Poached Pears in Muscat

Languedoc and Mediterranean France make beautifully aromatic, sweet Muscat dessert wines that soak into these poached pears. This recipe, which writer Steve Hoffman tasted in the town of Autignac, replaces the usual sugar with honey and counters the sweetness and floral notes of the reduced wine with some of the resinous and earthy aromas of the area's famous wild scrubland, namely bay, thyme, and fennel. A knife inserted into a poached pear should encounter about the same resistance as room-temperature butter. 

Poached Pears in Muscat
Photo: Photo by Mary Jo Hoffman
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Servings:
4

Ingredients

  • 2 (375-ml.) bottles sweet Mediterranean Muscat dessert wine (such as Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, or Muscat de Rivesaltes)

  • 3 tablespoons clover honey

  • 4 thyme sprigs

  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

  • Small pinch of saffron threads (15 to 20 threads)

  • Pinch of fine sea salt

  • 2 medium-size unripe to barely ripe Bosc pears (about 15 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

  • 1 to 2 cups boiling water

  • Fromage blanc or crème fraîche, for serving

Directions

  1. Combine wine, honey, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, fennel seeds, saffron, and salt in a small (3- to 4-quart) Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, peel pears, and cut in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, remove seeds and core from each half, carving out neat half-spheres. Brush pear halves all over with lemon juice.

  3. Add pears to wine mixture in a single layer. Add 1 cup boiling water or more as needed to just submerge pear halves. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low until tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning pears every 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate, and set aside.

  4. Bring poaching liquid to a light boil over medium, and boil, stirring occasionally, until sweet, syrupy, and reduced to about 3/4 cup, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour syrup through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; discard solids.

  5. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons fromage blanc onto each of 4 shallow bowls or rimmed dessert plates. Nestle 1 pear half into fromage blanc, upright, if desired. Drizzle each pear half with 2 to 3 tablespoons syrup. Serve warm or chilled.

Make Ahead

Pears and syrup can be made up to 1 day in advance and stored in airtight containers in refrigerator.

Updated by Erik Eastman
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