Arguably the best part of the holidays are desserts and while they are key in entertaining, you don’t have to be a pastry chef to impress your guests. Desserts can be the simplest way to provide the “wow” factor at any dinner party. Whether you are serving finger food or a full spread, dessert is the last thing people remember which is most likely why it can shape the entire meal. In keeping with the theme of holiday entertaining, it only makes sense to include one of the easiest but truly impressive desserts; Poached Pears in Red Wine.
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine, such as shiraz or merlot
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 star anise
8 black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
zest of 1/2 lemon
8 medium Bosc pears with stems
1. In a large dutch oven heat wine, water, sugar, lemon zest, star anise, peppercorns and cloves. Bring just to boiling on high, stirring to dissolve sugar.
2. Peel the pears, leaving stems on. With a melon baller or small knife, core the pears through the bottom end.
3. Place pears in wine mixture and heat to boiling. Cover and simmer on low for 10 to 15 minutes, until pears are tender but still hold their shape, turning occasionally.
4. Remove pears to a platter, discard the star anise, peppercorns and cloves. Heat wine mixture to boiling on high. Cook 15-20 minutes, uncovered, to thicken liquid and reduce to 1 1/2 cups.
5. To serve, spoon syrup over pears and finish with a dollop of whipped cream.