Poached Pears

by Paul Fischer

Last weekend I discovered I had some Bartlett pears and most of a bottle of wine in the fridge that needed to get eaten. Both were still good, but wouldn’t be so for long. Immediately I thought of making Poached Pears. I hit the FoodTV site for a recipe, which I used as the basis for my creation.

The wine was a sweet white from Fiore winery in Maryland. We picked it up at our friends Mike and Nikki’s wedding back last year.

I deviated heavily from the FoodTV recipe and the results were spectacular. Here’s my version of the recipe:

  • 4 firm Bartlett pears
  • 1 bottle, less 1 wine glass full, Fiore Malvasia Bianca Dolce
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 vanilla bean

Unlike all other Poached Pear recipes I’ve seen, I broke down the pears into 1/8 sections. First I peeled and quartered them and removed the core and seeds. Then I cut them across the width to make them all about the same sized chunks.  I’ve always had a problem with the standard recipe because the insides tend to be raw while the outside is falling apart.

I put the pears in a small sauce pan so I could keep the height of the liquid as high as possible. I emptied the bottle of wine in the pan and turned the heat to one notch over medium. I dumped in the remainder of sugar from the coffee service, which is why I don’t know exactly how much went in the pot. To this I added 6 whole black peppercorns and a vanilla bean.

I split the vanilla bean in half and scraped out the insides. I learned to do that from Alton Brown. I don’t work with whole vanilla beans, and while they’re expensive, it made the dish truly awesome. I put the casing and the insides of the bean in the pan and covered until it started to simmer. Then I took the cover off and let it cook just over a simmer. I guess you’d call it a low boil.

After 10 minutes I checked the pears and they weren’t tender enough. I checked them again 5 minutes later and they seemed all right. In hind sight, I would have given them another 5 minutes because some of the pieces weren’t completely tender. This gives me an estimate of 20 minutes.

Once done I removed the pears with a slotted spoon and put them in a tupperware container which I sealed and set aside. I then strained the liquid to remove the vanilla bean and peppercorns and put it back on the heat. I reduced the sauce to a syrup.

As it turned out, the pears had a expressed a lot of liquid while cooling the the tupperware. When I mixed the syrup back in with the pears it got soupy again. So I poured off all the liquid and reduced it again until I was returning a nice thick syrup back to my cooled pears. You might want to wait for the pears to cool and pour their liquid back into the sauce pan before doing the reduction.

We at these as is, with syrup, and over vanilla ice cream and angel food cake. We tried them hot and cool and both were awesome. The potency of the syrup seemed to fade over the course of a week, so I wouldn’t keep them around for more than 3 days. I just can’t eat that much fruit in one sitting.

This recipe is awesome. Don’t skimp on the vanilla bean. It really makes the whole thing worth while.

I plan on trying this again, but I’ll probably double the recipe. It’s a lot of work for just 4 pears and 8 pears worth would be better.

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