I made a poached pears dessert for the finale of a murder mystery dinner party a few weeks back. It was a private party in my client’s home to celebrate a special birthday. I wanted to display a real show-stopper with my dessert, and the poached pears did the trick.

Poaching the pears brings out their natural sweetness, and the wine paints the fruit a beautiful, festive color while the spices add a good burst of flavors. 

Poached Pears in Red Wine

2 ripe but firm Bosc or Bartlett  pears

1 1/2 cup red wine (pinot noir, shiraz or zinfandel)

1/2 cup organic raw sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

2 whole cloves

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 finger-length cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

Whole peppercorns, to taste (optional)

Peel the pears, keeping the stems intact. Cut a thin slice from the bottom of each pear to make a flat surface so they will stand up. With a spoon, hollow out the bottom of the pear to remove the seeds. Set them aside.

In a deep, nonreactive pot, combine the wine and sugar and bring to a boil. Add the orange rind and orange juice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and peppercorns. Simmer the liquid at low heat for 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the pears to the pot on their sides and keep the liquid at a slow simmer.

Cook the pears in the liquid with the pot partly covered for 30 to 40 minutes. Turn the pears frequently to make sure they absorbs the color from the wine evenly on all sides.

Test to see if the pears are done by a knife end or skewer. They should be tender but not yet mushy or falling apart. 

When ready to serve, remove the pears. Strain the liquid and again bring it to a boil. Simmer until the liquid reduces and becomes thick and slightly syrupy. Transfer the pears to a serving dish, and pour the thickened liquid over the pear. You can serve the pears with whipped cream, ice cream or, my favorite, salted carmel gelato. 

• Chef Debi Stuckwisch is the owner of Meals Like Mom’s Personal Chef service in McHenry County. She can be reached at 847-778-9351 or mealslikemoms@comcast.net, or visit www.mealslikemom.com.