On the weekends we like to do projects that will give us meal building blocks for freezing and later use. Sometimes these take a little extra time, so the weekend is the perfect time to invest in later meals. A current favorite is this two-for-one project: poached pears and red wine syrup. Poached pears are an easy, oh-so-sophisticated way to build a salad or a dessert. They're also relatively light, which is good for our current diet-consciousness.
All you do is simmer pears in red wine, along with sugar and spices, if you want. You are left with gorgeous red-hued pears, creamy white inside and tender. They are sweet, rich and slightly spicy with cinnamon and cloves. We like to add fresh bay leaves to our poaching liquid too.
The pears can be halved and filled with lightly sweetened whipped cream or mascarpone (an idea we saw at Grant's blog) for an elegant dessert. Or they can be sliced up and tossed with blue cheese and dark greens for a winter salad. They are made ahead and keep fine in the fridge.
Many recipes instruct you, however, to discard the red wine that you poached the pears in. We were surprised at this since it is at this point nearly identical to the base recipe for one our very, very favorite dessert tricks: Spiced red wine syrup.
We put this over everything - vanilla ice cream, orange cake, custard. It's full of flavor and sweetly rich and delicious. Plus it's even easier than the pears; you just simmer down a bottle of red wine with some sugar and cinnamon until it's a thick, shiny syrup.
Like we said - good with anything! The liquid remaining from the pears is perfect for simmering down and reducing into a syrup like this. Add a little extra spices if you want.
If you don't have time to reduce it then, pour into a bag and freeze until you want it.
And of course, it goes without saying that the ideal dessert in this vein would be poached pears, homemade vanilla ice cream, and spiced red wine syrup poured over it all. Yum!
Below: that easy, delicious Nigella clementine cake with red wine syrup.
Pears Poached in Red Wine
1 bottle red wine
5-6 pears, peeled
1 1/2 cups sugar
Spices - two cinnamon sticks, a few cloves, a few coriander seeds - whatever you want
Pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until pears are tender. Let pears cool in the poaching liquid. Drain off poaching liquid and slice the pears to serve.
Spiced Red Wine Syrup
Poaching liquid from pears, above
Simmer the liquid down until it is reduce to about 1 cup. Don't let it burn, and cover slightly to keep red wine from spattering your stove. Will keep very well in the fridge or freezer.