The markets are teeming with a vast array of apples and pears right now, providing a visual feast as well as one for the taste buds. I’m trying to take advantage of this bounty before it is replaced by a whole slew of winter citrus fruits. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been chomping my way through every variety of apple and pear I can get my hands on these days.
But I were hard-pressed to choose between these two classic autumnal fruits when it comes to dessert, I would invariably go for a dessert involving pears over one with apples. I prefer eating my apples straight up, for I think they need no embellishment. But pears resonate for me on a different level, especially when they’re poached.
I always think of pears as rather unassuming fruits on their own, but they easily turn into something special with just a little coaxing from a syrup made of wine, sugar and spices. Like a great character actor, a pear is willing and ready to take on different roles. Simmered in white wine and sugar with a little fresh lemon, this poached pear is understated and classy. It can stand on its own, needing nothing but a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream to complement it. The white wine-poached pear can be an incredible supporting player when fanned over an almond-flavored tart or if layered between cream-filled crepes or delicate sponge cake, and I've never met a vanilla-based ice cream that was not enhanced by a few translucent slices of poached pear.
But poach it in a gutsy red zinfandel, this vibrantly hued pear becomes empowered by the wine, bold enough to take center stage. Pears are also versatile enough to embrace flavors such as ginger, vanilla or cardamom in the poaching liquid. Yet no matter what flavorings you add, I love that they still retain the very essence of their pear-ness.