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Plenty of Ways to Cook Peaches

by Elizabeth Skipper | September 24th, 2014 | Ask the Chef
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processing-448526_1280I tried grilling peaches as part of our dinner.  I liked that we had warm, more tender peaches. However, I wasn’t crazy about the smoky flavor. To get the same results (minus the smokiness) would it be better to sauté or broil the peaches?

Ah, peaches – one of summer’s fleeting wonders. Eaten outside or standing over the sink, a ripe, juicy peach is one of life’s great pleasures. And as delicious as they are au naturel, they also take well to cooking. This is especially true if they’re not perfectly ripe, because cooking softens them and concentrates their natural sugars.

It’s certainly easy when the rest of dinner is grilling to add peaches to the grill top. There’s no getting around the smoky flavor imparted by the coals, however; and the effect is even more pronounced if the grill surface isn’t perfectly clean. If you cook them in foil, though, you’ll get around that problem. It will take a little longer than grilling them, about twenty minutes if you cut them in half, remove the pit, and wrap them in a double layer of foil, but that hardly seems a problem. This will also allow you to add other ingredients such as blueberries or raspberries (also in season), and some sweetener if you like. Give that a whirl.

Can you sauté or broil peaches? Certainly. You can also bake or poach them. For days when the grill isn’t fired up, any of these methods will give you good results. Sautéing is as simple as melting some butter in a large skillet and cooking sliced peaches until they’re easily pierced with a thin knife or – my favorite tool for this job – a cake tester. A little sugar added toward the end of cooking will caramelize lightly and enhance the flavor.

Broiling is probably best done by peeling, halving, and removing the pits, then putting the peaches cut side up on a heavy baking sheet. Preheat the broiler (this is a step people often overlook, for some reason.) Top the halves with a sprinkle of white or brown sugar, and bit of butter in the indentations, and broil until brown. If they’re not cooked to your liking by the time they’re browned, turn the oven down to 350°F, and continue cooking for a few more minutes. This shouldn’t be necessary if the peaches are ripe, but might be if they aren’t quite there yet.
If you’d rather not keep an eye on the broiler, bake them at 450°F for about fifteen minutes, or until tender.

As for poaching, it couldn’t be simpler. Make a light simple syrup – two parts water to one part sugar by volume (for example, 1 cup water to ½ cup sugar) – and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the peeled peach halves, reduce to a simmer, and cook just until tender. It won’t take long at all. You can make additions such as a couple of whole cloves, a cinnamon stick, some white wine, or a bit of brandy or liqueur, but the simple syrup is a great starting point. These make a fabulous dessert; one of the most famous is Peach Melba, which is poached peaches served with vanilla ice cream and drizzle of raspberry sauce.

Whichever method you choose, cooked peaches are a great addition to the cook’s repertoire.

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