Peaches and Cherries Poached in Spiced Red Wine

A combination stovetop and oven-roasting method produces pears with deeply browned exteriors and great depth of flavor.

Peaches and Cherries Poached in Spiced Red Wine
SERVES 6 FAST
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Poached fruit makes an elegant Mediterranean-style dessert; poaching allows the shape and texture of the fruit to remain intact while improving its tenderness and enhancing rather than masking its flavor. Sweet cherries and floral peaches made a perfect pair when poached in a red wine syrup. We found that a 2:1 ratio of wine to sugar was necessary to achieve a glossy syrup that would nicely coat the fruit. Boiling the delicate fruit directly in the syrup caused it to break down too much; instead, we boiled the syrup first to dissolve the sugar, then allowed the fruit to cook gently by pouring the hot syrup over it. Slicing the peaches thin ensured that they would cook at the same rate as the cherries. To infuse the fruit with flavor as it cooled in the wine syrup, we added half a cinnamon stick (a whole one was overpowering) and a couple of whole cloves to the mix. Select peaches that yield slightly when pressed. Serve this compote as is, with a bit of the poaching syrup, or with Greek yogurt or crème fraîche.

1 pound fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 pound ripe but firm peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced ¼ inch thick
½ cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup sugar

Combine cherries, peaches, cinnamon stick, and cloves in large bowl. Bring red wine and sugar to boil in small saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes. Pour syrup over fruit, cover, and let cool to room temperature. Discard cinnamon stick and cloves. Serve.

Halving and Pitting Peaches

Cut peach in half, pole to pole, using crease in peach skin as guide. Grasp both halves of fruit and twist apart. Halves will come apart cleanly so pit can be easily removed.

Roasted Pears with Dried Apricots and Pistachios
SERVES 4 to 6
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Pears, roasted until perfectly tender and bronzed and dressed up with a few simple embellishments, make an ideal after-dinner treat. Since pears contain a lot of liquid, we knew we needed to drive off some moisture before we could achieve any browning. To do this, we started cooking the pears on the stovetop to jump-start their cooking. Transferring the skillet to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time ensured even and consistent browning and fork-tender flesh. With our pear treatment settled, we decided to make the most of the flavorful browned bits left in the pan by making a quick pan sauce. White wine, lemon juice, and cardamom offered an aromatic Mediterranean flavor profile. A small amount of sugar and some dried apricots brought balanced sweetness. For textural contrast, we sprinkled on a handful of toasted pistachios just before serving. Select pears that yield slightly when pressed. We prefer Bosc pears in this recipe, but Comice and Bartlett pears also work. Use a medium-bodied dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay here. The fruit can be served as is or with plain Greek yogurt.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ripe but firm Bosc or Bartlett pears (6 to 7 ounces each), peeled, halved, and cored
1¼ cups dry white wine
½ cup dried apricots, quartered
⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
⅓ cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat oil in 12-inch ovensafe skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place pears cut side down in skillet and cook, without moving them, until just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pears for 15 minutes. Being careful of hot skillet handle, flip pears and continue to roast until toothpick slips easily in and out of pears, 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Using potholders, remove skillet from oven and carefully transfer pears to serving platter. Add wine, apricots, sugar, cardamom, and salt to now-empty skillet and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking to scrape up any browned bits, until sauce is reduced and has consistency of maple syrup, 7 to 10 minutes. Off heat, stir in lemon juice. Pour sauce over pears and sprinkle with pistachios. Serve.

VARIATIONS
Roasted Apples with Dried Figs and Walnuts
Use a medium-bodied dry red wine such as Pinot Noir here.
Substitute 4 Gala apples for pears, 1¼ cups dry red wine for white wine, ½ cup dried figs for apricots, ¾ teaspoon pepper for cardamom, and ⅓ cup walnuts for pistachios.
Roasted Plums with Dried Cherries and Almonds
Substitute 4 unpeeled plums for pears, ½ cup dried cherries for apricots, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon for cardamom, and ⅓ cup sliced almonds for pistachios. Reduce oven roasting time in step 2 to 5 minutes per side.

Coring Pears

1.Peel pear and cut in half through core.

2. Use melon baller to cut around central core using circular motion. Draw melon baller to top of pear, then remove blossom end.

White Wine–Poached Pears with Lemon and Herbs
SERVES 6 to 8
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Poached pears are a classic French dessert that is surprisingly simple to make at home. We wanted a recipe for meltingly tender pears that we could serve chilled, using the poaching liquid as an aromatic sauce. We discovered that not all varieties of pears worked equally well; Bartlett and Bosc won tasters over with their honeyed sweetness and clean appearance. Cutting the pears in half ensured that they cooked evenly from base to stem end. We tested poaching the fruit in water, fruit juice, and wine and found that white wine offered a nuanced flavor that tasters loved, especially when enhanced with bright, fresh additions like lemon, mint, and thyme. To poach six pears at once, we found it was necessary to use a full bottle of wine and turn the pears several times as they cooked. We then removed them from the pot and reduced the cooking liquid to a syrupy consistency before pouring it back over the fruit. Letting the pears cool in the syrup prevented them from drying out; it also allowed them to absorb some of the syrup, giving them a candied translucency and making them plump, sweet, and pleasantly spiced. Select pears that yield slightly when pressed. Use a medium-bodied dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay here. The fruit can be served as is or with crème fraîche.

1 vanilla bean
1 (750-ml) bottle dry white wine
¾ cup sugar
6 (2-inch) strips lemon zest
5 sprigs fresh mint
3 sprigs fresh thyme
½ cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon salt
6 ripe but firm Bosc or Bartlett pears (8 ounces each), peeled, halved, and cored

1. Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Bring wine, sugar, lemon zest, mint sprigs, thyme sprigs, cinnamon stick, salt, and vanilla seeds and pod to boil in large saucepan over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
2. Add pears and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until pears are tender and toothpick slips easily in and out of pears, 10 to 20 minutes, gently turning pears over every 5 minutes.
3. Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to shallow casserole dish. Bring syrup to simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and measures 1¼ to 1½ cups, about 15 minutes. Strain syrup through fine-mesh strainer over pears; discard solids. Let pears cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. Serve.

 

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