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Roasted Peaches with Pistachio Crème Anglaise

Roasted Peaches with Pistachio Crème Anglaise
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Île-de-France was a garden of fruits and vegetables, and Parisians delighted in the plump, fragrant peaches harvested from nearby Bagnolet and Fontainebleau. Today, the capital's cooks look to the Rhône Valley and the southwest for their peaches. Distinctive green-hued pistachios are popular with French cooks, who use them in savory preparations as well as desserts. Here, they turn the crème anglaise a lovely pale green. Ground almonds could also be used to make a nice, albeit less colorful, sauce.

Serve with a floral, aromatic white wine, such as Viognier from Condrieu, or a bracing Armagnac.

Ingredients:

For the pistachio crème anglaise:

  • 1⁄2 cup unsalted, raw pistachios
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 1⁄2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • Tiny pinch of salt

For the peaches:

  • 6 firm yet ripe peaches, about 2 lb. total
  • 3 to 4 Tbs. dark rum
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. sugar
  • Fresh mint sprigs for garnish

Directions:

To make the crème anglaise, in a food processor, process the pistachios to a fine powder. Be careful not to overprocess or the nuts will become a paste.

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, cornstarch and sugar, then gradually whisk in the milk and the pistachios until thoroughly blended. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, 7 to 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Place in a larger bowl partially filled with ice water and let cool, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Stir in the almond extract and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

To prepare the peaches, using a small, sharp knife, score a line around the equator of each peach. Have ready a large bowl three-fourths full of ice water. Bring a large saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil over high heat. Submerge as many peaches as will fit in the pan without crowding them. Cover and boil until the skins start to split, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches to the ice water. Using your fingertips or the knife, carefully peel the peaches. Repeat with any remaining peaches.

Place the peaches in a baking dish just large enough to accommodate them without touching, drizzle evenly with the rum and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Add water to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Bake until the sugar caramelizes and the peaches are just tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, 25 to 30 minutes; they should keep their shape. Remove and let cool to room temperature.

Place the peaches on individual plates and drizzle with some of the juices from the baking dish. Drizzle the pistachio crème anglaise in a pool surrounding each peach. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Foods of the World Series, Paris, by Marlena Spieler (Oxmoor House, 2004).