How CJ did it:
Chef CJ Jacobson of Girasol in Studio City is inspired by his time working in the Noma kitchen in Copenhagen with Chef Rene Redzepi.
He steam infuses the pears with “forest floor”, a custom mixture gathered from local mountains by Pascal Bauder who also forages for Melisse and Trois Mec. Here is how he infuses the flavor into the pear:
Line a roasting pan with herbs or “forest floor” materials. Nestle the pears on top. Cover the pears with another layer of “forest floor”. Cover with a wet linen napkin or kitchen towel and cook at 300° degrees for 2 ½ hours or until aroma has transferred to the fruit and the pears are just barely tender.
Chef CJ serves the Forest Floor Pears with Burrata, Crispy Lentils and Red Frill Mustard Greens.
What I did with the pear:
I have to admit that I held onto the pear for several days pondering what to do with it. I carried it between the refrigerator and my desk where it was like a fruit mascot permeating the air with a potpourri-like aroma. Then I realized that it would be fantastic with butternut squash. There is a warm spice aroma to “forest floor” that reminds me of cinnamon or mace mixed with black pepper. So I roasted the squash and mashed it with almond milk. I cut up the pear and sautéed it in butter until the butter became just light nutty brown. I added the brown butter to the mashed squash, put it in an oven to table dish and arranged the sautéed aromatic pear on top. If you don’t have an infused forest floor pear available (who does?!) use a good farmers market pear (not soft) and add a pinch of warm spices.
Mashed Butternut Squash with Brown Butter Pear
1 small butternut squash with long neck
1-2 cups Milk, cream or almond milk, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon mace
Pinch finely ground fresh black pepper
Salt to taste
1 Anjou pear still crispy, not soft
1 stick butter
Cut butternut squash in half and scoop out seeds. Place both halves cut side down on lightly oiled aluminum or parchment lined baking dish or sheet. Cook at 400° until soft when pierced with a sharp knife, approximately 40 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare the pears.
Cut the steam infused pear in half, remove the fibrous center, seeds and stem. Do not peel. Cut the pear into ½” dice. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the pear and cook over high heat until the butter starts to brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
When squash is soft remove from the oven and let it cool enough for you to touch it comfortably. Use a spoon to scoop the flesh out of the peel. Put the squash flesh in a mixing bowl with enough milk, cream or almond milk to mash it to a texture you like, adding the spices, salt and pepper. Pour the browned butter from the pan into the butternut squash mixture reserving the pear for topping.
Mix the butter into the squash mash. Scrape the mixture into an oven to table dish and smooth out the top. Arrange the pears atop the squash and put into a 350° oven to heat through before serving.