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Pears Poached in Red Wine

Pears Poached in Red Wine
After chilling in the wine syrup, the pears are a regal deep burgundy. Don't worry if they are pale after you poach them; they will absorb more color as they stand in the syrup. For best results, use a young, light, fruity red wine. These pretty pears make a fine dessert for a large dinner party, as you can poach them a day ahead.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups light, fruity red wine
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 lemon zest strips
  • 6 firm pears, preferably Bartlett or Bosc
  • Lemon juice, to taste

Directions:

In a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears in a single layer, combine the wine, water, sugar and lemon zest. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Meanwhile, peel the pears, leaving the stems attached. Add to the saucepan. Cut a round of parchment paper to fit just inside the saucepan and position it over the pears. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, then lift the parchment and turn the pears in the poaching liquid so they cook evenly. Replace the parchment and continue cooking until the pears are just tender when pierced (they will continue to cook as they cool), 10 to 15 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a deep bowl or baking dish.

Increase the heat to high and cook the poaching liquid until reduced to 2 cups. Remove from the heat and let cool. Taste and add a little lemon juice if needed to freshen the syrup. Pour over the pears. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours, turning the pears occasionally in the syrup to color them a deep red all over.

To serve, cut the pears in half lengthwise. Remove the core from each half with a melon baller or a sharp spoon. Put the halves, cut sides down, on a cutting board and thinly slice lengthwise, leaving the slices attached at the narrow end. Using a spatula, transfer each pear half to an individual bowl or plate, maintaining the shape of the pear half. Press lightly on the slices to fan them. Strain the poaching syrup to remove the zest strips. Spoon some of the poaching syrup around the pears and serve.
Serves 12.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Lifestyles Series, Classic Pasta at Home, by Janet Fletcher (Time-Life Books, 1998).