One of my favorite ways to end a meal is with a bowl of summer berries topped with a wisp of freshly whipped cream. Sadly for me, summer berries just aren't happening in February, so I need to get my fruit fix elsewhere. Enter the poached pear. I've always enjoyed baked autumn and winter fruits, but somehow I missed the boat when it comes to poaching fruit. It just never appealed to me, and I was content to lend my poaching skills only to eggs, fish, and chicken. I should kick myself.
The only thing I can say about this is BEST. PEAR. EVER. That, and EASIEST dessert ever. Seriously, you just peel a few pears and put them in a covered pot with some wine and spices, walk away for 20 minutes, bask in the smell of the slowly reducing spiced wine, then plate the pears and pour the reduced sauce over them. That's it. As with most things this simple, you can always cater the spices to your palate. If you want to dress it up, serve with ice cream or whipped cream; if you're me and see no reason to discriminate, serve with both.
4 bosc pears, peeled, stem still attached, 1/4-inch of bottom sliced off so pears can easily sit upright 1 cup dry Marsala wine (or Madeira) 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice 1/3 cup white sugar 1/2 star anise 4 cloves 1/2 stick cinnamon
1. In a saucepan just large enough to fit all of the pears, place the Marsala wine, sugar, lemon juice, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and place the pears in the pan, standing upright. Cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (if you want, baste with the liquid a couple of times during the cooking), until the pears can easily be pierced with a fork. Very firm pears make need to cook for up to 20 minutes.
2. Remove the pears to a serving dish. Keeping the pan uncovered, let the Marsala syrup boil down for a few minutes until it is a thick syrup. (If it begins to caramelize, remove pan from the heat and add a little water to the pan to stop the cooking.) Pour syrup over pears and serve.