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PEARS POACHED IN PORT WITH MASCARPONE

This preparation of brussels sprouts is a fixture on our fall and winter dinner buffet.  We use Broadbent's Smoke House Applewood Bacon, slicing it thickly off a slab.  We sell out every time we make it.  

Ingredients

  • 2 cups inexpensive ruby port
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 small pears, such as Seckels
  • 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 whole clove
  • 5 whole green cardamom pods
  • Strips of zest from 1/2 orange
  • Strips of zest from 1/2 lemon
  • 6 whole black peppercorns
  • 8 oz. mascarpone (about 1 cup)
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. Frangelico or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and chopped

Instructions

In a small, deep saucepan, bring the port to a boil over high heat; let it boil rapidly for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol. Lower the heat, add the sugar and water, and simmer, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove the pan from the heat.

Peel the pears and core them from the bottom, leaving the stem intact. As you do this, add them to the syrup. (The syrup should cover the fruit. If not, add more sugar syrup made from equal amounts of water and sugar.)  Add the cinnamon, clove, cardamom, orange and lemon zest, and peppercorns. To keep the pears moist as they cook, cover them with parchment or cheesecloth.

Return the pan to the stove and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach the pears until tender when pierced with a skewer or knife, 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool in the syrup.

Just before serving, beat the mascarpone, sugar, and Frangelico with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Divide among four dessert plates. Arrange the pears on the mascarpone. Taste the poaching liquid and reduce to concentrate the wine flavor if necessary. Drizzle a little of the liquid over the pears and top with the hazelnuts.