The Thoughtful Baker’s Spiced Poached Pears in Red Wine Glaze
4 large firm Bosc pears: peeled, split, and cored
1 bottle merlot wine, 750 ml
1/2 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract or 1-2 whole vanilla beans, split lengthwise
Peel of 2 oranges- use a vegetable peeler, zest only (don’t get any white pith), bruise with mallet
Peel of 2 lemons- use a vegetable peeler, zest only (don’t get any white pith), bruise with mallet
2 cinnamon sticks, break up with pounding mallet
3 whole cloves
1 very thin slice fresh ginger
1 large bay leaf or 2 smaller leaves (make sure these are fragrant)
Place the peeled pears in water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning. Core the pear with a melon baller. Remove the blossom end with a V cut. Combine the wine, sugar, vanilla, spices and fruit peels in a straight sided skillet. (Note: the skillet should be just large enough to hold the pears snugly. If you don’t have a skillet of the right size, a Dutch oven will work fine also. ) Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the pears in the skillet cut side up. Add water to just cover the pears if the wine does not.
Bring the spiced wine /pears to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook 20-25 minutes or until the pears are tender. Make sure you spoon the poaching liquid over the pears, as they cook, if necessary. The cooking time will vary with the size and ripeness of the pears. You should be able to insert a toothpick easily but don’t overcook or the pears will be mushy. When pears are tender remove the pan from heat, turn the pears over, and let them come to room temperature in the poaching liquid.
Remove the cooled pears from the liquid. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and return to the pot/skillet. (You can throw away the solids). Bring the poaching liquid to a boil to reduce. This can take 30 minutes more or less depending on the depth of your pan. It is VERY IMPORTANT to taste the liquid as it reduces, and stir it periodically, because it can become bitter very quickly if it reduces too much. You want the liquid to lightly coat a spoon. Pour glaze into a clean container.
Place a room temperature pear on a plate. Place a small scoop of low fat vanilla ice cream on top of the pear (or next to it) and drizzle the pear and ice cream with the syrup. A few fresh raspberries scattered on the plate, after you drizzle the glaze, is very pretty also. If you prefer, you can use fresh whipped cream or lightly sweetened Greek yogurt instead. This is really a pretty dessert since the pears turn a rich burgundy color.