I distinctly remember my mother's poached pears from when I was a child. She cooked whole pears in red wine, and served them standing upright on pieces of country bread sautéed in butter. Over each pear she poured hot, red wine reduction that transformed the toast into an island in a shallow lake of deep red reduction, followed by a drizzle of cold, heavy cream.
I remember cutting into the toast with my knife, and hearing the crunch of the crust—the middle was soft, drenched with red wine and cream, but the edges remained buttery and crisp. The taste was sweet, the red wine added contrast, and the rich cream rounded out the flavors.
It was decadent. The thought of that dessert reminds me of the holidays, and my mom’s beautiful “special occasion” dessert china. And eating in the dining room, which we only ever did on Christmas when we had company. I loved her poached pears. But I have since learned that such delights need not be confined to Christmas, and that most decadent things have an adaptation that makes them suitable for the everyday.
My poached pear recipe is just that—a version that makes for a quick and simple dessert. It’s particularly great for a dinner party when you already have enough balls to juggle without having to prepare dessert while your guests wait for you at the table. The pears and sauce can be made ahead and even stored in the fridge overnight. And the cardamom-infused red wine adds for a subtle nuance that compliments the sweet pears and ice cream perfectly.
CARDAMOM POACHED PEARS
- 6 Bosc pears
- 2 bottles red wine
- 3 tablespoons honey
- a splash of vanilla extract
- 4 cardamom pods
- vanilla ice cream, for serving (I use coconut milk ice cream)
Bring the wine, honey, vanilla and cardamom pods to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the pears, trying to leave the stems intact. This may mean that half of the pear halves have stems, and the other half of the halves do not, or you could split the stems up the middle.
Add the pears to the wine mixture and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, rotating the pear halves halfway through. Pierce a pear with a knife to test for doneness—once soft, remove the pears and set them on a plate to cool.
Meanwhile, reduce the red wine mixture over low heat until it begins to thicken. Remove the cardamom pods and discard. Transfer to a small pitcher.
To serve, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to a bowl. Lean a pear half up against the ice cream and pour some of the reduced syrup over the top.
Note: The pears and syrup can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight. Simply allow them to come to room temperature before serving. Or reheat the syrup on the stove as desired.