Poached pears are one of the easiest and sexiest desserts there are. They sit on the plate like a jewel, filled with the essence of wine and in this case pomegranate. The house becomes scented with spices and vanilla. Once these regal beauties are tender and succulent they can be paired with pastry cream, ice cream, sorbet or even blue cheese. A sprinkle of crushed praline and you have a classic dish that takes very little effort.
I started with bosc pears, for no other reason than their gorgeous shape. The flavor is great but that is secondary (just kidding!). Choose whichever pear you find most appealing. Once you decide on a variety, pick the ones that are firm. You don’t want a fully ripened pear or it will fall apart while you are poaching. The trick is to leave the pear in the slowly simmering liquid for as long as possible. The longer it poaches the more the pear takes on the flavor and the color of your syrup.
I wanted the rich jewel tone of red wine and pomegranate juice. The wine gives the fruit a deep flavor and the pomegranate is bright and fresh tasting, a really nice combination when you throw in a vanilla bean, a star anise, peppercorns and other spices. All of this can also be done in white wine and pear juice or champagne to give the pears a honey colored finish!
Red Wine and Pomegranate Poached Pears
1 bottle fruity red wine (I used a Shiraz but anything you have around the house will do, Don’t break the bank on the wine, since you are going to be adding juice and spices to it anyway. Having said that, make sure you want to drink the rest if there is any left in the bottle.)
1 bottle 32oz pomegranate juice. Find as close to pure juice as you can! I found some at Trader Joe’s or POM is great.
1 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean split and scraped (throw the whole bean in the pot to release all the seeds.)
1 star anise
6 whole peppercorns
4 whole cloves
6-8 whole peeled and cored under-ripe pears
Place all of the ingredients in a large pot and simmer on medium low heat, uncovered. I made the mistake of covering poached pears and they boiled away and became mushy. The trick is to go slowly. Depending on how hard your pears are this can take 45 minutes-2hours.
Flip the pears around gently with a spoon to make sure they are cooking evenly every 20 minutes.
Once they are taking on color you should start to check them for tenderness. With a fork poke inside the pear, where you cored it. You don’t want to see the fork marks on the outside. Once they are tender and the fork slides ino the flesh of the pear easily they are done. You still want to have some bite to the pear so don’t make them mushy, like canned pears.
once the pears are finished then turn up the heat slightly and reduce the poaching liquid until it resembles think maple syrup. Serve the syrup with the pear or over ice cream. I even used it to go with the chocolate cake recipe I made for the Children’s Heartlink event!
You can fill the pears with sweetened mascarpone cheese, praline pastry cream or just leave them alone and serve with ice cream. I made these and served them with sorbet, the poaching syrup and some crushed praline. It was delicious and just happened to fit the vegan menu for my brother and his girlfriend!