Before now, I had always only fantasized about making poached pears for a dinner party. They are by far the most elegant of desserts. And I clearly remember the first time I ate one, which had been poached in red wine and filled with mascarpone, my mood changing from very cranky to extremely happy with every bite. This mood-altering introduction to poached pears occurred at my parents friend’s Agatha and Charlie’s house in Florida. Agatha and Charlie are the kind of food-experts I aspire to be. They have every tool for culinary success you could possible imagine. Charlie went to pastry-chef school and spends a lot of time baking bread and other perfect baked goods as well as rolling out long sheets of homemade pasta dough to make the best raviolis I’ve ever eaten. He did show me how to make these pears years ago, and despite his encouragement, I was intimidated by trying it on my own, without a real pastry chef overseeing my work.
This past New Year’s Eve that changed. With five close friends, who I knew would like me no matter what happened to our dessert, I gave it a go. It’s really not that hard…at all. My friend Vinnie gazed happily at the first poached pear as I removed it from the simmering wine and set it straight up on it’s mascarpone-decorated plate.
“I feel so grown up.” He said. Vinnie comes from a family of serious food-experts including a Bon Appetit Magazine editor sister and a mom who works at William-Sonoma in exchange for excellent kitchen equipment rather than a pay check. I admire both of these jobs.
“Why?” I asked.
“Because I remember my mom making these when I was a kid and thinking ‘who would want to eat FRUIT for dessert?’ but now it looks delicious!”
Needless to say, 2011 is off to a very sweet start.
Red Wine Poached Pears with Mascarpone
- 6 firm Bartlett pears, peeled with stems in tacked
- 1 1/2 bottles red wine
- 2 cups sugar
- 5 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 2 8-oz. containers Marscapone cheese
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- ½ cup confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In 4-quart heavy sauce pan, add wine and equal parts water. Add sugar to desired degree of sweetness, bay leaves and cinnamon and bring to a simmer. Add pears and let simmer in liquid until very tender, about 30 minutes. When pears are done, remove the pot from heat and let the pears cool in the wine. (If you’re in a hurry, remove them from wine and let cool at room temperature.) While pears are cooling, make the mascarpone filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, a pinch of cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar until smooth and combined. When pears are cool enough to handle, slice off the top portion of each pear and reserve. Using an apple corer or long thin knife, carefully remove the stems from the pear. Pears should remain intact with a hole in the center to fill with cheese mixture. Using a spatula, transfer cheese mixture in to a plastic sandwich or freezer bag. Using clean kitchen scissors, cut off a very small corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Pipe filling into the cored pears and place the stems on top of the mascarpone filling on top of pears. Pipe remaining filling in circles on to six dessert plates and place pears in the center of each plate.
Bring sauce up to a simmer and reduce by half. Add butter to reduced sauce and stir until combined. Pour sauce over pears and serve extra sauce on the side.