Prep time: 10 minutes/Cook time: 45 minutes/Chill time: at least 2 hours
Sometimes you want a light dinner and a rich dessert, sometimes just the opposite. These pretty poached pears, served chilled, are perfect after a substantial meal.
2-1/2 cups Riesling or other fruity white wine
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 whole vanilla bean, split lengthwise,
or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 firm-but-ripe Bartlett pears
with stems (8 ounces each)
1. In 3-quart nonaluminum high-sided saucepan, stir together wine, sugar, peppercorns, and vanilla bean (do not add extract here). Bring to a boil over medium heat.
2. Meanwhile, peel pears, leaving stems attached. With apple corer, core the pears from the bottom (you only have to go about halfway up). Place pears in hot liquid, cover pan, and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer 20 minutes, or until pears are tender but not falling apart when pierced with tip of knife. With slotted spoon, carefully transfer pears to medium bowl.3. Bring poaching liquid to a boil over high heat; cook 25 minutes, or until reduced to a syrup. Let liquid cool and stir in extract, if using. Reserve vanilla bean if desired.
4. Pour syrup over pears in bowl, cover, and refrigerate, turning occasionally, at least 2 hours, or until well chilled. To serve, place 1 pear in each of 4 shallow bowls. Strain syrup and spoon over pears.
Makes 4 servings/230 cals, 8g fat per serving.
A vanilla bean is a slender pod filled with really tiny seeds (so that's what those little black flecks in vanilla ice cream are!). Vanilla beans are called for in recipes where you want to infuse a liquid (such as the pear-poaching liquid, at right, or the milk mixture for Panna Cotta) with vanilla flavor. After cooking with a vanilla bean, you can reuse it: Wipe it off and let it dry before storing. One way to store a vanilla bean is in a jar of granulated sugar, which has two benefits: It keeps the vanilla bean dry and, after about a week, you'll have vanilla-flavored sugar.
Another way to make the pear dessert that is not as pretty, but is a little easier to manage, is to poach pear halves instead of whole pears. (And you don't need pears with stems.) Peel the pears, halve them lengthwise, scoop out the cores, and cook the pears in the poaching liquid, but in a large skillet (not a high-sided saucepan). Test them for doneness after about 10 minutes. Pour the poaching liquid into a saucepan to reduce (see step 3).
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Recipe Reprinted by permission.
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