Wine poached pears look complicated to prepare, but anyone who has made them will tell you that they're not. If you know how to peel and you know how to boil then you can definitely make poached pears! I break the process down for you, below. Expect about 10 minutes of preparation time and forty minutes to an hour of cooking time (where all you have to do is turn them!).
- 2-4 firm, ripe pears, peeled
- bottle of dry red wine (boxed wine works, too)
- 1 vanilla bean (or a tsp of vanilla essence)
- 1 cinnamon stick (or a tbsp of cinnamon powder)
- 1/4 cup sugar (or none)
- cream, whipped (or yogurt, mascarpone or ice cream)
- other spice options: star anise, nutmeg, peppercorns, rosewater, cardamon, orange peel, honey, cloves
- mint leaves as an optional garnish
- In a pot large enough to fit all your pears (and deep enough that the wine can cover at least half of their bodies), add the wine, vanilla bean (throw in both the pod and the beans, but scrape the beans out first), cinnamon, sugar and any other spices and flavours you want to add.
- Set your stove-top to medium heat, and let the liquid warm.
- Once the liquid is steaming, add the pears. Submerge the pears as best as you can.
- Turn the pears regularly so that each side gets its share of spiced wine. Keep the heat at low-medium - the liquid should be hot and a bit steamy, but definitely not bubbling aggressively or burning to your pot's bottom.
- When you're happy with the pears' softness and colour (this might occur anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour of cooking and turning), take the pears out of the liquid and set them on a plate.
- You can serve the pears hot, or you can chill them to serve later.
- Make wine syrup with your leftover wine: Rather than pouring the wine down the sink, simmer it down to a wine syrup. To do so: keep the pot of wine on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces to about a cup. You can run the syrup over the pears, or use it in another dish: how about serving it with ice cream, waffles, pancakes, fruit salad, salad dressing, roast vegetables or as a meat marinade?
- Poach pears in white wine: adapt the look and taste and poach the pears with dry white wine instead. Add a bit of ginger and honey for something even edgier.
- Garnishing: If you want to garnish your pears like I did in the picture, keep the mint in place by pressing its stem into the pear (the pear will be soft so it will be easy).
- Upright pears: If you want your pears to stand upright, cut off the pear's bottom before poaching. If you forget to do this before poaching, don't worry: you can do it after, once the pears have cooled, though it might require a bit more care.
- Serving warm pears: If you're going to serve the pears hot, remember that any cream or icecream that's on it or near it will melt! Consider serving the latter in a separate vessel.
- Make the pears ahead: Your pears will keep in the fridge for a few days, so you can make it a day or two before serving.