Poached pears make a pretty dessert plate and are very versatile through the seasons. In winter, their flavor is heightened when accompanied by a good Gorgonzola, toasted bread and walnuts roasted with butter and salt. During the summer, serve with sweetened mascarpone and lemon peel curls.
6 firm pears with stemsJuice of 1 lemon1 Cup (240 mls) excellent red wine¼ cup (60 mls) sugar¼ cup (60 mls) currants1 vanilla bean split3 or 4 whole clovesUsing a vegetable peeler, peel the pears leaving the stems. With a paring knife, cut a small slice off the bottom of the pears and stand them upright in a saucepan. Squeeze lemon juice over them, then pour on the wine and sprinkle with sugar. Add the currants, vanilla bean and cloves to the wine.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes (or longer depending on the size and ripeness of the pears); do not allow them to become soft. Midway, turn the pears on their sides and baste several times with the wine. Transfer to serving dishes. Pour some wine syrup over each one and garnish.
A small variation on this theme is to leave them whole, unpeeled and set them upright in a baking dish like Monet’s haystacks. Drench them in wine and sugar and slow bake until they are soft and all the wine is absorbed (may take up to 4 or 5 hours, I used to use my wood oven after making bread or a roast and leave them in the oven all night) Serve warm or cold.