This week's recipe comes from our cookbook of the month, David Tanis' Heart of the Artichoke (Artisan Books). Tanis is a chef with "true simplicity at his core and an understated approach to the seasonal," says cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt, and this easy, delicious dessert is sure to please.
Spiced Pears in Red Wine
Poached pears in red wine is a classic French dessert. It’s the overnight bath that stains the pears a deep, rich red and infuses them with flavor. When this dessert is overspiced, it tastes like bad mulled wine. I prefer it on the subtle side.
8 slightly underripe small Comice or Anjou pears
1 (750-ml) bottle medium-bodied red wine, such as Côtes du Rhone
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 whole cloves
A wide strip each of lemon and orange peel
Peel the pears top to bottom with a sharp vegetable peeler, leaving them whole, with stems attached and the core intact.
Put the pears in a large wide nonreactive pot (enameled or stainless steel) in one layer. Stir the wine and sugar together in a bowl to dissolve the sugar, pour over the pears, and add the aromatics. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Poach the pears for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted encounters no resistance. Remove from the heat and let cool, in the poaching liquid, overnight.
The next day, with a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a platter. Heat the poaching liquid over high and boil down until it is reduced by half. Strain this syrup into a bowl and let cool.
Use a paring knife to cut a small slice off the bottom of each pear, allowing them to stand up straight. Stand the pears in a deep rectangular glass or plastic container large enough to contain them in one layer.
Pour the cooled syrup over the pears. Refrigerate for up to several days. Serve chilled, putting each pear in a soup plate and spooning over a little syrup.