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Red Wine Poached Pears with Cardamom & Orange

March 26, 2008

Somewhat unbelievably (to me, at least), last week was the first time in my life that I’d ever tried wine-poached pears. I’m not exactly sure why that is, other than I might have — unfairly — categorized them as “boring.”

Well, I’ll just count this as one culinary lesson learned. These pears are the exact opposite of boring: they’re wonderfully flavorful, brilliantly jewel-toned (gorgeous against a white plate), and a really special yet easy dessert to make when winter is still hanging on and your market isn’t yet carrying spring produce.

For ease of eating, I halved and cored my pears before poaching — this way, no one has to navigate around the seeds and stem. I served the pear halves as the recipe suggested, with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, more of the poaching liquid drizzled over the plate, and crumbled almond biscotti sprinkled on top. It’s such a lovely play of textures: the firm pear, smooth creamy ice cream, spicy sweet sauce and crunchy biscotti crumbles…this is a dessert well worth repeating and anything but boring!

Oh, and a secondary perk: we’ve been drizzling leftover poaching liquid over vanilla ice cream just by itself, and it is so good!



Red Wine Poached Pears with Cardamom & Orange

Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1997


1 750-ml bottle dry red wine
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
4 firm but ripe pears, peeled, stemmed and cored (I use Bosc pears, and core them with a melon baller.)

vanilla ice cream
1-2 almond biscotti, crumbled (I made these)
Orange peel strips (optional)


Combine the first 7 ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat (sugar should dissolve.) Add the pear halves and continue to simmer, occasionally turning over the halves, until they are tender when pierced with a fork or knife, about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the pears to a plate with a slotted spoon. Turn up the heat and bring the red wine mixture to a boil, then continue boiling it to reduce the sauce to syrupy consistency (you’ll want to end up with about 1 cup’s worth.) At this point, if you’re making it ahead, you can store the poached pears in their poaching liquid until you’re ready to serve — just warm both a bit before serving.

Serve 2 pear halves to each plate, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, some poaching liquid drizzled over, and some crumbled almond biscotti sprinkled on top. Garnish with strips of orange peel, if you like.

Serves 4.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2008 9:02 am

    I haven’t tried this dessert either – and I’m sure it’s not boring, it looks delish!

  2. March 26, 2008 10:10 am

    I have to say, I’ve never tried these either but that color is calling to me, just beautiful!

  3. March 26, 2008 8:16 pm

    Thanks, Patricia!

    LyB, thanks, and yes, the color of the pears was just gorgeous!

  4. March 26, 2008 9:09 pm

    I looked at pears today at the grocery store and contemplated making these! They look great!

  5. April 1, 2008 10:04 am

    Still one of my favorite desserts. Mmmmm.

  6. December 8, 2008 9:47 pm

    they are as beautiful as they are delicious.
    I made them today and really enjoyed the subtle flavors.

  7. bajaman permalink
    November 22, 2009 4:51 pm

    a tip i learned lomg ago is to poach the pears with a small beet-
    the color is quite nice and no, there is no signifigant beet tatse

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