White Wine Poached Pears
Poached pear is the perfect end to any meal. It’s light, simple and delicious, flavorful, but not filling or fussy. It’s just what you would like after hearty dishes, like meat or pasta, and it’s ideal for summer. Most recipes for poached pears call for red wine — and you could use red wine in this recipe — but I think you might appreciate the softness of white wine (for no tannins) and the slight acidity that perks up pears’ natural sweetness.
Choose the variety of pear you enjoy most, but pick fruit that’s still firm. Since it’s often difficult to find ripe, juicy pears, this is a great recipe for making fruit that falls short of perfection delicious.
These take really well to sauce — caramel, chocolate or berry — and/or vanilla ice cream.
6 firm pears
1 lemon, halved
2 cups (480 ml) white wine
¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
2 tablespoons honey
4 quarter-sized slices peeled fresh ginger
1 or 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (use the pulp, reserve or discard the pods) or 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
1 whole star anise, broken into points
Pinch of black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Caramel, chocolate or berry sauce, store-bought or homemade, for serving (optional)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)
To poach the pears, you’ll need a lidded pot large enough to hold them upright snugly in a single layer; I use a soup pot and one of the pears is always a little squished and slightly higher than the others, but it works out. You’ll also need a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside the pot.
One at a time, peel the pears, leaving a circle of skin at the top of each, if you’d like, as well as the stem, if the pear has one. Immediately rub the pear with a lemon half to keep it from browning. Using a long vegetable peeler, an apple corer or a knife, working from the bottom, remove the pear’s core, being careful not to cut through the top. Squirt a bit of juice inside the pear.
Cut a couple of slices from the other lemon half and toss them into the pot, along with the remaining ingredients except the pears. Place the pot over medium heat and bring the liquid to a boil, stirring to dissolve the honey and sugar.
Lower the heat and carefully fit the pears into the pot — extra points if they’re all standing up. The pears will not be covered by the liquid, and that’s fine. Put the parchment circle over the pears, pressing down lightly so that the paper touches the fruit, and cover the pot with the lid.
Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fruit is still firm (you want it to hold its shape) but easily pierced with a small sharp knife.
Carefully transfer the pears to a bowl or container. Turn the heat up and boil the syrup for about 5 minutes to further concentrate the flavors. Pour the syrup over the pears and allow them to cool to just warm or room temperature, then catch and discard the points of star anise, or do it before serving. You can serve the pears warm or chilled. I usually serve them cold and plain — one pear in a nice bowl or a stemless glass with syrup poured around it is perfect.