For my mom's birthday this year we had a small gathering at our house with family and friends. Of course with Russians, a small gathering isn't actually that small and the food is prepared to feed an army, not the twenty or so people who come. I spent the majority of my weekend preparing food for the party, including my zucchini and carrot ribbon salad and sundried tomato wonton cups (using phyllo instead of wonton wrappers for the shells). My mom also asked me to make my white chocolate and raspberry swirl cheesecake, but instead of a swirl I made a design with rings of hearts on top (I have updated the cheesecake post to include the new picture).
Even though I was already baking a cake, I wanted to feature a lighter dessert option for those who wanted it after such a heavy meal. After discussing with my mom we settled on the idea of poached pears. In the past, I have used poached pears to top my french pear tart with almond cream but I have never made the pears themselves into the stars of the dish. This time, I decided to poach the pears in red wine, along with orange juice and some spices, and then use some of the poaching liquid to create a sauce with cranberries to be served with the pears.
I must say...the pears turned out beautifully. They weren't as red as I had hoped they would be, more of a pink hue, but I think that's because I split one bottle of wine between two pots and added a lot of water and juice. However the taste more than made up for the lack of color. The pears were soft, but not mushy, and the tart cranberries paired nicely with the sweetness of the pears. Surprisingly my brother, a cheesecake lover, proclaimed that the pears tasted even better than the cake and was extremely disappointed to discover that they were all eaten by the end of the night. Considering how easy they were to prepare, and their popularity with the crowd, I definitely will be making these again!
Red Wine Poached Pears with Cranberry Sauce
- 6 pears, peeled with stems still on (I used bosc)
- 1 bottle fruity red wine
- 2 cups orange juice
- 1 orange peel
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 cup honey (a little more if you want it sweeter and depending on the wine you choose)
- 1 12 oz bag frozen cranberries, unsweetened
- Place all the pears in a pot large enough to fit them in a single layer. Make sure not to overcrowd the pears; use two pots if necessary.
- Pour the bottle of wine and orange juice into the pot. Pour in water until the pears are submerged in the liquid. They may start to float, just make sure there is enough liquid so that they are completely covered if you press down on them.
- Put the orange peel and cinnamon stick in the pot. Stir in the honey as well.
- Heat the pot over low heat for 30-40 minutes to allow the pears to simmer slowly. Turn them occasionally so that they develop even color and softness. Once the pears can be easily pierced with a fork, remove them from the poaching liquid and set aside.
- Pour out the poaching liquid from the pot but reserve about 2 cups. Add the frozen cranberries, unthawed, to the reserved liquid and simmer the sauce over low heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cranberries start to break.
- Serve the pears with the warm sauce poured over top.