Poached pears are the most versatile dessert, don’t you think? They’re like the perfect little black dress in a wardrobe made up of fall recipes. Just think about it this way: Poaching them in Champagne is like accessorizing the dress with a pair of satin Manolo Blahniks . . . the ones with the diamond swans lacing gracefully up the side of your foot. You need nothing else to complete the outfit. The silk hem of your black dress whispers gently around your knees as you head out the door and slide into the cool leather seat of your Mercedes, on your way to the most refined and elegant dinner party at the home of a Michelin star chef. Sitting at the table between courses, you can’t help but admire the way the stones of the swan’s neck catch the candlelight as you dangle the shoe from your toes. And, yes, you know you’re not supposed to remove your shoes at a dinner party, but no one really minds because everyone is admiring the diamonds, too. Just perfect.
Now, imagine you’re heading to the country for the day. The pears are ripe and ready to be picked, and the orchard is having a fall festival. Of course, you wear that same black dress because that’s what’s on the chair in your bedroom, tossed there casually last night. But instead of heals you throw on a pair of worn, old cowboy boots…. the ones you bought on a whim at a secondhand store in Sedona several years ago. You grab a basket for the pears and your beat up Stetson as you head out the door. Slide on some Ray Ban aviators and your outfit is complete. Just as perfect.
That’s how I see these red wine poached pears. They’re rustic & comforting, like the soft leather of your favourite boots, with lots of warm flavours like cinnamon, cloves, star anise, bay and vanilla. I love to serve them on a thick bed of whipped mascarpone. The richness of the cheese cuts through the sweetness . . . just perfectly.
Red Wine Poached Pears with Whipped Mascarpone
7 – 8 firm pears
1 bottle of Bordeaux or dry red wine
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 cup heavy cream
16 oz. mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
In a large pot bring the wine to a simmer. Whisk in the sugar and add the spices, including both the vanilla beans and the pod. While the wine is coming to a simmer, peel the pears and cut in half. Use a melon-baller to remove the cores.
Carefully place the pears in the simmering wine. If they don’t all fit in a single layer, rotate the pears halfway through cooking. Cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the pears are tender but not falling apart.
Remove the pears and increase the heat. Boil the poaching liquid until reduced by half and syrupy. Remove the spices and pour the syrup over the pears. Chill until ready to serve.
To make the whipped mascarpone beat the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it holds a peak. Transfer to a bowl. Beat the mascarpone until soft and fluffy. Beat in a quarter of the whipped cream, then gently fold in the rest. Chill until ready to serve.
To serve, place a dollop of mascarpone in a shallow bowl. Place 1 -2 pear halves on top and spoon over some of the syrup.