(POSTED: July 13, 2006)
Choose perfectly ripe pears for this recipe; if they’re overripe, they will be too soggy, and if they’re underripe, they won’t poach well. Bosc pears, which hold their shape well when baked or poached, have a sweet, tart flavor, but you can also use Anjou or Bartlett pears. Peel the pears carefully, leaving the stems intact. Cut a small amount off the bottom so the pear can stand upright. If you’re peeling many pears at once, immerse them in a large bowl of cold water with lemon juice. The acidulated water will keep the pears from discoloring until they are ready to be poached.
4 medium-size firm pears, such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Bosc
1 bottle robust red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, or Merlot
1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise
1 whole cinnamon stick
Peel from 1 orange
Peel from 1 lemon
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 whole bay leaf
1. Peel the pears, and place in medium saucepan. Add wine, sugar, vanilla bean, cinnamon stick, orange peel, lemon peel, cloves, star anise, bay leaf, and just enough water to cover pears.
2. Set saucepan over high heat, and bring liquid to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, occasionally stirring gently, over medium-low heat, until a paring knife easily pierces pears, about 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat; let pears cool in liquid.
3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate. Pour poaching liquid through a sieve set over a bowl. Discard solids, and return liquid to saucepan. Place over medium-high heat, and cook until liquid has been reduced to a syrup that coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 45 minutes. Let cool; store pears in an airtight container until ready to serve.
4. When ready to serve, arrange pears on a platter or on individual plates, and drizzle poaching liquid over them. Serves 4.
Photo: Todd Atkinson