Anyone who has ever cooked boiled custard or made a rice pudding can make a success with the elaborate-looking dessert shown on the opposite page. This fanciful product of French haute cuisine is known as pears � la Marie-Anne. Designed to be served ice cold, it furnishes a dazzling climax to a summer dinner party.
The center of the dish is simply extra-rich rice pudding, molded and chilled. This mold is surrounded with pears which have been lightly poached in vanilla syrup to remove their skins (the same as dropping tomatoes into boiling water for a minute or so in order to skin them) and then cored. The final touches that make the dish look and taste beautiful—the glazing of the pears and the combining of jams and liqueur into a surrounding sauce—are not nearly so demanding as the concoction of a fancy salad. It all takes time, admittedly. But the result, contrasting the delicate textures and flavors of fruit jams and almost-raw pears with the velvety-rich rice and chewy nuggets of candied fruit, will more than justify the effort spent in the preparation.
Pears poached in the manner described can be wedded to a variety of alluring concomitants, such as thick chocolate sauce and whipped cream (pears � la dame blanche) or an underlay of black currant ice cream with an overlay of raspberry sauce and grilled almonds (pears belle dijonnaise). Here is one member of a whole family of deliriously wonderful Gallic inventions:
PEARS A LA MARIE-ANNE
This recipe serves eight. The rice mold, called riz � l'imp�ratrice in France, can be prepared, if desired, a day ahead.
Ingredients for rice mold
� cup long-grain unprocessed rice
� cup granulated sugar
small pieces vanilla bean (or strong vanilla extract)
4 yolks of egg
1 pint plus one tablespoon of milk
1 envelope gelatin, dissolved in cold water
2 rounds of candied pineapple and 10 candied cherries (or equivalent candied fruit of any sort)
1? cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Preparation of the rice
Blanch rice by throwing without rinsing into boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain. Place rice in enamel pan with 1? cups of the milk and a piece of vanilla bean. Set on an asbestos pad over medium fire; stir constantly till milk is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from stove and reserve.
Start a custard by beating the egg yolks and adding the granulated sugar and the rest of the milk. Place mixture in top part of a double boiler with a small piece of vanilla bean. Cook, stirring till custard coats spoon (about 15 minutes). Remove vanilla bean pieces from both the rice and the custard mixtures, and combine these, mixing in the gelatin. (If vanilla bean has not been used, at this point add vanilla extract to taste.) Allow mixture to cool, but do not refrigerate.