The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Champagne-Poached Pears

Perhaps you absentmindedly opened a bottle of champagne in the wee hours one adventurous weekend night, opening it and then promptly falling asleep before consuming its effervescent contents. It doesn’t matter that it was only $8.99, and can’t rightfully be called champagne because it was just a California sparkling wine – it’s still a pity to see it go to waste. So what you do is put that bottle in the fridge and reserve it for your next batch of poached pears.

The beauty of a poached pear is in its lightness. Aside from a conservative 1/4 cup of sugar, and whatever natural sugars are in the sparkling wine and the fruit itself, this almost doesn’t qualify as dessert. There’s something classy and understated about the presentation: a graceful, naked pear in an amber-hued pool of syrup that was made, almost effortlessly, by reducing the poaching liquid. Does dessert get much simpler?

Serves 4

4 firm, medium-sized pears, such as Bosc
1 750 ml bottle dry sparkling wine
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Slice the bottoms off the pears so that they will stand upright. Peel entirely, being careful to leave stem intact.

In a medium to large pot over a medium flame, combine sparkling wine, water, sugar, vanilla bean and cardamom. Whisk to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved but before liquid is boiling, carefully add the pears to the pot. It’s important that they’re completely immersed in water, and okay if they’re gently place on their sides if necessary. Place a small plate over the pears, in the pot, to keep them submerged.

Gently simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until pears are cooked through but still firm. Allow the pears to cool for about 30 minutes in the poaching liquid. At that time, remove pears from the pot.

To make the sauce, bring the liquid to a moderate boil until it has reduced to 1/2 cup. Keep the vanilla bean in the liquid until it is reduced.

Place each pear on a plate or shallow bowl, and drizzle syrup over each.

You can make this a day in advance and reserve it in the fridge.

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