This is a very basic recipe for poached pears that lends itself well to a multitude of variations. Try adding ginger, orange zest, and star anise for a spicy version, or dried lavender or lemon balm for a more floral flavor.
5 cups water
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 (1-by-3-inch) strips lemon zest
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped, reserving the seeds and pod
4 Bosc or Anjou pears (about 1 pound)
Combine the water, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla bean seeds and pod in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
Peel the pears, leaving the stem intact. Slice off the bottom 1/8 inch of each pear to create a flat, stable base.
Reduce heat to keep poaching liquid at a bare simmer and add the pears, laying them on their sides so they are almost completely submerged. Cook, turning pears occasionally so they become saturated on all sides, until they are just tender when pierced with a fork, about 7 minutes.
Allow pears to cool completely in their poaching liquid. Serve immediately, placed upright on the plate, or transfer pears and liquid to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Beverage pairing:Lieutenant de Sigalas, Sauternes. The honeyed, complex, sweet wines of Sauternes make a lovely partner for this gentle dessert. This wine boasts flavors of dried peach and apple, spice, honey, and, yes, pear. It’s richer than the poached fruit will be, but has great acidity to keep things lively.