I love the holiday season because there are countless ways to entertain at this time of the year. But this year I decided to try something new -- a holiday brunch.
The dessert will be the meal's piece de resistance. These glistening pears make a striking presentation and look complicated to prepare, but the truth is they are easy to assemble and can even be made two days ahead. A recipe yields six servings, but can be increased for larger groups.
And, although this dish is an excellent finale for a brunch, it would be equally tempting to end a dinner menu. In fact, I like these pears so much that I am considering serving them for dessert on Christmas day.
Cranberry and Wine-Glazed Poached Pears
Makes 6 servings
3 cups dry red wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 large lemon, grated to yield 1 teaspoon zest and juiced to yield 3 tablespoons juice
1 3 / 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 (3- to 4-inch) cinnamon stick
6 pears, slightly underripe (Bartlett or Bosc work well)
1 1/2 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 quart best-quality vanilla ice cream
mint sprigs for garnish, optional
Combine wine, water, lemon zest and juice, sugar and cinnamon stick in large pot (with lid). Stir well to mix. Place pot over medium-high heat.
While mixture heats, prepare pears. Peel pears, leaving stems on. Cut slice from bottom of each pear so it will stand up without wobbling. When poaching liquid comes to simmer, add pears. Return to simmer, then lower heat and cook, covered, until pears are tender when pierced with knife, 30 to 40 minutes or longer. (Poaching time will depend on ripeness of pears. Riper ones will cook in less time, while harder ones will take longer.)
When pears are done, remove pot from heat. Remove 1 cup poaching liquid and place in medium saucepan and set aside. (Pears can be poached 2 days ahead. Let pears rest in remaining liquid until cool. Then cover and refrigerate. Reheat by simmering until warm, 10 to 15 minutes.)
To prepare cranberry glaze, add cranberries to 1 cup poaching liquid in saucepan and cook over medium heat until berries pop and mixture is just syrupy, 4 to 5 minutes. (Cranberry glaze can be made 2 days ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat, stirring, until warm.)
To serve, arrange warm pear on dessert plate. Place scoop of ice cream next to it. Ladle pear and ice cream generously with warm cranberry glaze. Garnish with mint sprig. Repeat with remaining pears.