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Wine down with this classic fall dessert

  • PHOTO COURTESY NEW YORK TIMES

Poached pears in red wine make for a classic, cool weather dessert. They really are best if made a day or two (and up to a week) ahead and given time to soak in the red wine syrup to attain a deep, dark magenta stain. Use firm, slightly underripe Comice, Anjou, Bartlett or Russet pears. A certain restraint with the spicing makes the best syrup: A stick of cinnamon, a tiny amount of clove and a spoonful of black peppercorns do the trick. Serve them chilled with crème fraîche, whipped cream or ice cream. To take it over the top — and you should — garnish the pears with a handful of pomegranate seeds, which add a pleasant sweet-sour pop and a splash of brilliant fuchsia to the color story.

Red wine pears

Ingredients:

• 6 slightly underripe small pears

• 1 (750-milliliter) bottle medium-bodied dry red wine, such as Côtes du Rhône

• 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

• 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

• 4 whole cloves

• 1 (2-inch-long) cinnamon stick

Crème fraîche or ice cream, for serving

• 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds, for serving

Directions:

Using a sharp vegetable peeler, peel the pears top to bottom, leaving them whole, with stems attached and the core intact.

Put the pears in a large, wide nonreactive pot in one layer. Add the wine, sugar and spices. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a very gentle simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted encounters no resistance. Remove from the heat and transfer the pears to a deep container, leaving the liquid in the pot.

Heat the poaching liquid over high and boil down until it is reduced by half. Pour syrup over pears, and refrigerate overnight if possible.

To serve, put each pear in a soup plate and spoon over a little of the red wine syrup. Add a dollop of crème fraîche or a scoop of ice cream, and finish with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.

Total time: 1 hour, plus steeping; serves 6.

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