In my down time I tend to be a foodnetwork junkie. From Thanksgiving to Christmas I have seen poached pears made over and over AND over again. They look so elegant and light...what a nice way to end a meal. I always have to have something sweet after dinner and the holiday season has left me all cookied and cheese-caked out, so I decided for my first new food venture I would attempt poached pears. Typically pears are poached in a sweet wine and spice mixture. After studying a few different recipes, I decided to put my own spin on it and threw a bunch of things I thought would work into a pot, hoping for the best. I chose a Madeira wine and added sugar, honey, whole all-spice berries, a cinnamon stick, bay leaf, orange peal and vanilla to it. I decided to use Bosc pears; I really like their shape and they are sturdier than other pears.
The boiling wine and spice mixture made the whole house smell like winter--it was fantastic. Madeira was a good choice for a base; it is sweet enough that it really doesn't need much else to make a great sauce, and the color is wonderful. I considered using a Riesling but I don't think it would have made as much of a statement. I served the pears with the warm poaching liquid (after reducing) and vanilla ice cream, which combined into creamy-syrup sauce that was delicious. Unfortunately, I don't think I poached my pears properly, as they were still a bit hard and caused eating to be both challenging and messy. I know the pears were ripe because I purchased them about 3 days in advance, so that couldn't have been the issue. The poached pear is supposed to be very tender just break with a spoon...I needed a knife to cut mine.
Next time I am going to poach the pears for a longer time or use Anjou pears which are a bit smaller and naturally more tender. I guess this was lesson number one for the New Year. I will definitely attempt these again. They are so simple to make, can be done in advance and would surely impress company. This dessert is the perfect dinner party dessert for the fall/winter. Lesson learned, and still waiting to master this method.