baked apples, these roasted fruits are both simple and satisfying. The addition of the lemon and cinnamon sticks is a nod to the spiced cider common around this time of year, and when combined with the caramel sauce, oh baby. This is knock-your-socks-off good.
3 apples (I used honeycrisp), cored and halved
1 pear, sliced in half, core scooped out
5 Tablespoons butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
Half a lemon
3 cinnamon sticks
Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in a baking pan large enough to hold the halved apples and pear in a single layer: set in the heating oven until it melts. (In my case, I used two medium-sized pans and cut the butter between them, but things would be easier if you had one pan large enough for everything.)
Sprinkle sugar over melted butter, then place pears, cut side down, on top, so they can absorb all the caramelized goodness as they bake. Squeeze juice from half a lemon all over and put lemon, cut side down, in the pan with the fruit. Add cinnamon sticks. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove pan from oven, turn pears over and use a pastry brush to baste the fruit with pan juices. Return to oven; bake until golden and glossy, about 10 minutes longer.
Let cool slightly before serving.