As far back as the 15th century, English cooks discovered that wine-poaching hard pears made them tender and tasty. One abbey had cooks: “Pare wardens (hard cooking pears) clean, seethe them in red wine till they be tender, then take them up and put them in a pot; put thereto wine of Crete or Vernage (Verona)…powder of sugar and powder of ginger and let them boil awhile and then serve forth.”
Paired with delicate vanilla panna cotta puddings, and a delicious syrup made by cooking down the spiced wine poaching liquid, poached pears make a delicious dessert. I love to make them for festive dinners, because you prepare the fruit, syrup and panna cottas ahead of time. Assembly at service is simply drizzling the syrup over the panna cottas and adding a pretty slice (or slices) of the pear on top. You’ll make the panna cottas in individual ramekins with some of the sliced pear. I like to serve a few of the beautiful whole poached pears on their own plate. For another recipe using the poached pears, try my wine-poached pear, goat cheese and rosemary tart.