My earliest memories of the sumptuous pear have little resemblance to how I enjoy Oregon’s treasured state fruit today.
In my younger days, I needed a can opener to access the pale, soft fruit. I speared the perfectly shaped pear halves with a fork and placed them on an iceberg lettuce leaf. I put a scoop of small-curd cottage cheese in the half dome center of the fruit and, when at my grandmother’s house, topped it with a half a maraschino cherry to disguise it as an ice cream sundae. Bartlett, Comice, Bosc and Anjou weren’t part of my vocabulary then.
The ancient fruit, cultivated in China for at least 3,000 years and brought to Oregon along the Lewis and Clark trail, thrives in the rich volcanic soil found in Hood River and Rogue River valleys. In autumn, my kitchen countertop is never without a brown bag filled with ripening Oregon pears.
For this recipe, I used pears to create a dish that I could serve my family for dinner on a fall evening. I combined caramelized sweet onions with sliced pear, melded the flavors in a white wine bath, and topped it off with fresh thyme. I spooned the slightly sweet, slightly savory mixture over sautéed chicken breasts that sat on a bed of rice to soak up every last drop of the succulent sauce. My family inhaled it.
Serves 4-5 | Total prep and cooking time 30 minutes
For the chicken:
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Walla Walla sweet onion, thinly sliced (approx. 2 cups)
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 firm, ripe Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup dry white wine
Start by laying your chicken breasts on a cutting board and, slice them in half horizontally to form two thin fillets per breast. Sprinkle both sides of the fillets with salt
and pepper. Dredge both sides of each fillet in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Sauté the chicken breasts for 8-10 minutes, turning once, until nicely browned and no longer pink in the middle. To avoid overcrowding your skillet and ensure even browning, you may need to do this in two batches. Move your chicken breasts to a platter and tent with foil.
Wipe out your skillet. Heat butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low to low and add your onions, salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, and taking care not to brown too quickly. Add in your pears and sauté another 4 minutes. Carefully pour in your white wine, and let simmer about 5-6 minutes or until the alcohol has evaporated and liquid has reduced a bit.
To serve, put a scoop of rice in a shallow bowl. Top it with a chicken breast. Spoon the pear and onion mixture on top. Enjoy.