Pears and poaching go together even better than babies and diapers. Poaching involves long, very gentle cooking and is an excellent method of preparing pears with less-than-optimal flavor. Use firmer pears like Boscs, Seckels, or Anjous; softer varieties like Bartletts and Comices will fall apart.
Fabulous Poached Pears
4 pears ((use firmer pears like Boscs, Seckels, or Anjous))
Spices to taste ((such as cinnamon, ginger slices, black peppercorns, allspice berries, lemon, star anise, vanilla beans, and wine))
Sweeteners to taste ((such as honey or sugar (use about 1⅓ cups sugar per quart of water))
Water or wine ((see recipe for more details))
Quarter the pears and submerge them in a pot with enough cold water to cover them completely (note that many recipes call for using white or red wine as part of the poaching liquid, a step that will increase the complexity of flavors).
Add spices and sweeteners to taste, such as cinnamon, ginger slices, black peppercorns, allspice berries, lemon, star anise, vanilla beans, wine, honey, and sugar (use about 1⅓ cups sugar per quart of water).
Heat the water until it just barely simmers; then maintain for 15 to 25 minutes—depending on the size and firmness of the pears—until the pears are soft and completely cooked through. The cooking liquid will reduce considerably in the process; you can further concentrate the flavors after poaching by removing the pears, straining out the spices, and then cooking the liquid over medium-high heat until it becomes a thick syrup. This is absolutely scrumptious drizzled over the poached pears.
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