Toasting Mardi Gras with Jim Beam’s Vanilla Roasted Pears

Happy Mardi Gras, friends! To honor today’s binge-eating holiday, I got together with few friends last night for a cajun-themed meal. I love themed dinners, especially when they’re right before the self-depriving lent season, so we can make them extra, extra, decadent. Though, as I sat in the Whole Foods parking lot scrolling through recipes, I was having trouble coming up with something to cook. Beans and rice, gumbo, and corn bread were covered, leaving me with greens or dessert. Naturally, I chose dessert.

My first idea was to make a King’s cake, but with only a couple hours to go there was no way I was going to track down a plastic baby in time. My second idea was to make Bananas Foster, but this was nixed because I’ve been banned from lighting things on fire in the kitchen after a tenth grade chemistry project went awry. (I was measuring the boiling point of antifreeze, which – I learned – ignites before it boils, sending a 5-foot flame up to the ceiling of my parents new kitchen) My third idea was to just add bourbon. Was this a total cop-out? Probably. But no one complained!

I’ve had Smitten Kitchen’s Vanilla Roasted Pears on my “things to cook next” list for far too long, and while they sound delicious her way: sprinkled with sugar, the seeds of a vanilla bean, and drizzled with lemon juice, I thought they would be even better with a shiny coat of Jim Beam.

But fruit for dessert on Fat Tuesday?? I hear you. But I look at it this way: maybe if I eat a little bit healthier on Mardi Gras, it won’t be so bad when I cheat my way through lent.

I couldn’t pull off New Orleans, but here’s a little Alabama for you. Here’s Hold On by Alabama Shakes, which my friend Amanda of Spinmuse sent to me today in preparation for Sasquatch Music Festival. Hopefully she’ll be there to see them play, too!

Alabama Shakes – Hold On

Vanilla Roasted Pears
Adapted from Sally Schneider at The Atlantic, via Smitten Kitchen

Serves 4 or so
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/2 pounds slightly-under-ripe, fragrant, medium pears, peeled if desired, halved though the stem and cored (I used Bosc)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons bourbon (I used Jim Beam)
2 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the sugar in a small bowl. With a thin, sharp knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise in half and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the sugar.

Arrange the pears in a large baking dish, cut-side up. Drizzle the lemon juice evenly over the fruit, then sprinkle with the vanilla-bean flecked sugar. Nestle the vanilla pod among the fruit (I first slit my halves lengthwise into quarters). Pour the water into the dish. Dot each pear with some butter.

Roast the pears 30 minutes brushing them occasionally with the pan juices. Turn the pears over and continue roasting, basting once or twice, until tender and caramelized, 25 to 30 minutes longer (if the pears are small, test for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes of cooking; a paring knife poked into the thickest part of one should meet with no resistance).

Serve warm, spooned with the caramelized pear drippings from the pan over ice cream, dolloped with crème fraîche, or on your morning oatmeal.

Hungry for more?

Last Week: Colombia!

Last Month: Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas


  1. Vanilla Extract

    Looks dominant. Was already sold at the first pic.

  2. OMG.. salivating. pears are my jam. ahhhh alabama shakes!! love it!

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