Poached pears are one of my favorite light desserts, and a perfect make-ahead dessert when you are having people over for dinner. Everything can be done ahead of time and just sit in the fridge until you are ready to serve up a sweet yet light ending to any dinner. My mother used to make spiced poached pears when I was younger, although I had forgotten about them until I discovered this recipe in one of my favorite cook books, (and one that I've mentioned before), In The Kennedy Kitchen. Neil's recipe is a a cinch to follow, but I simplify it even more by using the poaching liquid to make the sauce. The following recipe is for 4 pears, but the recipe can easily be increased, as long as you have enough sauce pans! Also, by using good quality frozen raspberries you can make this dish year round!
Wine Poached Pears with Raspberry Sauce (Adapted from In The Kennedy Kitchen)
For the pears:
* 4 Bartlett or Anjou pears, firm but ripe
* 1 bottle of Chardonnay or any white wine that you like--sweet or dry
* 1 1/4 cups white sugar
For the sauce:
* A 12 oz bag of frozen raspberries, (organic, if you can find them), thawed, or 1 1/2 pints of fresh raspberries
* 1/2 cup of the poaching liquid
* Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, to garnish (optional)
1. Peel the pears and cut out the bottom 1/2 inch of the core using a paring knife. Leave the stem on top, for an elegant presentation. Slice just enough off the bottom of the pears so that they will stand upright.
2. In a saucepan, dissolve the bottle of wine and the sugar over medium heat. Add the pears, lower the heat, and cover. Simmer the pears until they are tender--if you started with ripe pears, this should take about 20 minutes. If your pears are quite hard to start, this may take up to 45 minutes. Check on them periodically--they are done when they can be poked with the tip of a knife easily, but not yet falling apart.
3. Meanwhile, puree the raspberries in a mini food processor or blender. Transfer the puree to a large meshed sieve and press the puree through, straining out the seeds. I have found that you really need to take a rubber spatula or a spoon and mush the puree around to press the liquid through, and periodically take your spatula and wipe off all the puree that sticks to the underside of the sieve. If you feel like a lot of the puree is still sticking to the seeds, add a few tablespoons of water to the puree, mix it around, and this should help.
4. When the pears are soft, remove from heat. Take out a 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add it to the raspberry puree. Taste the sauce and add more poaching liquid if it is still too tart. When desired sweetness is achieved, transfer the pears, still in the the remainder of their liquid, to the fridge to cool--at least 2 hours but up to 24. Cover the raspberry sauce and refrigerate until it is time to serve.
5. To serve, place each pear in a shallow bowl and pour a pool of sauce around each pear. Add a small scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of fresh whipped cream, if desired. For even more pizazz, a sprig of mint is a nice garnish, or light sprinkle of grated dark chocolate, but these will taste divine as is.
Fresh Whipped Cream
* 1/2 cup of heavy or whipping cream
* 2 tablespoons white sugar
* 1 teaspoon of real vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in a bowl and whip with an electric beater until cream is thick and holds its shape.