Red wine-poached pears
I don’t do desserts, I don’t bake cookies, I don’t decorate cakes, and I sure as hell don’t put icing on cupcakes. I couldn’t be bothered. Cheesecake, mousse, pie — these are all things that I leave up to the pros (hopefully a local bakery). So, when coming up with homemade desserts for guests, I am usually up the creek without a paddle. I do have a few things stashed away, a couple of tricks up the sleeve, but they don’t come out often. This month I am revealing one of those recipes: a failsafe in my repertoire. Red wine-poached pears are the perfect winter dessert, as well as being an impressive end to any meal. The recipe is simple and it takes no time to execute.
Poached eggs are probably the best-known poached dish, but you can poach almost anything if you set your mind to it. The technique refers to gently cooking an ingredient in simmering liquid. Anyone who has poached an egg before knows that you use water and a tablespoon or two of vinegar. When you start experimenting with poached fruit, however, the liquid becomes much more important. Red wine is a traditional flavor for poached fruits, and this recipe is no exception. I prefer a shiraz or cabernet sauvignon in this recipe, but these are my own personal preferences.
Asian pears are the best pears to use in this recipe, so we are in luck. They are firm and hold their shape when you poach them. I also think they are a bit more forgiving than the humble Bosc or Bartlett (even if they may take a bit longer to cook).
I prefer my pear almost entirely cooked through but with a bit of a bite, similar to al dente pasta. You might want a different texture, so test the fruit with a paring knife several times while it is poaching.
Poached pears and ice cream are the perfect juxtaposition of flavors and textures: dark, spicy pears with a bit of acid in the background, and rich, dense ice cream rounding out the flavors. Even the sensation of warm and cold is a nice touch to the end of a great meal.
Don’t blame me if your friends keep showing up at the door right before dessert.
Red Wine-Poached Pears
• 2 cups red wine
• 2 cups water
• ¼ cup sugar
• One stick of cinnamon
• Juice of half a lemon and its zest
• Pinch of salt
• 1 Asian pear, peeled, halved and cored
Combine everything except for the pear in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the pear and let it poach for 15 to 20 minutes. Check occasionally with the tip of a paring knife for doneness. When the pear reaches the desired texture, remove from the sauce pan and let it cool for one to one-and a-half-minutes. Serve with a good ice cream or fresh cheese.