Poires Belle Hélène, shown without the ice cream. Photo by Teresa Kasprzycka | Dreamstime.
If you’ve never had Pears Hélène (more properly called Poire Belle Hélène), today’s the day: National Pears Helene Day.
The dessert owes its origin to the opera La belle Hélène by composer Jacques Offenbach. It’s a comedic take on the elopement of Queen Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, with Prince Paris of Troy.
The opera debut, in, 1864, was a big success, and the dessert was developed by the great chef Auguste Escoffier as a tribute.
The dessert is composed of poaced pears, topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and crystallized violets (today sliced almonds generally replace the candied violets).
It’s easy to poach a few pears, top with ice cream and your favorite chocolate sauce, and sprinkle on the almonds. Make Pears Hélène for dessert tonight.
Here’s the recipe for Pears Hélène.
Find more recipes for casual and fancy desserts in our Desserts Section. and pull down the Gourmet menu at the right.