This is my favorite time of year for hosting dinner and cocktail parties. It just makes sense to get together in our homes versus trying to go out some where. We can be warm and cozy - and as loud as we want! And believe me, my friends and family are LOUD!
For a lot of people the thought of entertaining is terrifying. “You want me to COOK!? For OTHER people?!” Yes. Yes I do. And this recipe is the perfect starting point.
I love poached pears for a few reasons, not the least of which is that they’re delicious! First of all, I love fruit based desserts because I feel they’re a smudge better for you than cakes and pastries - don’t get me wrong, I’ve never met a baked good I don’t like BUT - when everyone is TRYING to be good this time of year, turning to fruit as your source of sweet makes a lot of sense.
Pears are in season now and are pretty high in Vitamin C - which we all need to help us stay healthy this time of year! They also have Vitamin K, and folate! And like all fruit, plenty of fiber to help you digest and off-set the sugars they contain. Pears with red or dark colored skin also have cancer fighting properties (but you have to eat the skin and in this case, we’re peeling them so snack on those while you cook the lighter ones!).
We’re also making our own poaching liquid, which again, goes back to the simple facts that cooking your own food - whatever it is - is bound to be better for you. Orange juice already has sugar in it, so we’re not adding much more. And then we’re using great aromatic spices like cinnamon which helps blood flow, balances blood sugar and promotes heart health. Star anise which has been used to treat cold and flu, and aids digestion. And of course, using an actual vanilla bean adds in some antioxidants, but you can use the extract if that works better for you.
Finally, this dessert just LOOKS good! There’s something elegant about those pears sitting in a little pool of poaching liquid. And you can just smile to yourself because this was SO easy! You can make them in advance and just warm up the poaching liquid OR do them right in front of your guests if you want to be extra fancy!
Makes 4 pears
4 Bosc pears, peeled, stem intact
2 C. orange juice
2 C. water
1 C. sugar
3 orange peels
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp. extract)
2 Tbs. brandy
In a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid, (that will fit all 4 pears), combine orange juice, peels, water, sugar, cinnamon sticks, anise and vanilla bean. Bring to a boil.
Add pears to the liquid. Cover and allow to cook, turning occasionally, for 10-15 minutes. How long the pears cook depend on how ripe they are (very ripe pears need less time) and how soft you want them to be. I like mine to have a buttery consistency so guests can easily eat them with just a spoon. You can cook them longer if you’d like to reach your desired consistency.
Remove pears and spices/peels from the pot with a slotted spoon and place the pears in a bowl. Discard the spices except for the vanilla bean. Slice it open and remove any remaining seeds with a knife. Scrape them back into the pot with your poaching liquid. Add brandy to poaching liquid and continue cooking, uncovered for another 10 minutes to help it reduce and thicken.
Serve pears standing up in a shallow bowl surrounded by poaching liquid. Top with vanilla ice cream if desired.