Pasta. Pork. Pears.
All things that take handsomely to leftover red wine. The pasta can get boiled in it. (Sprinkle garnet-colored spaghetti with some pecorino and you’ll have lunch.) The pork shoulder can get braised in it. (I know you people and I don’t have to mention uses for pork shoulder.) But one of my favorite ways to dispose of red wine a day or two past its prime is to call the pear into duty.
In times like this, I usually make a spice bath out of a cinnamon stick or two, an orange peel, and a few cloves, and turn to poaching. But with a recent poor showing of red wine consumption that left me with a third of the bottle remaining, I decided to give some Boscs the old roasted rhubarb in a crisp white wine treatment, courtesy of Orangette meets Canal House Cooking Volume 3.
Quite a mouthful, I know. But it could otherwise be known as roasting fruit in wine with some sugar and a spliced vanilla bean. And I am now a champion for the method.
Not that poaching pears is really all that complicated, mind you. But when you can leave on fruit skins and let your oven do most of the work, it’s hard not to make a “thing” out of this type of lazy behavior.
You can also coax a good deal of caramelization from the halves and create bruléed tops with the addition of a bit more sugar and a broiler. Not to mention that the whole roasting performance causes the pears to shrink down in their skins and acquire some charming rose-colored wrinkles. It also concentrates the natural fruit sugars, intensifying the pear itself.
This sweetness means they compliment simple, unsweetened things with a little fat in them. A thick sheep’s milk yogurt at breakfast works rather agreeably. As does pairing them with a gusty blue cheese after dinner. Thus, red wine becomes repurposed. Fit for breakfast, dessert, and every course in between. (Though I’d argue that red wine alone could also fill this role, depending on the day.)
Admittedly they never do quite live up to the ruby hue of the poached variety. But what the pears lack in color, they make up for in specks of vanilla bean and the pool of syrupy spiced liquid they sit in. I promise you. They also contain ample red wine, enough to cause a nice little blush on them.
So what is old becomes new. What is pear becomes better pear. And all of this becomes, well, an excuse to open another bottle, frankly.
Red Wine Roasted Pears
about ¾ cup red wine
3 whole Bosc pears
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 cinnamon stick
about 5 whole cloves
about 8 black peppercorns
1 vanilla bean, split with the seeds scraped out and pod saved
4-6 tbsp turbinado sugar, divided
pinch of kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Slice the pears in half lengthwise and take the core out of each half with a melon baller (or a small scoop or spoon). Pour enough wine so that it covers the bottom of a baking dish between ½-1 inch (I used a fairly small dish, about 10” x 6”). Add the anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, black peppercorns, vanilla bean seeds and pod to the wine. Lay the pears cut sides up on top of the wine.
Sprinkle the pears with about a ¼ cup of sugar (some will go into the wine, this is only natural and it is a good thing) and season with a pinch of salt. Bake until the pears get soft and start to shrivel; this took me about 30 minutes, checking on the pears occasionally and rotating the baking dish once or twice. (My oven temperature runs a little low, so watch them and make sure the wine doesn’t reduce too quickly.)
Once the pears are no longer hard and have started to wilt a bit, sprinkle them with roughly two tablespoons of sugar. Also, you may need to add a little more wine here if the syrup is starting to look too sticky, like it might soon burn. (I added a few more tablespoons of wine at this stage.) Broil the pears until the sugars caramelize, rotating the pan occasionally. This took me about ten minutes, but watch them.
Makes 6 servings (or 6 pear halves)
-Whatever red wine you have around is fine. I used a Bourgueil. The most important thing is that the wine doesn’t go to waste. (Horrors!)
-If you don’t have turbinado you can use regular granulated sugar, but I think it adds a little richness if you can get it. No need to go searching far and wide though. You could also try subbing in brown sugar.
-This post was likely influenced by my recent ushering into thirty. Perhaps I am now biased and pro-wrinkle. Like a fine wine.