Pretty Dishes


Pears Poached in Red Wine
April 1, 2011, 10:36 am
Filed under: Recipes

I’ve never had cable television, so I typically catch up on shows I’m interested in via the Web. Several months ago as I was browsing my Netflix Instant Queue, I discovered a new cooking show offering that was “recommended” based on other shows I watch. This one is probably old news to any of you who do keep up on current television (in this case, about five years ago), but I have only just discovered it. TLC’s Take Home Chef features Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone who surprises shoppers at the market and offers to take them home and help cook dinner. It sounds a little hokey, it is a little hokey (don’t blame me when the peppy theme song invades your dreams), but it’s also great inspiration for cooking at home.

I will often play an episode or two as I cook dinner or wash dishes to get ideas for future meals. The dishes Curtis prepares are never terribly complex as the details of all three courses have to be condensed into a twenty-minute show, but he comes up with the creative menus on the spot, and mentions tips and tricks as he is preparing each meal. On many occasions I’ve jotted down ingredients to pick up at the grocery store based on something he’s made. TLC actively maintains a website with all of the recipes featured on the show as well, so it’s very easy to simply recreate the meal in full if you are so inclined (and I have).

One evening I rustled up all the makings for a pear and cheese dessert plate Curtis made for one couple. While poached pears aren’t normally my go-to for a sweet treat (that would be some form of chocolate or cookie), I had a bottle of port to use up and a few fresh pears in my CSA delivery, so I decided to give the recipe a try.

The poached pears were great, though the wine was a little too heavily spiced so the flavor was quite strong. The cheeses were great too, but how can you really go wrong with blue cheese and Camembert? Altogether the pears had a warm sweetness that paired beautifully with the cheeses and water crackers. Because the dessert was so formal, it felt really decadent, especially as we were eating it by ourselves (with champagne) instead of with guests. This is definitely a worthy way to wind down after a nice meal.

Pears Poached in Shiraz and Port Wines with Cheese

I halved this recipe for the two of us and didn’t bother to reduce the syrup as I felt the pears were flavorful enough after simmering. The syrup and pears would be a great topping for ice cream.

One 750-milliliter bottle Shiraz
1 3/4 cups port
1/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 orange
4 Bosc pears [I used firm D’Anjous], peeled, cored, and cut into 12 wedges
14-ounce wedge blue cheese
14-ounce wedge Camembert cheese
Plain water crackers

Put the Shiraz, port, sugar, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg in a large saucepan. Cut the peel from the orange. Cut away any white pith on the peel. Add the peel to the wine mixture. Juice the orange flesh and add to the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears and return to a simmer. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes over medium heat, or until the pears are very tender (cooking time will vary depending on ripeness of fruit). [Remove the cinnamon stick after 10 or 15 minutes for a milder flavor.]

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pears to a bowl. Simmer the cooking liquid over medium heat for 25-30 minutes, or until it is thick and syrupy. Toss the pears in the syrup to coat. Transfer the pear mixture to a serving bowl. Serve with the cheeses and crackers.

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