Confession time: I have always been scared to poach anything in wine.
I know, I should hide my head in shame. But it’s true. I just couldn’t bring myself to poach a pear.
What if it turned into mush? What if it tasted really, really, strongly of wine? What if my dinner guests got drunk off of a pear? What if they turned out ugly? I just couldn’t bring myself to try it. And then, I hurt my shoulder…..and I took a few weeks off from cooking. But, I started itching to get back into the kitchen……
Time to find something simple, elegant and easy-on-the-shoulder to make. No mixing, rolling, stretching, baking or folding required.
Poached Pears it is!
So, I conquered my fear. Let this be your inspiration for not living in the shadows of the non-poaching any longer. OK, a bit over the top – but……I’m all about the poaching now.
Without further rambling by your ever-so-gracious-but-slightly-pretentious hostess, I give you the easiest recipe known to mankind.
Seriously, 25 minutes. That’s it. Ready?
It would seem counterintuitive to turn to Gourmet’s Menu Cookbook when looking for something easy to make – but I would not steer you wrong, loyal readers. This cookbook from 1963 may look fancy and indeed has recipes that would challenge the bravest of home cooks, but it is also laid out in the simplest of formats and had ridiculously accessible recipes like this one for anyone to make. Even me! So, armed with two bags of Trader Joe’s finest Organic Artisan Pears, I searched the index and found my recipe.
It couldn’t be that easy? Could it? Indeed, it was. I added some simple candied pecans and shaved dark chocolate as well. And while I am not vegan by any means, this dessert totally is.
Here’s What I Did:
1. I did use wine, organic red table wine. This wine is nothing special, just one that an employee recommended because I like to choose organic wines when possible. If you choose not to drink alcohol, feel free to use unsweetened cranberry juice in this recipe. Trust me, there’s enough sugar in here to take away the sour taste.
2. Is there anything better than sugar dissolving in wine? Yes. Of course there is, but for my purposes here, it was just so pretty!
3. Because The Girl is very allergic to cinnamon, I couldn’t use it. So I substituted 2 star anise pods and added the recommended 2 cloves. This made my wine taste like mulled wine. Yum! The star anise added a slight, verrry slight, licorice taste which I like in my red wine anyway. It. Was. Lovely. I also throw star anise pods in my homemade chai, add them to existing chai teabags, and throw it liberally into my homemade pho. None of which are very vintage at first glance, but what’s more vintage than dreaming about exotic foods from foreign lands in a far away future whilst you whip up a tuna casserole to throw in the oven……
Where was I?
4. Coring pears is super easy, and results in a pretty product, with a melon baller.
5. I did leave one pear whole, because I have always seen them done this way and wanted to be fancy. I’m like that.
6. These only took about 10-15 minutes to reach the tender but not mushy stage. I turned them once during cooking to make sure they were evenly cooked. You want your pears to be firm before you cook them, because they will soften a lot during the cooking process.
**Helpful hint from Heloise: While your pears are cooking, start preparing your candied pecans if you are using them – heat a pan to medium, add in 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of pecan pieces. Coat them with the melted butter and then add 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, stir to coat. Do not, I repeat, do not turn your back on these rascals. Stir constantly until sugar is liquefied and then cook for 3-4 minutes until it darkens slightly. Or, if you prefer, completely burn a batch to have a good reference point for the next batch……
7. Place nuts on a heatproof cutting board and allow them to cool. When they are cool enough to handle break, or chop into bite-sized pieces. Do not forget to eat as many as you can before anyone notices. They are also delicious with the wine that is leftover from this recipe. Perhaps you want to double the recipe……At this point, your pears will be thoroughly poached, except the large whole pear. Remove the halves from the wine syrup with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate. Crank up the heat on your wine and sugar mix, still with the whole pear in it, and stirring constantly, boil the syrup down until it’s volume is cut in half. This takes no more than 5-10 minutes. 5 minutes will result in a thickened, but usable, syrup. Your whole pear will be cooked. Remove all from the heat. Drain your whole pear. Remove the star anise and cloves from your syrup. Or leave them in and live dangerously.
Be forewarned though – if you cook the remaining syrup for the full 10 minutes it results in the most dreamy, gooey, wine caramel that you have ever tasted. It is almost impossible to stop eating it. I may, or may not, have a jar of it on my counter right now……Seriously, look at that. It’s just beautiful.
8. Chill the pears if you like. I chose to serve them warm, with shaved dark chocolate over them, which melted slightly. I drizzled the wine syrup all over them, topped them with some nuts and there you have it! I think the sour cream with spices would be divine, or even yogurt with spices would work here. Or some raw-milk smoked cheddar cheese. Oh good gravy, I need to make these again and again!