Monday, December 23, 2013

White Wine Poached Pears at Chalone Vineyards

A month or so ago, I went to visit friends staying in a cabin on the Chalone Vineyards. Harvest was winding down and only a couple of grapes were left. The early morning vines, covered in fog, were beautiful, yet erie.

The day before we had visited several wineries in the Santa Lucia Highlands taking full advantage of our industry discounts. After sunset, we sipped whisky, and made barley soup, kale and brussels sprout salad, and white wine poached pears. If I remember correctly, we opened a local Pinot Noir with dinner.

Sitting around the table warm from the whiskey and soup, and the comfort of good friends, I felt all my worries float away. The comfort of that moment was infinite.

The next morning, after a breakfast of cream of wheat, fresh fruit, and honey, we visited the Pinnacles. The staggering cliffs echoed our names and dreams as we yelled into the distance. We were unstoppable and ready to make the world our playground.

Our hiking trial brought us to caves made from falling boulders. Despite the wide mouth and shallow nature of the caves, the light had failed to disperse, and we were cloaked in darkness. With our fingers as eyes, we slowly climbed the rocks, until the passageway above connected us with more prepared hikers willing to share their light.

White Wine Poached Pears

  • 4-5 pears
  • Riesling, or a non-floral sweet white wine
  • cinnamon sticks
  • cloves
  • vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional: orange zest, dark chocolate

Peel the pears. If desired, core the pears. Place the pears in a medium sized pot. Do not stack the pears on top of each other. Allow each pear to sit on the bottom of the pan. Add wine until a little less than half of the pears are covered. Turn the stove to medium heat.

Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves, vanilla, and orange zest, to taste. Add the sugar, and ensure it dissolves within the wine. Cook the pears, wine, and spices at a low boil for about 7 minutes, covered. Then reduce the heat to just below a boil and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, or as needed to make tender, but not mushy pears. They should be soft, but still hold their shape.

Place the pears on a serving platter, and continue to cook the wine and spices. Simmer the wine for 10-15 minutes or until it thickens slightly. To quicken thickening, add more sugar. Before serving remove the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and vanilla bean.

While the wine is thickening, the pears can be dipped into melted dark chocolate, if desired. I usually only dip half or a third the pear into the chocolate.

Serve the pears on individual plates, with the thickened spiced wine, and some vanilla ice cream.

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