I have really been on a kick to use what I have on hand, so I decided to go with a bottle of cranberry wine and some mulling spices leftover from the holidays. The wine is light, and sweet, but not overly so. I think it worked quite well here, but so would any red or white wine with similar characteristics. When I reduced the poaching liquid down, it made a gorgeous garnet-colored sauce, as I'm sure you can see from the picture. I went totally overboard spooning sauce into the serving bowl because of that fact, and I recommend you using a bit more restraint than me when portioning it out. A little goes a long way, and you don't want to overpower the flavor of the pears, lovely though the sauce may be.
These are best made ahead of time and refrigerated, making them so perfect for dessert at your next dinner party. Why not give them a try?
4-6 firm ripe pears (depending on size)
1 750 ml bottle wine, of the sweeter, lighter variety (I used Cooper's Hawk Cranberry Wine)
1 cup cold water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons mulling spices (I had spices from both Williams Sonoma and the Spice House in my pantry. Eek!)
-Peel and core the pears. Set aside.
-Combine the wine, water, and sugar together in a large pot or dutch oven.
-Bring the liquid to a very gentle boil and add the orange juice, zest, vanilla bean paste, mulling spices, and pears.
-Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.
-Allow pears to simmer, turning them occasionally, until they are fork tender. Time will vary depending on the size and variety of pear.
-Use a slotted spoon to remove pears from heat and place in a serving bowl or dish along with a little poaching liquid. Chill pears until serving time.
-Turn the heat up on remaining poaching liquid to maintain a very gentle boil. Allow the liquid to reduce by half. Strain poaching liquid into a clean bowl set over ice to chill quickly, or simply refrigerate until needed.
-To serve, place a pear in each serving dish along with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or gelato. Spoon a little sauce over the pear and serve. The sauce will be quite sweet, so a little goes a long way.