A classic French dessert, poached pears are surprisingly simple to make at home. We wanted a recipe for meltingly tender pears that we could serve chilled, using the poaching liquid as an aromatic sauce. We discovered that not all varieties of pears worked equally well; Bosc and Bartlett won tasters over with their honeyed sweetness and clean appearance. Cutting the pears in half ensured that they cooked evenly from base to stem end. We tested poaching the fruit in water, fruit juice, and wine and found that white wine offered a nuanced flavor that tasters loved, especially when enhanced with bright, fresh additions like lemon zest, mint, and thyme. To poach six pears at once, we found it was necessary to use a full bottle of wine and turn the pears several times as they cooked. We then removed them from the pot and reduced the cooking liquid to a syrupy consistency before pouring it back over the fruit. Letting the pears cool in the syrup prevented them from drying out; it also allowed them to absorb some of the syrup, giving them a candied translucency and making them plump, sweet, and pleasantly spiced. Select pears that yield slightly when pressed. Use a medium-bodied dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay here. The fruit can be served as is or with crème fraîche.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- Total Time: 1 Hour
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine
- ¾ cup sugar
- 6 (2-inch) strips lemon zest
- 5 sprigs fresh mint, plus extra leaves for serving
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- ½ cinnamon stick
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 6 ripe but firm Bosc or Bartlett pears (8 ounces each), peeled, halved, and cored
- Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Bring wine, sugar, lemon zest, mint sprigs, thyme sprigs, cinnamon stick, salt, and vanilla seeds and pod to boil in Dutch oven over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
- Add pears and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until pears are tender and toothpick slips easily in and out of pears, 10 to 20 minutes, gently turning pears over every 5 minutes.
- Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to shallow casserole dish. Bring syrup to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and measures 1¼ to 1½ cups, about 15 minutes. Strain syrup through fine-mesh strainer over pears; discard solids. Let pears cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. Serve with extra mint leaves.